Every season of The Good Fight themes the titles of its episodes. In the current season the show has taken its cues from the most offensive show on television, the comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Episode titles of that show always begin with the phrase ‘The Gang…’, a convention that has been echoed this season on The Good Fight, which brings us to this week’s episode: ‘The Gang Offends Everyone’.
And boy does this episode go out of its way to raise a ruckus and get some people offended.
The offences take place at three levels.
The first is the potential offense that can be raised in polite society. It’s a simple Ms Manners type of storyline with lawyer Luca promised considerable wealth by the friends of her own new wealthy friend Bianca. As seen in the last episode, Luca won $1.5 million in a friendly poker game. Not being of money herself, she felt uncomfortable at being loaned $50k to start with, let alone knowing how to ask for her winnings from the losers at the table.
Like It’s Always Sunny..., the storyline here plays out with what is almost like the structure of a friendly American sitcom. Luca has an awkward problem with Bianca about the money and doesn’t know how to tell her. Hilarity ensues when Bianca forces Luca to take her out to a very expensive dinner, which Luca can’t exactly afford. And then Luca’s annoying workmate David Lee pulls a Cosmo Kramer and blurts out the issue to Bianca behind Luca’s back. Finally, the episode resolves with Bianca taking care of business, making some phone calls and getting Luca’s money for her, with the two ending up on the couch having a good laugh about the whole situation. Roll credits.
The second storyline plays things a little more like a straight drama with Adrian interrogating elements of compromise in his own life trying to find ethical concerns that might cause offense with the citizenry. As the episode opens, we see DNC Chicago boss Frank Landau is back - we saw him just a few episodes ago when the Democrats were hiring the law firm to investigate ways to engage African American voters at the upcoming Federal election. This time he’s asking Adrian whether he’d be interested in running as a candidate for the Democrats in 2024 in case Trump wins the 2020 election. As Frank explains: "There's no rulebook anymore. Donald Trump took it, burned it, and took a shit on the ashes. And if he wins in November, God help us. We need to come back in 2024 with everything we've got".
Adrian has two concerns in his life. The first is his relationship with his shady girlfriend, Judge Charlotte Hazlewood. She’s ethically compromised, which Adrian knew on one level, but it became all-the-more real as she details the many benefits and kickbacks she has received in the course of her work.
His other concern is dovetails into the main source of offence this week which is the show going out of its way to possibly offend segments of the audience.
The Good Fight, one of the most politically woke series on the air, is taking on the subject of transgender politics.
In the sort of storyline that could get the show socially cancelled alongside JK Rowling and Graham Linehan, the show has Adrian defending a teenage African American Olympic-level swimmer who has lost her place on the Olympic Team for what was going to be the 2020 Tokyo Games (the episode was filmed very early this year pre-COVID). Adrian chooses to defend his client on racial grounds, considering that socially more acceptable than positioning his client against Sadie Lipton, a transgender swimmer who identifies as female.
What is incredible about the execution of the episode is how knowing it is as the show either steps around every social landmine the subject has, or deliberately throws characters deep into it. Through the court case the show explores the question about testosterone level measurement in sport, using an endocrinologist on the stand explaining the differences between gender and sex, while also detailing the physiological impacts that testosterone can have on the body. Using the same character, the show also explains why measurement of testosterone levels is a terrible metric to consider the bodies of athletes. The show also awkwardly (in a very knowing way) introduces the subject of genitalia as a determining factor. And then finally, the show also explores the generational divide between the older characters on the show and younger generations who are more engaged with the topic.
With such a sensitive subject matter, the guest cast this week is especially on-point. Making a return appearance on the show is writer-director-actor Rob Reiner, well-known for being vocal on many progressive causes. It is Reiner who is left to ask a lot of the very thorny issues in the courtroom. Also appearing on the show as swimmer Sadie Lipton is actress, writer, and trans activist Dana Aliya Levinson.
Despite a history of defending LGTBQI rights, Adrian finds himself struggling with the politics of the subject when confronted by junior lawyers and administration staff at the firm who have signed a petition to have the firm do a better job with this case in terms of perpetuating transphobia. His co-chair in the case Liz insists that Adrian listen to the staff as “younger people understand this better.”
While the show may have claimed it was out to offend everyone, the show instead treated the subject openly with sensitivity. The end of the episode has Rob Reiner’s Judge Brickner handing down his verdict, explaining that he’s been given a terrible job to do. It is clear that he thinks whatever verdict he hands down is unfair and at the end of it he is going to make someone cry. While the episode may not have actually offended, it doesn’t mean anyone watching will necessarily feel good about it.
Season 4 of The Good Fight is screening exclusively on SBS, airing Wednesdays at 9.30pm. Episodes are available at SBS On Demand after they go to air. Watch episode 1 now (available until 4 December 2020):