Sunday, February 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - Diane Lockhart's Life is Rocked by Financial Scandal in 'Inauguration'

CBS All Access' The Good Fight - Episode 1.01 "Inauguration"

An enormous financial scam has destroyed the reputation of a young lawyer, Maia Rindell, while simultaneously wiping out her mentor and godmother Diane Lockhart's savings. Forced out of Lockhart & Lee, they join Lucca Quinn at one of Chicago's preeminent law firms.

Before I get too deep in my review of the first episode of The Good Fight, I should mention that I'm reviewing the CBS All Access edit of the episode. Yes, the premiere was simulcast on CBS and CBS All Access tonight. But there are some distinctions between the episodes. Namely, the version of CBS All Access runs for 49 minutes while the one on CBS only goes 42. Those edits more than likely don't change any of the core events of the hour. It still all has to make sense for the viewers who immediately go to the second episode on the streaming platform. It probably just means a couple things were trimmed up a bit. So if I happen to mention something in this review that you don't remember, that's probably the reason. Plus, the CBS All Access version has swearing. It's basically just fours "fucks" and one "bullshit." Those words can't be said on CBS but will be a part of the show moving forward. So with all of that being said, let's move onward to the actual review.

The Good Fight has a little bit of an awkward start. It has a provocative opening scene. It begins with Diane Lockhart sitting completely stunned as she watches the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Seeing that motivates her into action. And yet, that motivation doesn't completely make sense. It's clear that the creative team fully believed that Hillary Clinton would win the election. So, they had to make some very minor changes to adjust to a new reality. Those changes are just cosmetic here. It doesn't alter the core arc of the episode. But it does make that opening scene a little awkward. If Clinton had won, it would make sense for Diane to retire and leave for Paris. She would feel like the world is still sane and in capable hands. But with Trump, it's odd that she sees that happen and then decides to just stop fighting. It would seem more likely that she would be inspired by his inauguration to fight even more for the causes she holds so dear. So all of that doesn't particularly track well. But again, it's just a very minor plot point at the start of the episode. The rest of the premiere gets to some really strong emotional material and core story arcs for a number of the characters.

It's fascinating seeing Diane at the top with her prestigious law firm and then have her life completely unravel. She was always a character of poise and strength on The Good Wife. And here, she is absolutely devastated. Her life is rocked by scandal. Her friends were behind a Ponzi scheme that essentially took away her retirement fund. And yet, she becomes legal poison to so many people because she steered several organizations to this investment group. And now, they are equally devastated. That's interesting. Diane should have no problem finding a partnership at one of the top firms in Chicago. She built one herself. She's well-respected amongst her colleagues. She's been a name partner for as long as the audience has known her. She's still at the top of her game too. One can question whether or not she's on the right side with the police brutality case. That largely just shows how power has corrupted her morals a little bit. The events at the end of The Good Wife have made her more guarded and skeptical. She is no longer fighting the good and just fight. She's just fighting for the client who can bring in the most money to the firm. On the original show, she and her fellow lawyers could work on the causes because they morally supported them - even if the law would later compromise those values. But here, Diane needs to do whatever it takes to survive. That's a stark contrast from the woman she used to be. So, it should be fascinating to see if she can work her way back there.

The firm that eventually hires Diane has doubts about her too. She's looking for a partnership with an equity stake. She can't get by with an emeritus position. She needs to be working and making money now more than ever before. That's basically the whole purpose of the premiere. It's getting Diane from the firm she created to a new one where she has to start from the bottom. It's understandable for the partners there to be wary of her given her past. She's a great lawyer but she also enjoys being the person in charge. Will she allow Adrian and Barbara to run their firm the way they always have? Will she actually be an asset to their cases? Adrian makes the case that his firm will get Diane back on the right side of the things. He knows that Diane doesn't believe in her police brutality case. She wants to be on his side of the debate. It's just alluring to her in the moment because he's the only one offering her the job she actually wants. That makes sense too. Sure, Adrian gets in trouble later on once Barbara finds out what he did. But he also believes hiring Diane will be a way to fuck the investment bankers who never invite black people into their elaborate funds. He sees an opening and he takes it. Only time will tell if that's a good decision or not.

