This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
The Good Fight Is Superb, Cathartic, Baransk-sational
They say heroes arrive when you need them most, so naturally Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart came back this week.
The armor: a chic blazer embellished in a gold-foil brocade print. The helmet: The classiest damn blown-out bob that ever existed. The weapon: A manilla folder clutched close to the vest, her methodical plan to eviscerate her opponent in the name of moral justice enclosed. The steed: No need. Diane Lockhart charges in herself. Struts, really—and in fabulous pumps, no less.
It’s an exasperating, mind-melding moment with circumstances so unsettling, we’ve never craved human connection and comfort more, yet we’re forbidden from having it. And with furor over the administration’s placement of self-interest over crisis management boiling to an all-time-high, all people want is to take to the streets, but it’s for everyone’s benefit to stay inside.
“Exasperating” and “mind-melding” are two modes that The Good Fight is familiar with, having waged battle on our behalf better than any show on television for the fourth time now—once for each year of the Trump administration.
The battle/war/fight metaphors stop here, because they fall short of explaining why The Good Fight has depicted life under Trump in a uniquely superior way.
What the show—a spin-off of CBS’ hit drama The Good Wife from creators Robert and Michelle King—does isn’t some full-force attack on 45, his cronies, and supporters (although the simple act of telling the truth can at times have a blistering effect in that regard); instead, it has somehow managed to provide clarity, mastering the impossible feat of bottling swirling feelings of unease, outrage, and mania into a cleansing tonic.
We start to feel better about things. As the world careens deeper into surreality by the moment, the show has found a way to at the very least make our emotions about it all seem normal. It turns out that specific normalcy is invaluable.
When it premiered in the winter of 2017, just weeks after Trump’s inauguration, The Good Fight became the first—and is still one of the only—shows to tackle what the world feels like for its characters living through the shock of his victory and the stress of his administration. And it was actual Trump, too.
The writers weren’t coyly presenting a Trump-like stand-in, or trading in moods and themes deemed resonant to the sociopolitical atmosphere we were in. There was Trump, and the pee tape, and the collusion, and the white supremacists, and the children in cages, and the resistance, and the shitty media men list, and Brett Kavanaugh, and the NDAs. Most importantly, there was the feeling that we’re all going insane by it.
The show famously had to reshoot its entire pilot after Trump’s surprise election victory. Instead of Diane Lockhart watching Hillary Clinton’s inauguration through tears of joy, it had to be redone with her jaw on the floor in disgust. This week’s premiere, titled “The Gang Deals With Alternate Reality,” finds Diane waking up to learn that maybe, just maybe, it was all a dream. Hillary Clinton is president. Trump lost in a landslide. Everything is how it should be.
Oh, is it cathartic. There’s a possible cure for cancer. Polar bear population is spiking. The rainforests have been saved. Merrick Garland and Elizabeth Warren are on the Supreme Court. No one even knows who Brett Kavanaugh is. Diane recounts all the horrors of her “nightmare”—three years of a Trump administration—and Audra McDonald’s Liz reacts with bafflement. “Where were the Obamas during all this?” she asks. Diane’s reply: “They had an overall deal at Netflix.” (!!!!!!!)
The alternate reality lasts for just one episode. But it posits fascinating questions. What minor scandals will blow up out of habit, not realizing how bad it could really get? And, in a bit of both sides-ism, what steps forward never take place because the journey was never initially set? The #MeToo movement never happened, for example. (The show is never exclusively conservative-bashing; liberal hypocrisy and “woke” opportunism are frequently on the menu.)
The ways in which justice is an equation—“law times the zeitgeist”—are grappled with here, in ways that made me scream and applaud from my couch no less than three times in just the first 10 minutes of the season four premiere.
The Good Fight show is a thrill: Briskly paced, regal yet accessible, intense, and with a lacerating, absurdist sense of humor. Gasp and cackle along with Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald. I can’t imagine a better sell, but if you’re still not on board, I don’t know...find God. (Also, find your brand-new CBS All Access subscription. Thanks to Miss Rona, the streamer is currently offering one month free.)