[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for the series finale of “The Good Fight.”]
For a series that was no stranger to embracing chaos, “The Good Fight” wrapped its six-season run on a moment far more simple.
Co-showrunner Robert King, who directed the finale, remembered that the last sequence the show shot featured Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele) and Carmen Moyo (Charmaine Bingwa) sharing a farewell moment of friendship on the stairs at the Reddick and Ri’Chard law offices.
“It was a real emotional one to end on, because they were good friends. And Sarah Steele has been with us for so many years now. It’s like seeing her grow up,” King told IndieWire.
Season 6 had plenty on its mind besides a parade of goodbyes. As it has since its 2017 debut, the Paramount+ show channeled anxieties about political upheaval, erosion of constitutional rights, the deep rumblings of fascism, and the litany of individuals using their power to attack the vulnerable.
But in true “Good Fight” fashion, Robert and Michelle King oversaw a collection of 10 parting episodes that balanced the personal, the legal, and the global. And all while saying so long, for now. Season 6 brought back plenty of series favorites — the finale even has a drop-in from Jonathan Coulton and Head Gear, the songwriting/animation team that created the show’s famous musical shorts a few years ago — and left its core characters with an appropriately uncertain future.
As the final minutes approach, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald) close the series the way it began: with the TV tuned to a Donald Trump surprise. The Kings shared how they came up with a perfect end for a show that to tried to make sense of an imperfect world.
Was there a character ending that felt most up in the air as you were deciding how to leave things? Everyone gets their final grace note, but I imagine there were some different directions some of these characters could have gone.
Michelle King: I would say the most conversation was around the the fundamental question, which was what happens with Diane.
Robert King: The one I probably thought was most in the air was Andre [Braugher] because he kind of blew us away, playing Ri’Chard. I think the question of, “Is history even changed by branding?” and the idea of capitalism as a way to move emotion in politics was interesting. I love that last conversation with Malcolm under the desk, but I think there would have been a nice last scene with Ri’Chard and Liz. You get the sense that they’re obviously working well together, so you get where this future is.
The difficulty is when you do hugging scenes, they start to multip,ly and there’s too many hugs. They start to mean less when it’s hug, hug, hug, hug, hug. You’re massaging some part of the audience that needs that, but not if it’s one after the other after the other. That was the thing we ran into.
It seems like that dovetails with Liz at the end running through the list of all the past clients. That’s something not many shows get to do. You get to say goodbye and get a sense of the full breadth of what these lawyers were able to do.
RK: Hopefully, those little 12-frame shots took you back to, “Oh, was that the episode where that happened?” The show has gone through so many permutations, not just in cast but also each year and its own theme. And also, for us, it was hard to figure out the argument for Diane that makes her stay, because something new has to be argued. We can lose the forest for the trees if we’re always saying it’s about who’s president, when in fact, we are all living at this area where we help people or not at a very human, person-to-person level.
Felix confessing that he’s lying eases things a bit, but when the [network] legal team read the first couple pages of his Ron DeSantis story, what were those responses and were they different than what you’ve done on the show before?
MK: We have now been doing this long enough that we actually understand what we can do. And if a character makes clear that they are lying about the fact that they were raped by Ron DeSantis at CPAC, you can do that.
RK: What was interesting to us was this Democratic strategy, backing the most radical Republicans in the primary with the idea that they’re easier to beat. A lot of this story was playing off, “Does that even make sense? Is that really smart, given the radical nature we’re all heading?” These Democrats in the show were playing puppet master with stuff that was really a mistake to play with.
It was meant comically, obviously. And it’s always those stories where it’ll be, “Oh my God, are they really going there?” Yeah, but it has a bigger point. We’re not trying to smear politicians. They probably should be aware the fact they’re going to be smeared.
MK: And John Cameron Mitchell is so fun. We really wanted to see him one last time.
The secret underground white supremacist jail is such a great thread in this season. Do you feel like you were able to take full advantage of it?
MK: I feel like we used it as much as we had story for. But there was such fertile territory that one could write episode after episode just about The Collective and Jay’s work with them and Phylicia Rashad. But I didn’t feel as though we didn’t get to do what we were hoping.
