Spoiler alert: if you’d rather not find out anything about the first episode of the new season before you watch, stop reading! Head straight over to SBS On Demand and dive right in.
Television has a long history of fantasy episodes in which a main character visits an alternate reality of the TV show that we know. Perhaps the best known was a classic Star Trek episode that had Captain Kirk visiting a mirror universe where our regular heroes behave shadily and Spock wears a cool-AF goatee.
You might remember Alex P Keaton in Family Ties being presented with alternate realities of his family’s fortunes in an episode heavily inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is a classic trope in serialised storytelling and now it is The Good Fight’s turn to give it a go.
The season four series return has our hero Diane Lockhart celebrating the big ‘What If’ that many of us have considered since the first Tuesday of November 2016: What if... Hillary Clinton had won the US Presidential election?
It opens on a familiar scene. Fans of The Good Fight will recognise the sight of Diane alone in her living room watching the inauguration of the President. It was a sombre scene depicted in the very first episode of the show, but recreated here to show an alternate version of what we witnessed four seasons ago. In this new reality we have a jubilant Diane popping some champagne and celebrating.
Only she knows that something isn’t quite right.
The next morning, with some dream logic at play, we see Diane going to work in Hillary Clinton’s America. It’s 2020 and we’re several years into the Presidential term. Diane is fully cognisant that the new world we see her in isn’t correct. She is the only person who remembers Donald Trump won the election and is now experiencing a warped version of the world that we know.
Immediately, Diane basks in the positives that she witnesses. There are news reports of a possible cure for cancer, the rainforest has been saved, polar bear numbers are climbing, and an unsuccessful Trump TV has the channel scaling back its volume of original programming.
But this is a fun-house version of the world we know. It doesn’t take long for Diane to see that there were positives to the past three years. A world without Trump as President is a world where the #metoo movement never found mainstream footing. Yes, Merrick Garland and Elizabeth Warren are on the Supreme Court now, but predators such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer weren’t exposed. And what’s more, Weinstein is now not only a client of Diane’s, but she is expected to clean up his misdeeds and look the other way when he requests a meeting with Luca.
There will be some viewers who write this episode off as being a bit silly. The Good Fight regularly indulges in some pretty extreme flights of fancy. And this is the most fanciful. But The Good Fight is at its most biting when it has the opportunity to remind us how ridiculous the modern world can be. The construct of this episode is a perfect vessel for that.
TV reflects our hopes and our dreams. But also our fears and terrors. Some viewers will have thought of a world where Trump lost the election. But what happens when we think through the consequences of that? For second-wave feminist Diane Lockhart, she’s left to grapple with the reality that the election of one of her peers is also a setback for some of the most widespread, meaningful change that she has seen for US women throughout the culture.
This episode flips the trope of visiting an alternate reality. Usually these episodes are a window into a world that is made worse through the action or inaction of the characters we follow week to week. But this episode has a very firm point it wants to make: Despite the very real negatives that could exist in a counter-reality, we are indeed currently living in the darker, perverted reality.
At the tail-end of the episode we are thrust back into this darker reality as Diane awakes from the dream. It is the result of hitting her head during the closing moments of the season three finale, which saw a SWAT team bust into her apartment. Diane’s mental break from reality ends as she is readied for the season ahead.
Season 4 of The Good Fight premieres exclusively on SBS, airing weekly at 9.30pm from Wednesday 23 September. Episodes will be available at SBS On Demand after they go to air. Watch episode 1 now (available until 4 December 2020):