TV

Baranski, Jumbo, and Leslie Fight 'The Good Fight' In the "Inauguration"

Colin McGuire
Diane (Christine Baranski) watches in horror as the 45th US president is sworn in.

In its debut episode, The Good Fight reminds us precisely how great The Good Wife once was, while setting its own course.


The Good Fight

Airtime: Sundays, 8pm
Cast: Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Rose Leslie
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 1 - "Inauguration"
Network: CBS All Access
Air date: 2017-02-19
Amazon
"People I thought were saints, they … they weren't. You wait, you listen, you watch. Eventually, everyone reveals themselves."

Oh, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski). If anyone knows a thing or two about people revealing themselves.

Let's first get this out of the way: The Good Fight is great. It's not good, friends. It's great. In fact, it's so great that the word "great" in those sentences is purposely italicized. Anyway. For everyone who whined that The Good Wife began to falter in its final seasons (it didn't), this new spinoff series, which was launched last Sunday into Internet Land via CBS All Access (with the debut episode simultaneously airing on good, old-fashioned CBS broadcast), feels like the most extravagant blend of irresistible catnip.

Or, in other words, after only one episode, it's safe to say that The Good Fight takes the best parts of The Good Wife and brings them back to life, all the while creating an identity of its own.

The story in "Inauguration" is simple: Diane is set to retire from the law firm at which we followed her through seven seasons (a law firm that has now hilariously been renamed with the help of approximately 92 additional names, including associates). She's headed to the Italian countryside, ready to write a memoir, bask in the memory of a mightily accomplished career, and, well, actually live.

Enter Henry Rindell (Paul Guilfoyle), who plays the Bernie Madoff to Chris Noth's Bill Clinton (we miss you, Alicia [Julianna Margulies]!). In a matter of hours, Diane has no money and no prospects. Her bank accounts are frozen, all the funds she thought she saved are gone, and a divorce is looming in her future. What could possibly be worse?

Well, how's "her firm won’t take her back" sound?

Not good. For Diane, at least. Thankfully, the opposing side of the very last case she was taking on features Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) and … wait for it … Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo), who we The Good Wife fans were dying to know about anyway. When Diane needs a job, Boseman offers up a not-name-partner position, and boom: Lucca and Diane are back in the saddle together.

The third member of this triad is an entirely new character: Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), Henry's daughter, who's as entwined in disgrace as Alicia Florrick ever appeared to be in that other series. Actually, The Good Fight begins with Maia receiving the news that she passed the Illinois state bar exam, thus granting her a position at Lockhart, Lee & 92 Associates until, of course, David Lee (Zach Grenier, otherwise known as "Dean Healy" from the probably-gone-but-never-forgotten BrainDead) catches wind of Diane heading to a rival firm and immediately cans the protégé.

Without taking a single look at episode two, let's just go ahead and assume that Diane talks Boseman into hiring Maia, who also happens to be her goddaughter.

Got all that? Good. Consider the ground laid.

Now, the year was 2009 when The Good Wife hit CBS. As I wrote often throughout that series' final season for this very magazine, I'll forever believe that the show was far more groundbreaking and important than people gave it credit for. Somehow, creators Robert and Michelle King took a taboo scenario and turned it into a meditation on modern-day feminism shaded by the formula of a legal procedural television series, deliciously smart writing, and atypical political scandal.

The result was revelatory. It provided its viewership with sides of the tale to which mainstream audiences had never previously been privy. It highlighted life’s complexities better than any other show on cable. The good guys were bad; the bad guys were good. It was up to you and your own moral compass to really decide what your own personal interpretation of the story would warrant.

We are precisely one 48-minute episode into The Good Fight and let's view what appears to be the setup: two white women -- one, a lesbian with a disgraceful father in the news; the other, a female so clearly the victim of ageism as she tries to find a new gig -- are hired by a predominantly African-American law firm in Chicago, one of the most racially contentious cities in America. One woman is getting divorced after finding out, in a courtroom no less (thanks, Alicia!) that her husband had been cheating her, while the other woman is now subject to fake "lesbian sex tapes" TMZ is publishing to help pile on the scandal-meter.

Oh, did we mention that of the four prestige American television networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX -- this is the first series to be offered exclusively on an over-the-top Internet streaming service run by said network? What’s that about breaking through glass ceilings?

A single hour into the series, and The Good Fight has every bit the amount of potential The Good Wife ever earned. So, I'll heed your advice, Diane. I'll wait. I'll listen. And, goodness, the anticipation is in unmatched when considering how I, for one, will be waiting to see how this series ultimately reveals itself.

How Nice to Be Able to Talk in Metaphors

The title comes from Lucca's statement early in the episode when the crew was talking about putting a gun to one’s head. God, I've missed the Kings.

Please tell me your blood began to kick up in temperature, too, when Diane uttered that cutting, brilliant rebuttal to Kurt (Gary Cole) after he insisted they don't get divorced: "Kurt, you're not a cowboy. We don't live in a world of cowboys." God, I've missed the Kings (Part 2).

This warrants pointing out: if you were going to give a spinoff series to any of The Good Wife characters, Diane Lockhart, in hindsight -- and especially after viewing this initial episode -- was the smartest choice. Why? Because Baranski can act the shit out of anything she's given. The stuff she offered here was on par with her best The Good Wife moments, and that's no exaggeration. Her anger. Her disappointment. Her sadness. Her hopelessness. Is it too early to sign her up for an Emmy nod?

How much fun was it to hear Lucca talk in her native British accent? Just saying.

"How is my life suddenly so fucking meaningless?" Why, hello there, CBS All Access!

So this is what Bernadette Peters is up to these days.

If you didn't laugh after seeing the number of last names attached to the Lockhart law firm brand within the first five minutes of the episode, then you have no idea how much in love with the Kings you ought to be. Honestly. You don't. Hey, what did you think of the new credit fonts?

"Anyway. Goodbye. It was fun. Want the door closed?” … As Diane allows the door to close. Perfect writing. Perfect timing. Perfect acting. Just a tiny shot of perfect.

The Most-Missed The Good Wife Character of The Week: It's gotta be Josh Charles’s Will Gardner, right? I mean, not once, but twice did we see that photo of him and Diane creep into the frame. Oh, history.

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