Spin-offs make a lot of sense. Take an existing popular series and give people more of the slightly different. But just because the parent program was a hit, doesn’t mean any franchise extensions will be. For every Frasier or Law & Order: SVU, there’s The Golden Palace or Baywatch Nights.
So which category does The Good Fight fit into? With four episodes under our belts, it’s safe to draw some conclusions about this particular spin-off.
What’s happened so far
The action picks up a year after the conclusion of The Good Wife. Diane Lockhart’s (Christine Baranski) ever-evolving law firm is now, thanks to a couple of recent mergers, one of the largest in Chicago. But Diane is ready to get out of the business and has the means to retire comfortably – until she doesn’t.
Old friend Henry Rindell (Paul Guilfoyle), who looks after her investments, is arrested, accused of running a Ponzi scheme and Diane is just one of the many whose savings have disappeared. So the retirement’s off, but since Diane already signed her exit agreement (and is tainted by her association with the Rindells), her firm won’t let her stay on in her former capacity. They also fire her goddaughter, Henry’s daughter, Maia (Rose Leslie), who only just joined the firm, for good measure.
Diane (along with Maia) winds up at the mostly African-American law firm of Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad, where’s she’s once again working with former colleague Lucca Quinn (Cash Jumbo), who played an important part in the breakdown of Diane’s marriage. Despite their history, Diane and Lucca demonstrate they can be an effective team, working together on a ticking clock case involving a Doctors Without Borders medic arrested for Skype tutoring a practitioner in Syria.
That case also introduces Lucca to cocky State’s Attorney lawyer Colin Morrello (Justin Bartha), who opposes her in court but has been wooing her after hours. Colin comes to the firm’s aid when perpetual thorn-in-the-side Mike Kresteva (Matthew Perry) targets them. Mike’s working for the Department of Justice on the issue of police brutality cases – Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad’s specialty – and is aiming to discredit the firm rather than, you know, lower police brutality.
Court cases aside, Maia has been trying to unravel just what her family’s been up to. She’s also been contending with the now penniless, violently irate former clients of the Rindell financial business, who have been attacking her in person and on social media.
More of an ensemble show than The Good Wife ever was, The Good Fight has been succeeding in sharing the attention around not only its three theoretical leads (Diane, Lucca and Maia), but supporting and guest characters as well. The cast is a fairly diverse bunch – more so than in The Good Wife – and it will be good to continue to play up those differences (race, age and sexuality) and the tensions they can create.
It’s also been nice to see a complex relationship emerge between Diane, formerly one of the most powerful women in Chicago’s legal profession, and her new boss Barbara Kolstad (Erica Tazel). There has been necessary friction between the two women, but also moments of empathy and collaboration. Hopefully, their dynamic will continue to evolve.
With its mix of interesting, topical cases, law firm machinations and the Rindell affair, there are plenty of storyline balls in the air, and the show has been juggling them adeptly. It appears like the guilt or innocence of Henry Rindell will be a season-long arc, with Maia’s mother, Lenore (Bernadette Peters), and uncle Jax (Tom McGowan) also potentially behind the scheme. Given it’s the precipitating event which kick-started the spin-off, it’s important it plays out appropriately, but it’s a wise choice to not let it be the only thing driving the drama.
It seems like a small thing, but the presence of curse words also works in this context. Swearing would never have flown in The Good Wife, since it aired on network TV in the US, but The Good Fight screens there on subscription streaming service CBS All Access, which takes a more cable TV approach to language. In the high powered world of top lawyers, it’s more realistic to hear them drop the occasional F bomb. Even Diane? Especially Diane.
One last positive to The Good Fight so far: the decision to bring Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele) across. Even the most serious of shows needs comedy and Marissa brings that in spades.
What we’d like to see
Thanks to having seen them on TV for up to seven seasons already, we know some of the characters in The Good Fight incredibly well already. Others, understandably, not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get more fleshed out versions of Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo), Barbara, firm investigator Jay Dispersia (Nyambi Nyambi) and Maia’s girlfriend, Amy (Heléne Yorke), as the series progresses.
The relationship between Maia and Amy has also been fairly low-key so far. Given everything going on in Maia’s world, it’d be good to see that have more ramifications for her at home. And Amy is very vaguely defined as a character. Often, it’s easy to forget she exists, and that’s not good.
Speaking of relationships, the burgeoning affair – it’s too knowing to be called a romance – between Lucca and Colin isn’t quite at an Alicia/Finn (Matthew Goode) or Alicia/Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) level of hotness, but it has promise. If they’re to become TV’s next great coupling, it needs something extra to really make it compelling. Don’t ask me what – it’s not my job to come up with these things – but I’ll know it when I see it.
Given the fact The Good Fight is airing at this particular moment in time, the references to life in America under the Trump administration are plentiful – indeed, the show’s very first scene was one. But some of the Trump bashing isn’t as sophisticated as it could be. No doubt, that will change in season two, since season one was eight days into production when the 2016 election occurred and the writers had to scramble to adjust accordingly.
Finally, given we seem to be getting an endless supply of appearances (judges, opposing counsel, former foes) from characters who appeared in The Good Wife, could I put in a request for Rita Wilson’s Viola Walsh, Martha Plimpton’s Patti Nyholm and that judge who makes lawyers say “in my opinion”?
The Good Fight airs Wednesdays at 9:30pm on SBS. Missed the last episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand: