For those seeking an escape from our current political climate, “The Good Fight” is without a doubt not for you. The “Good Wife” spinoff, returning for a second season on CBS All Access Sunday, March 4, has managed to do something many people of a liberal inclination have not: stay shocked. Stay astounded. Stay angry. Even the episode titles aim to keep the Trump presidency at the front of our minds; the Season 2 premiere, “Day 408,” just so happens to match with the number of days Trump will have been in office as of Sunday, March 4, when the episode premieres.
That rage is not directed singularly at Trump, but at the rest of the world, as Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) flips through the TV channels, finding herself unable to escape the news cycle even while she and fellow lawyers Luca (Cush Jumbo) and Maya (Rose Leslie) struggle to maintain their sanity on a day-to-day level.
To emphasize the political is to do a disservice to what has proven to be not just a franchise, but a well-established cinematic world based in both the ideals and the realities of practicing law; one so well-established by creators Robert & Michelle King and Phil Alden Robinson.
Much of what dominates Season 2 narratively continues on from storylines introduced in Season 1, most especially the investigation into Maya’s family’s investment fund-turned-Ponzi scheme. But there is a new wrinkle found in the introduction of Liz (Audra McDonald), a new lawyer joining the firm of Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad after serving as a prosecutor — ensuring that even within the office walls, chaos reigns.
Things may seem chaotic today, but Season 2 gives the madness a bit of specificity by introducing into the background a growing number of violent attacks against those who practice law, invoking the classic Shakespeare quote from “Henry VI, Part 2” (Act IV, Scene 2, if you want to get specific: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”). These deaths, and how they affect the characters, are reminiscent of the slow-boiling madness of another play: Jules Feiffer’s “Little Murders,” which was adapted into an Alan Arkin-directed film in 1971. That story, too, is about a city which is theoretically the real world, but ultimately is driven into a violent fugue state, and that honestly feels like a real possibility
That rage and fear aside, in the first three episodes screened for critics “The Good Fight” still also manages to be fun. The show retains all of the qualities that made “The Good Wife” so delightfully bingeable during its original CBS run while lobbing oddball choices into the mix, including magic mushrooms, a dancing Delroy Lindo, plenty of snarky Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele), a terror scare, some fake news about a pot-bellied pig, and plenty of dramatic scotch-drinking. Oh, and for you “Good Wife” superfans, get excited for another reference to the classic fictional AMC drama “Darkness at Noon.”
When IndieWire originally reviewed Season 1 of “The Good Fight,” it was CBS All Access’ only original series and thus it was hard to recommend subscribing to the nascent platform on that basis alone. But not only has the show consistently grown to be a delightful viewing experience, CBS All Access has also evolved, with improved streaming quality and additional exclusive series that makes it much easier to recommend, a year later. It’s still a bit weird to see this degree of profanity and nudity in the context of a legal drama that still maintains some patina of broadcast television, but learn to ride out the cognitive dissonance and it’s actually a fun ride.
It’s hard to separate the show’s distinct political viewpoint from the rest of the series, but it’s not political rhetoric, really. Instead, it reads as just one element that defines these characters, and there’s something refreshing about that, to be honest, in an era when characters on TV don’t too often get into politics. Occasionally you get a character whose political viewpoint, either extremely conservative or extremely liberal, defines them to a sharp degree. But more often than not, it tends to be a detail left on the sidelines, as opposed to what real people are actually like — engaged with politics as an inescapable element of our world, like it or not.
During a recent “Late Night with Seth Meyers” segment, the host took a big sip of water before dropping a bit of ridiculous news on his viewers… and then swallowed that gulp. “Were you expecting a spit take?” he said. “Because that part of me died months ago.”
It was such a relatable moment, one that captured what so many people might feel, and it’s something which “The Good Fight” addresses head-on, largely through the voice of Diane Lockhart — now unleashed to scream F-bombs at a world which has them coming.
“The Good Fight” is streaming now on CBS All Access.