‘The Good Fight’ Is One of the Best Shows (Not) on Television – GQ

The first two episodes of CBS All Access’s excellent third season of The Good Fight (which premieres today on the streaming service) each interrupt themselves with splashy, campy animated musical performances, one about NDAs, the other about the notorious Roy Cohn. Maybe that seems strangely out of place if you’re approaching the show expecting tightly wound legal drama (you’ll get that), sharp performances by some of the finest actors around (that too), or a continuation of The Good Wife plot lines (sort of?). But where The Good Wife was consistently, perfunctorily good, The Good Fight upends all that in favor of balls-to-the-wall experimentation that often works, and even when it doesn’t, provides ample enjoyment in the pursuit of something new. I like to lump The Good Fight together in my mind’s pleasure center with my favorite thrill rides, the heart-stopping ones that actively induce the fight-or-flight “I just might die on this thing?” response I find myself craving so often, because both keep me gasping (often out loud, to the chagrin of my much more even-keeled partner) and yearning for more.

The Good Fight, for the uninitiated, is a CBS All Access streaming spinoff of the legal and political Julianna Margulies hit The Good Wife, which ran for seven seasons on CBS, picking up Emmys and critical acclaim the whole way through.

I was loathe to pick up The Good Fight not because I thought it would trail its predecessor in quality, but because I worried the masterful universe-building its creators Michelle and Robert King had done would fall apart without Margulies at the core. But in her wake, the masterful Christine Baranski finds more room to play with her already perfectly realized Diane Lockhart, a lawyer at the top of her game who’s literally just trying to get through one single goddamned day in Trump’s America. On Wife, Diane often took (worthy) center stage, but hers is a much larger spotlight on Fight, one that opens up her from supporting to main and opens viewers up to her home life as an equal component to her work one.

At its core the show is procedural. There’s usually a Case of the Week that the lawyers at the Chicago firm of Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart have to tackle. Like Law and Order, they’re sometimes ripped from the headlines, or at the very least extremely inspired by the headlines. But unlike typical procedurals, there’s identical weight given to season-long stories, like the Madoff-inspired Ponzi scandal that rocked the show’s first season, or the way Diane spent its second year grappling with a president in opposition to her every belief. They’re hour-long episodes that build and build and build; they never leave you hanging. There is always payoff, and storylines almost always end in “holy shit how did they stick that landing?” splendor. That’s largely in part to both the expertly woven narratives courtesy of the Kings’ oversight, and the show’s jaw-droppingly good performances.

There’s Baranski, taking giant hulking chomps out of the scenery, enjoying every second of dialogue she’s given. It’s the kind of comedic and dramatic performance her fans have come to expect, but it transcends those expectations tenfold. Cush Jumbo would probably be racking up Emmy nominations for her deeply layered fourth-year associate Luca Quinn if the show aired on network television, which is more of an indictment of Emmy voters’ reluctance to embrace non-Netflix streamers than anything else. Sarah Steele turns in the funniest, most nuanced work currently onscreen as Diane’s assistant and an investigator at the firm, Marissa Gold, a merciful carryover from The Good Wife.