All of this is important and necessary information to help establish the core foundation of the show. And yet, the true highlight of the episode comes from focusing on how Diane is dealing with all of this. Her life has been completely turned upside down. It's devastating. Seeing her reactions to all of this is powerful stuff. It's enough to pull her away from the case she's working. She's scrambling just to keep some semblance of her life alive. And yet, her accountant points out that she can't be living the same way she has been. The government will freeze all of the accounts associated with the financial scam. So, she's basically broke. Her searching for a place to work shows that many friendly faces aren't actually her friends. It's not surprising that David Lee pushes her out of the firm wanting to honor the exit contract they already had planned. But it's also significant that no one else will take her - even though they all wanted to at her retirement party. All of this leads her back to Kurt. She returns to him largely to get more clarity on their relationship. Divorce sounds like the best option so that his money doesn't get caught up in this whole mess. And yet, he is the only friend who wants to be there for her during this time. But he can't be because Diane simply can't trust him the way that she used to. She still hasn't healed from his cheating. She's only pushing for divorce now because it's the financially smart thing to do. However, he still wants to fight for their marriage. So, it's once again up to Diane to decide if she truly wants to go through with all of this after everything they've been through.

Elsewhere, the premiere also introduces Maia Rindell, a new lawyer and the daughter of the people behind the Ponzi scheme. It's a story with a lot of exposition as the show establishes her dynamic with her parents, her relationship with her girlfriend and Diane being a mentor to her. She eventually joins Diane in moving to Adrian and Barbara's firm. When she's actually working the police brutality case, she finds the key piece of evidence that will raise the settlement money. It's a huge payout for the firm's client. Plus, with Diane gone, there's no one at the firm to really protect her from being fired. It's a lot for her to handle in her first experience as a lawyer. It's mostly just set up. It should be more fascinating to watch as she settles into her new job at the new firm. She gets hired there solely because Diane puts in a good word. It should be interesting to see how much Diane will want to interact with the people who destroyed her life savings. She's one of the few friendly faces for Maia. The other one is Lucca. Even though she's working on the other side of the case, she provides Maia with the guidance on how to handle this scandal. That's surprising. Maia doesn't receive clarity or comfort from her parents, her girlfriend, her lawyer or Diane. She instead gets it from Lucca, who learned from Alicia's experience. That's a fine way to connect the two shows while also hinting at an intriguing relationship between Maia and Lucca. One of respect and friendship during the most trying times. Maia will need help and guidance to get through this. Work will be good for her. It'll just be fascinating to see if she can be a great lawyer like Diane and Lucca.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Inauguration" was written by Robert King, Michelle King & Phil Alden Robinson and directed by Brooke Kennedy.
  • Something more is clearly going on with the Rindells. They knew that something was coming before the FBI arrived. The family lawyer was shaking a little bit as he pushed for Maia to sign some crucial documents. And then, there's the uncle who cut a deal but doesn't appear at all in the premiere.
  • Will Maia's relationship with Amy be able to survive this scandal? That's unclear. They seem happy and healthy. They are supporting each other through this. But the pressure of an entire world hating them - plus leaking a fake sex tape - could eventually break them apart.
  • It felt necessary for the show to provide some hint as to what Alicia did after The Good Wife finale. Apparently, she left the firm for places unknown while Lucca later left for Adrian and Barbara's firm.
  • The callbacks to Will and Diane's close relationship were really terrific. It's great that the show remembers how important he was in her life and just how much has changed and gotten more chaotic without him around.
  • It's somewhat surprising that Lucca supports Diane coming over to her firm. They didn't have much of a relationship before but things got very intense after Lucca used Kurt's affair in court to discredit him as a witness. The animosity is still clearly there as they face off in the disposition. But she also respects Diane as a lawyer and understands why she would be an asset for the firm.