RK: You’re always planning for a year where you have a certain amount of story, but you leave some empty gaps in it because you don’t know what you’re going to stumble upon. There’s something we like about halfway through the year, a new element thrown at the audience. There’s not enough TV doing that, where there’s something introduced mid-year that creates its own kind of parallel track.
It was very rich. And what was good about it was the way Charmaine folds into it. And we find out more about Carmen as she does this sham, pretend-lawyer thing.
So glad you brought up Charmaine. For a character who has only been around a relatively short time, Carmen seems like such an integral part to how this all ends up.
MK: Isn’t she splendid? I mean, she really is extraordinary.
RK: Also, what’s fun is when you bring in a new character and you don’t realize that was an itch you didn’t scratch up to then. It serves a narrative function you didn’t even know you needed until you got to it. And that’s what’s fun about someone who’s so radically a lawyer, that she will even bend the law for her client.
And in the middle of everything, the credit sequence actually becomes text for the show! Was that something that you had been trying to work in for a while? Or is that something that you realized was a possibility as things were converging in this last episode?
RK: That came from this year. We were worried because it changes the nature and the tone of the show to suddenly feel like it’s “Die Hard,” if it’s just gunshots for gunshots, with people ducking down and glass shattering. We wanted to have a little bit of poetic justification by the fact it’s the objects from the main title. Because otherwise, when you’re shooting an action scene like that, it’s just like, “Oh, God, this isn’t us. Why are we doing this?”
But it’s always fun to blow up stuff. It really is very exciting. We had a second unit crew that was having the time of their lives. You’d hear it in the next room go bloomph, and smell the gunpowder. It’s like, “Oh, there it goes. They just blew up a TV set.”
There are a wide range of tonal notes that I feel like you could leave the show on. To end it with “YMCA” the way that you do, was that another thing that came as a response to this last year? Or was that that a bookend that you felt like you were always working towards?
RK: Obviously, we bet on the fact that Trump would not announce until after the midterms, so we were, you know, for the longest time hoping and praying that Trump didn’t jump the gun because that would have made the episode a little bit less pertinent and kind of weird.
We always knew we were gonna end this episode with Trump announcing, which would be what that 11/10 date meant. But when we cut it together, Michelle saw it and said, “It just drops off a cliff after that. He announces, and then boom, you’re in silence and then we’re doing nothing.” So we tried putting the main title at the end, and that felt like it kept the energy going. And then I mentioned to the editor, “Let’s keep ‘YMCA’ going!”
MK: It’s sort of meant to be “joyous apocalypse.”
RK: Trump has never looked more stupid [than] when he does that little dance. So it felt ridiculing and not a downer because it makes you want to dance anyway. But you’re right. It’ll be the music playing when the world ends.
As everyone looks ahead to the next few years, there might be more demand and appetite for people commenting on things in the moment. Since the two of you have been doing that for over a decade now, do you have any advice for people who are trying to write stories that are in conversation with what’s happening?
MK: It’s a good question. But I think I question your premise as to whether people are going to want to do that, because they certainly could have been doing that for the last five years and have,n’t except for late-night comedians.
RK: I would always advise: avoid melodrama. There’s nothing more that makes you hate the elite than them patting themselves on the back for addressing an issue of the day. It only works for me if it’s more like comedy. It’s a little like the way “Andor” is addressing the “Star Wars” genre through prison movies and heist movies. It feels like that’s a good way to review not only an atmosphere but a time.
Tucked in the end credits is a black screen that just says “This all happened” in plain text. Was there anything in particular that motivated that as the final statement?
RK: I felt it was like a time capsule. Everybody’s gonna look at it just like the Spanish flu, like, “What was that?” You read some of these Elizabeth Drew articles about Watergate and it feels very distant. As much as we fictionalized the world, oh my God, the events were in place. I do think the problem with a lot of what’s going on with the revising of truth is that it will make us feel like the reality we live through is less and less real. For us, it’s to point to our grandchildren and say, “Yeah, that really did happen. Go watch this show. Rent it on whatever new Paramount+ thing is 20 years from now. There you go.”
“The Good Fight” finale is now available to stream on Paramount+.