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'The Good Fight' Recap: What is Reality?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 3, 2021 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 3, 2021 |


mandy-patinkin-good-fightma.jpeg

I love the act of finishing an episode of television and marking it as completed on my television-watching app. It’s satisfying — I get this small dopamine high. This is true even with most of the shows I love. I like to complete those episodes and race through to the next one because even with television viewing, I’ve appified my life.

Still, there are a handful of shows that I love spending time with so much that I hate to see the episode end, and with which I find zero satisfaction in marking it as “watched” in my app. They’re the kind of shows that I often pause to see how much time is left, not because I want them to end but because I’m anxious to see how much time I have left with them this week. These are very rare shows. Ted Lasso is one of those shows. Watchmen, Friday Night Lights, and Justified fit into that category. So did Brockmire. I cannot think of a lot of other shows like that where the end credits feel like treachery. Like, how dare you end! Get back here, there’s no way that 48 minutes have passed already.

It’s also how I feel about every episode of The Good Fight. There are not a lot of shows that mix drama, comedy, intelligence, and great character work as well as the Paramount+ series. It is a ridiculously fun show to watch, and yet somehow this season, they’ve made it even more watchable by bringing in Mandy Patinkin to play Judge Wackner, a Judge Wapner-esque character who has created his own courtroom. He’s not an actual judge. He rules using common sense, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not legally binding. As long as the participants agree to be bound by his rulings, then it is just as good as a court of law. Better, even, because he throws out the rules of evidence. Hearsay is allowed, and there is nothing more true than what comes out of an excited utterance. Being able to quote Grateful Dead lyrics is also a plus.

Wackner holds court in a backroom behind a copy shop. In this week’s episode, a group of privileged white families seeks refunds from a teacher they hired to instruct their kids during COVID lockdown. They’re angry because they believe the teacher was indoctrinating their kids with socialism because the kids came home quoting Parasite and rejecting Trump (Patinkin’s character also gives a shout-out to Hell or High Water). The whole pretend court is a brilliant ploy for the show, too, because it allows Marissa Gold — a first-year law student — to argue the case on behalf of the client, even though she’s not technically a lawyer, either (and much better than the Suits route, where Meghan Markle’s character somehow completed three years of law school and passed the bar exam over a single summer). The storyline also reinforces the notion that reality is what we want it to be. As long as everyone can agree on a common set of ground rules, we don’t have to adhere to an inefficient, antiquated system. There should be a Judge Wackner in every city. Although to be fair, his courtroom is not theoretically that different from an arbitration hearing, it just has the trappings of a courtroom.

Meanwhile, the series — which lost Cush Jumbo and Delroy Lindo this season — also introduced a new first-year associate, Carmen Moyo (new cast member, Charmaine Bingwa). I wasn’t sure what to expect from her, but she’s the opposite of the eager and friendly Rose Leslie associate, Maia Rindell, who also entered the series as a first-year associate. Carmen Moyo is quiet and calculating, and managed — during her first week — to become the sole attorney for drug kingpin, Oscar Rivi. Rivi is in prison, and he was only supposed to be a “maintenance client” (“nod and listen to his complaints”), but Carmen shrewdly manages to manipulate another inmate into taking the fall for a murder committed by Rivi. It earned her the favor of her client (and his business manager, played by the brilliant Wallace Shawn), but it also earned her the disapproval of Liz Reddick, who doesn’t know if Rivi took advantage of Carmen’s inexperience or if Carmen specifically committed ethical violations in an effort to not only get ahead at the firm but make herself indispensable to the firm. Carmen is going to be a terrific character who is going to be a thorn in Liz’s side.

The effort to replace Lucca Quinn is complicated, as well. Bring back Julius Cain, a conservative lawyer they know and like, but who still carries with him the stench of a Trump pardon, or bring in Hugh Dancy’s Caleb, who seems great but with whom Liz has slept. Hopefully, they both get plenty of screentime this season (Michael Boatman is one of the unsung gems of The Good Fight).

Finally, Diane is still trying to navigate maintaining her partnership in a Black-led firm, and this is why having Gary Cole’s conservative Kurt McVeigh on the show is so great, especially as her husband. Diane doesn’t want to give up her partnership in the firm, and asks Kurt for his opinion, knowing exactly what he’ll say: That it’s all about “identity politics,” which is what Diane wanted to hear but it also hits a very raw white liberal guilt nerve.

Diane is crafty and diplomatic: She encourages Liz to take the corner office, vacated by Boseman, and encourages the firm to bring in a second Black partner. It’s unclear, however, if that will be enough to save Diane’s partnership, even with Liz’s promise to protect her.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.



Header Image Source: Paramount+