“She’s gonna fuck you up.”
You could apply that quote as the thesis statement for both The Good Fight and The Good Wife. That it comes from Lucca (Cush Jumbo), a character who’s lived now on both narrative planets circling within the same singular TV solar system is only a proverbial cherry on top of a glass filled to the brim with red wine. She’s talking about Maia (Rose Leslie) here, of course, but she could’ve said the same thing about her other best pal, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), no less than two years ago.
“Chaos” is a near-perfect season finale for a near-perfect season of a near-perfect show. If this was always going to be the way it was going to end — the episode was written before the series got the green light for a season two — it solidifies the Kings’ place among the best storytellers on television (and even Internet television) today. The narratives intersect seamlessly. Everybody gets an ending that’s as about as solid as a jar of Play-Dough, and revelations, naturally, are (somewhat) achieved.
Let’s get the details out of the way first. Adrian (Delroy Lindo) tells Maia that she needs to assert herself more as part of a performance review. She hasn’t stood out as much as the firm would have liked and they need to know if she’s capable of having the confidence needed to be an all-star lawyer (amen to that; I’ve been wondering why we haven’t seen her argue anything in court throughout the season). In return, she shadows Adrain to see and learn as he defends someone in court for being a co-conspirator in a cyberterrorism scheme.
That someone? It’s Lucca.
See, the nefarious Dylan Stack (Jason Biggs) has wiggled his way into the The Good Fight universe by claiming someone hacked into his computer to frame him for a suspected citywide power outage. He needs someone from the law firm to take a flash drive to the Department of Justice (DOJ) because the DOJ needs to know the low down on what’s about to go down. Lucca is drafted as the one to bring it to Colin (Justin Bartha), her ex-flame. He takes it to his boss, who puts it into his computer, and, of course, the flash drive contained the virus and now the city is going to shut down. Dylan hacked into the government’s system via the naïve, unbeknownst help of Lucca.
Thus, the week is laid out as such: Adrian and Maia try to get Lucca out of jail and Dylan into jail. How do they accomplish this? You guessed it: via the help of Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell), that alt-right psycho guy who really needs a spin-off with Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker). Staples lures Dylan into a seedy Chinese restaurant, in which the feds get their man. Lucca is released, but she and Colin seem to be over.
To get here, Maia has her come-to-Jesus moment in the courtroom, proving herself as a steady, assertive, fearless attorney. Or, in other words, she blows up, takes charge, and wins the case. Naturally, she feels good about that and heads over to her parents’ place for dinner because her dad Henry (Paul Guilfoyle) is heading somewhere for good. The assumption is that he’s going to surrender to authorities after one last dinner with his family before being put away forever. At the end of this particular last supper, he comes clean with Maia: he ran a Ponzi scheme, he paid people off, her mother and uncle knew about it, and there’s no real getting out of this. It’s supposed to be a shock, but it’s not really because we’ve seen this thing play out for an entire season now and it’s clear Henry’s a scumbag.
(The mere fact that we always saw this coming was actually the true television achievement. Why? How do you not disappoint with a reveal? You make the reveal inevitable from day one and turn the focus to how we achieve the inevitability. In other words: it’s the journey, not the destination. The Kings, as they’re wont to do, know that more than most working in scripted drama.)
The Rindells, meanwhile, exchange warm moments, shed some tears, and eat delivered pizza (all in the dark: the city is operating under a blackout, a nice metaphor). Henry heads out to a car waiting to take him to jail. Except, of course, he doesn’t. Instead, he meets a guy who knows how to make people disappear; we’re to believe that from this point forward, Henry will be growing a beard on some island in the middle of Greece, never to be heard from again.
All this wouldn’t matter all that much if his lawyer didn’t tell him earlier in the episode that if he didn’t take the 35-year plea deal and go to prison, the feds would come after Maia, whom, in case we forgot, lied to Madeline Starkey (Jane Lynch), who then revealed that because of as much, she would recommend prosecution of Henry’s daughter. In short, the dad sold out the kid. The same people over whom Maia triumphed in court earlier in the episode show up at Maia’s door to close out the season, ready to take her into custody because Henry is nowhere to be found.
