Each week The Good Fight tries to capture something about the essence of modern day life in America and make sense of it on screen. It started out, like it’s predecessor The Good Wife, taking a simple aspect of modern life and framing it like a parable in a courtroom story - for example, what is a media company’s duty of care to fame seeking contestants on a reality show when a cast member is raped, what ownership does one have over donated embryos, how do you protect democratic activities while white supremacists are interfering with voting, etc.
But, modern day life got weird and complicated and messy. Really, really messy.
The Good Fight evolved (devolved?) with it. Season-long arcs were no longer about a lawyer getting caught-up in her family’s financial embezzlement. They instead became about micro-dosing to deal with crumbling structures of reality, getting caught up in conspiracies to circumvent legal structures, and hidden groups seeking to manipulate the news for political gain. The Good Fight was now a series about people dedicated to stretching the boundaries of the law in a world where the law has increasingly meant very little.
Which brings us to this week’s episode. Instead of distilling modern insanity down to a season of TV, what if it sped that up? What if the show took the complexity of news, politics, and culture that is filtered through what seems to be a 15 minute news cycle and try to give it clarity within a single episode?
Could the show tell a crazy story built off the intricate lies and conspiracy theories that stem from message boards and comment threads, but also have strong roots in reality? What if The Good Fight tried to answer the question: Who killed Jeffrey Epstein?
The result is the most bonkers hour of television you’ll see this year.
It begins with Epstein’s cell…
Marissa and Liz are investigating the cell where Jeffrey Epstein is claimed to have killed himself. The two read the report and note where Epstein reportedly hung the bedsheets he used as a noose. They check out the security camera that was mysteriously not working on the night of the event. And they also check the working security camera that yielded a recording only seen by Attorney General Bill Barr.
The US Attorney wants Liz and the firm to investigate how Jeffrey Epstein died in custody and whether it was suicide. It has been 9 months since Epstein’s death and reporters are still asking what happened. The US Attorney needs a third-party investigation to provide an answer and will give them two weeks.
Liz brings together everyone in the firm to form a working group. It’s a high-profile case and solving it would not only be a PR win for the firm, but it’d also likely result in more work from the US Attorney’s office. Immediately everyone in the room brings to the table the wild and outlandish conspiracy theories. The Trump’s were involved. The Clinton’s were involved. The noose marks on Epstein weren’t consistent with the method.
Adrian drops into the meeting and amid all of the swirling conspiracy theories he lets out a plausible theory: human incompetence.
But, of course, that’s what THEY would want you to believe.
In search of BUD
As the investigation begins, the working group split into various factions investigating different aspects of Epstein’s life. Two investigation strands prove the most fruitful.
Luca recognises a man in a photograph standing near Epstein - it’s a celebrity hairdresser named Andreas who Luca knows through her wealthy friend Bianca. Andreas, with hesitation, hands over an envelope that Epstein had asked him to pass on to known-associate Ghislaine Maxwell. Back at the office Luca opens the envelope and finds in it three key pieces of evidence - a key, a letter advising “If I'm dead, watch out for BUD,” and the name Lady M.S. scribbled inside the envelope.
Marissa, meanwhile, meets with Epstein’s architect who details some of the projects she had worked on for Epstein. Marissa is able to see some of the blueprints and models for Epstein’s properties, including his island getaway in the Virgin Islands. On the blueprint for that property, a small room is shown with the word BUD written on it. The architect tells Marissa that she wanted to give Epstein his very own Hearst Castle, referencing the large home designed for newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst by architect Julia Morgan.
Hearst Castle was the inspiration for Xanadu, the fictional home owned by the character Charles Foster Kane in the film Citizen Kane. This is worth noting because the show is about to smack you over the head with a connection later in the episode.
In figuring out who or what BUD is, the investigation leads to one of Epstein’s contacts - Benjamin Ulrich Dafoe. When meeting with Dafoe, we find out that he likely isn’t the BUD in question. Rather, Dafoe left Epstein on bad terms when Epstein instead used the services of Alan Dershowitz. Dafoe then goes on to speak poorly of Dershowitz, calling him, among other things, a “shyster”.
It’s worth noting here that while Benjamin Ulrich Dafoe is a fictional character, Alan Dershowitz is very much a real life person who did not care for the way he was represented in the episode and has threatened legal action if the episode was not pulled.
Getting lost in the weeds
The further that the investigation gets into the death of Epstein, the weirder the story gets. Firm investigator Jay uncovers a 4Chan poster who was the first to report that Epstein had been killed, meanwhile Diane interviews a former cheerleader who was present in the infamous footage of Epstein and Trump partying at Mar-A-Lago in 1992.
A revelation on who the mysterious Lady M.S. is uncovered by Jay who recalls the character Lady Morgan Sidney from a sci-fi book about sex slaves in space written by Attorney General Bill Barr’s father, Donald Barr. This is an actual book that really exists. Furthermore, Donald Barr was once a headmaster at the Dalton School in New York where he hired Epstein to teach during the 70s.
The further the investigative team get in cracking codes and uncovering connections between powerful figures, the crazier the story starts to sound.
When the US Attorney unexpectedly stops by the office and finds the crazed scribblings of findings on the office whiteboard, he is understandably concerned about the direction the investigation is headed in. He explains that he can’t use the research and shuts down the investigation.
And finally… the sled
At the end of the episode, The Good Fight tips its hand entirely on what it has been doing all episode. It has been an elaborate homage to Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane. The investigation in the show has been mimicking the investigation in the film - conducted by reporter Jerry Thompson to uncover Kane’s secrets, including the meaning behind his final word: Rosebud.
What was Jeffrey Epstein’s Rosebud? His “BUD”?
For that we travel with investigators Marissa and Jay to the Virgin Islands where they visit Epstein’s unusual property. This building is absolutely real. It’s a mysterious building found on Epstein’s estate that was constructed, but in no way matches the submitted plans.
Inside the building we see a room that is strikingly similar to the Xanadu residence seen in Citizen Kane. It is filled with trophies and memorabilia from Epstein’s life. In a blatantly cheeky nod, Charles Foster Kane’s Rosebud (spoiler: it was his childhood sled) is depicted on the left-hand side of the screen.
But, as the episode reveals, this was not Jeffrey Epstein’s Rosebud. Marissa and Jay find a room hidden at the back of the quasi-museum. Unlocking it, they discover an empty room. Feeling as though they have failed, the two turn around and leave the property. His BUD never revealed.
As Marissa and Jay leave, the camera pans into the empty room and reveals a hidden doorway. We snake down a hidden passage not dissimilar to the hidden passage from the film Parasite only to be taken into another room with two parts of Jeffrey Epstein kept alive through cryogenics - one holds his brain. In the other - his penis. Below it a nameplate: BUD.
An unintended finale
This episode marks the season finale of this, the fourth season of The Good Fight. It wasn’t planned to be the finale - COVID-19 forced the production to be shut down three episodes early, but what a wild episode to conclude the season with!
Season 4 of is streaming at SBS On Demand until 4 December 2020. Watch episode 1 now: