Television

'The Good Fight' Offers Jarring Developments in "Social Media and Its Discontents"

Colin McGuire
John Cameron Mitchell as alt-righter Felix Staples.

In this episode ambiguity ramps up to 11, Maia doesn't know who to trust, and hate-speech is amplified, and confronted.


The Good Fight

Airtime: Sundays
Cast: Rose Leslie, Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 6 - "Social Media and Its Discontents"
Network: CBS All Access
Air date: 2017-03-19
Amazon

"I hate games, so knock it the fuck off."

Lucca (Cush Jumbo) may have been targeting her beau du jour, Colin (Justin Bartha) with those words, yet she has no idea how applicable such a phrase is in regards to the rest of The Good Fight's sixth episode, "Social Media and Its Discontents". Games are on full display within this episode, and the playing field appears to be more crowded than usual.

In typical jarring The Good Wife fashion, the week's hour begins with online commentators reading their hate speech comments out loud. The move is affecting, if disorienting; try as it may, the broadcast context of The Good Wife never had the freedom to take language this far. While we live in a world where such speech is so prominent it shouldn’t shock anymore, it still does.

In other words, reading disgusting stuff is one thing; listening to it is a whole new ballgame.

A necessary game, however; this type of hate speech is the central issue in this week’s episode. Neil Gross (John Benjamin Hickey) has decided that ChumHum needs a new Terms of Service agreement for its Facebook-ish social media platform. Instead of heading to a courtroom, the firm internally debates the merits of having an appeals process for banning users based on their comments, and what exactly that entails.

Naturally, a member of the alt-right / white-supremacy / fascist-asshole regime that seems to be all the rage (figurative and literally) these days responds to what he perceives as a violation of freedom of speech. Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell) is a Milo Yiannopoulos avatar par excellence: you hate him, but you can't take your eyes off him. He's smart. He's a child. He's offensive. He's politically incorrect. He's charismatic. He's also willing to pay a gay hooker to give him a blowjob in front of the firm's appeals panel. An act that, in his mind, furthers his argument that the panel is homophobic. His presence carries the episode in the same way Colin Sweeney’s (Dylan Baker) did on The Good Wife, particularly the back-and-forth between him and Diane (Christine Baranski) that recalls the similar dynamic Alicia (Julianne Margulis) used to share with Sweeney.

Gross essentially caves to Staples popularity, although whether this means that the ChumHum appeals process is going to be fine-tuned in forthcoming weeks is moot. While the Staples plot is compelling, the more intriguing developments this week come from Maia (Rose Leslie), her dad Henry (Paul Guilfoyle), her uncle Jax (Tom McGowan), her lawyer Elsbeth (Carie Preston), and the Ponzi scheme that landed Henry in jail. Early in the episode, Jax approaches his niece to inform Maia her father is trying to set her up: he’ll ask her to meet up to talk while wearing a wire.

Maia relays this information to Elsbeth, who suggests Maia offer her father false information to see if he is attempting to set her up. Maia vacillates, but eventually meets him at a family party, and records herself feeding him Elsbeth’s lie to see if the story gets passed along. Leslie’s performance effectively sells both her reticence in doing this and the issues of trust that make it a necessary evil.

This subplot is only resolved at the end of the episode, when Colin warns Lucca about a story he heard. It should be no surprise that said story is the lie Maia told Henry. Naturally, we can presume this came from Mike Kresteva (Matthew Perry), who bailed Henry out of jail and who established he's fighting the bad fight to take down the law firm at which both Diane and Maia currently work.

In only six episodes, however, The Good Fight has offered enough nuance, in both plot and characterization, to make it difficult to assume that Henry is the bad guy in this equation. If Mike got him out of prison, why wouldn't he tell Mike a story he thinks might impact his case? Plus -- and perhaps this is taking it too far -- who's to say that Colin definitely got the story from his coworker in the first place? Could Lucca's love interest turn out to be? Is this all part of some plan with which Henry knows he must comply because in the end, it'll ultimately absolve Maia from any potential blame anyway? It’s these types of questions that are making the series essential viewing.

Let the games begin.

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It’s unclear whether Julius (Michael Boatman) has quit, or merely made a threat to his boss. With his Trump support and clear devil's advocate positioning within this week's episode, it’s clear he wasn't going to be the one leaking the information to the hate-speech guys. That said, the reveal that it came from ChumHum's computers felt a bit flat, even if it does mean Neil Gross is an asshole.

Speaking of Neil Gross, I'm assuming there goes Diane's capital contribution?

Who else wants a spinoff series starring Staples and Sweeney? I know this episode was designed for us to hate Felix -- and rightfully so; there's no excuse for any of the things he said -- but considering how creepy he was and the striking similarities he shares with Sweeney, it’d be nice to see him come back at some point this season. That was a master class in acting from Mitchell.

Lucca’s romantic pettiness, however, was underwhelming.

While I like Marissa (Sarah Steele) (and Jay [Nyambi Nyambi]), The Good Fight doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on her character. The idea that she’s positioned to be the "anti-Kalinda" makes little sense; she's becoming an investigator, Kalinda was an investigator. There needs to be a reason beyond the fact that Marissa is more outspoken and forthright.

The Most-Missed Good Wife Character of the Week: Colin Sweeney, where art thou?

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