It all adds up to the precise kind of season finalé that could’ve only been produced by the Kings. Robert’s direction here is tense, forward-moving and provocative. The writing itself is a callback to what made The Good Wife the best show on television for seven years: cynical, interwoven, smart, tough, and layered. The acting, led especially by Diane (Christine Baranski), is world-class, a true testament to the fruits of filming in New York City and having at your disposal some of the best players in the universe.
That’s why, in some ways, it’s hard not to let the mind wander about the prospect of this being the first and only season the series would enjoy. Potentially sending Maia to jail while Henry leaves the country as a means to end the story feels like an ideal way to go out, if only because the tiny air of ambiguity attached to whatever future these characters might have is pitch-perfect. Might a second season damper the explosive flame this first run provided so expertly? I think that’s a possibility, despite my love, trust, and sincere admiration for this series’ writing staff. I mean, we don’t really want to see Henry return at the end of season two in the same way Omar came back into The Wire fold after we all thought he retired, do we?
It’s certainly an option. For now, though, it’s imperative that we properly celebrate The Good Fight‘s first season as a standalone piece of art; it not only exceeds expectations, but it also redeems the tiny bad taste left in some The Good Wife fans’ mouths after its final run. It had an astronomically high bar to live up to, and anyone who even remotely enjoyed this staff’s work elsewhere should have found much — and I mean very much — to value in these ten episodes. This is a hell of an achievement in its own right, and for that, The Good Fight should be considered a victory that reaches far beyond a mere notch in the win column.
Now, we wait and see how much fucking up — in the most complimentary way, of course — these heroines can accomplish as the table resets for more stories to be told.
How Nice to Be Able to Talk In Metaphors
It seems Kurt (Gary Cole) and Diane are a thing again. Yay!
It’s difficult not to have Will Gardner (Josh Charles) flashes as Diane visits Kurt in the hospital. Funny how it takes Kurt literally being recognized as a hero for saving a child’s life for Diane to relent on her stance that they can’t be together. She deserves happiness. From everything we’ve seen, her best chance at it involves Kurt.
“Actually, that’s two staples, not one. Like a high-end magazine.’ Season two needs Felix in the cast.
Between “The only constant we have is the law”, and “You get angry and you get focused. Angry and focused”, Adrian is, without a doubt, my favorite breakout character of The Good Fight. Lindo knows how to inspire whenever he’s called upon to do as much and there have been moments in this season that even make me want to jump out of my couch and start cheering. It’s a new energy brought to the The Good Wife world, and it adds a texture that feels both fresh and energetic. I could watch that guy use the f-word, bark orders at staff, and lumbering down a hallway with purpose a 1000 times. I can’t wait to see what they do with him next.
What’s up with Barbara (Erica Tazel)?
Lucca and Colin are the new Diane and Kurt, who were the new Alicia and Will. Got all that? Good.
You don’t really think that’ll be the last time we see Henry, do you?
A note on CBS All Access: I found myself thinking about this quite a bit while watching these 10 episodes. The Good Fight is certainly good enough to be on any regular cable television network; burying it on CBS’s Internet-only service feels a little unfair. I understand that perhaps the suits are trying to build something here, but why on earth would someone essentially pay six bucks a month to watch the only series they can’t see on the broadcast channel? In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I had to do it — not only because I cut the cord years ago, but also because I really am a super fanboy of The Good Wife/Fight — and it was worth it to me.
For others, however, they may not share the same situation. I had people who have regular television subscriptions ask me about this after seeing the first episode air on CBS and I had to sympathize with them. They wanted to keep watching, but they weren’t willing to pay for a majority of stuff to which they already had access in order to keep up with this single series. To be frank, CBS All Access kind of sucks. I’m going to cancel my subscription the second I file this essay because, among other things, they black out live sporting events (including NFL games) on a regular basis. In short, the CBS model is broken, and they need to fix it.
The Most-Missed Good Wife Character of the Week: Yeah, you can’t go with anybody but Will Gardner after that bedside scene with Diane and Kurt. Wow, that was quite the something.