Sunday, February 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - Lucca Helps Maia with Her First Case as Diane Adjusts to the New Firm in 'First Week'

CBS All Access' The Good Fight - Episode 1.02 "First Week"

Diane raises eyebrows while settling in as a new partner at Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad. Maia continues to deal with the repercussions of her family's Ponzi scheme. Lucca and Maia unexpectedly pick up a new case.

"First Week" is all about the characters readjusting to a new environment. The same can also be said of the audience. The viewers have to see these familiar characters in a new world that may operate differently than they are used to. Of course, the case-of-the-week story of "First Week" feels very similar to something that would have been done on The Good Wife. It's familiar. That's comforting if not particularly challenging and allowing the new show to develop as its own thing. And yet, the office politics at Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad are very different than the various versions of the main firm on the former show. They have a different operating procedure for cases. It's nice to see things a little simpler and financially motivated. Money is going to be a huge focus for this series. That's abundantly clear across these opening two episodes. It's an intriguing main theme to be pushing right now. Most of the characters have financial problems. And yet, everything is also stable enough for them to continue in these same roles for the immediate future. So, it should be interesting to see how far the series is willing to push this idea of financial insecurity.

Diane took the main focus for the premiere. And now, Maia receives most of the screen time in "First Week." That's an important distinction as the series continues to figure out how to juggle its three leading ladies. This episode showcases how Maia actually is as a lawyer. Up to this point, she has best been defined by this scandal that has happened to her. Her parents have been accused of running a Ponzi scheme. Her father is in jail and she has no clue if her mother is lying to her. That's still a major story for her personal arc. It is still a dominating force in her life. She can barely go out into the world without being recognized. She is receiving so much hate as well. It's hard to ignore too. She has to find a way forward. She gets that distraction through this case. As soon as she takes charge of it, the story shifts from the harassment to her trying to help this man accused of stealing 400 shoes from his workplace. It's a simple story but one that has a pretty interesting main focus as well.

The case ultimately builds around the idea of an interrogation method used by nationwide retailers and how it actually leads to many false confessions. That's the basis for a case that the firm likes. It's fascinating to watch the partners talk their decisions out with a couple of analysts with an algorithm to decide if it will be financially worth it. This isn't like the firm of The Good Wife where the characters just bragged about how much billable hours a new client would bring in. With this new firm, it's much more of a case-by-case study. The partners don't believe in this case when it's just one man taking on a company. When it becomes a potentially lucrative class action lawsuit, that stirs up the fighting spirit of Adrian. He leads the charge while leaving the casework largely to Lucca and Maia. Again, it's fascinating to see the two of them on the same side of things. Lucca is proving to be a good mentor to Maia. She understands what she's going through. But she's also there in the case providing the legal expertise to help the client. Maia is still too green to be all that effective. That's understandable. She just passed the bar. She's also so uncertain about everything in her life at the moment. She doesn't know what to believe about her parents. So instead, she focuses on her client. She believes he's telling the truth and that these corporations are doing serious harm to their employees.

Of course, that just sets everything up perfectly for the twist ending revealing that Maia's client really isn't that reliable. He has stolen on the job before. The records were kept secret. But it's details that the opposing side was able to find to discredit him. So, that gets the case thrown out which will have major repercussions with the class action. That's a devastating moment for Maia. She lost the first case she has worked on. She brought this case to the firm. She fought for it. She had a rousing moment in the courtroom by successfully being able to question a witness. She pointed out all of the flaws of this interrogation technique. But that still wasn't enough. She worked hard on the case only for it not to go anywhere. As if that weren't enough, her mother may be lying about whether or not her breast cancer has returned. Plus, there's that final reveal that Lenore is also cheating on Henry with his brother, Jax. He's the one who got the family into this situation in the first place by cutting a deal with the FBI. Maia went over there to be with her mother during this trying time. And instead, all she got was the surprising confirmation that her parents really are capable of being horrible people.

Elsewhere, Diane's story is a little more scattered than what happened to her in the premiere. This is Maia's episode and Diane is largely just finding her place at the new firm. She wants to work well with these people because they took her in when no one else would. And yet, she doesn't have the money to put into the firm as part of her partnership. David Lee is holding up several aspects of her exit package just to mess with her one last time. That's a major concern for her. But it's also just a lingering concern for the future more than a major one right now. It's something she should be worried about. But her story then quickly shifts to her seeing Henry in prison and hearing his side of the story. That's a significant scene because it establishes the relationship between them. It also plants seeds of doubt with this case. He may be innocent. Diane sees him as a friend even though he stole all of her money. She agrees to find him a new lawyer. That should bring fresh eyes to this case. It could really use it too. And finally, it's fascinating to see Diane interacting with the other people at the new firm. Things are easy when it comes to Adrian. He has a big personality that Diane knows how to deal with. He's supportive of her working here. Barbara is more cautious and uncertain. She has a nice calculating resolve. She's watching Diane and trying to determine if she fits in at her firm. She doesn't say much to make Diane feel uncomfortable. But a conflict could be brewing as Barbara always seems to show up just as Diane does something racially frustrating. To Barbara, Diane hires a white assistant who is seemingly not good at the job despite the number of great black applicants she sent over. Of course, she doesn't see what Marissa does for the class action. She proves herself with the case. Maybe Barbara will see that eventually. But right now, it's still a dynamic where the two aren't completely sure how to interact and work with the other.

Some more thoughts:
  • "First Week" was written by Ryan Pedersen & Joey Scavuzzo and directed by Allan Arkush.
  • Marissa Gold is the latest character from The Good Wife to come over to the new show as a series regular. She makes the transition as Diane's new assistant and investigator. Of course, she seems better as an investigator than an assistant. But her energy has always been welcome and it should be interesting to see what her dynamic with Diane will be moving forward.
  • The presence of Denis O'Hare and Christine Lahti in the courtroom also made that story really feel like something lifted straight out of The Good Wife. They are great as Judge Abernathy and Andrea Stevens. Plus, the former show was great at creating memorable recurring judges and lawyers. Introducing some new ones would be good though.
  • Diane's capital contribution to the new firm probably won't be a lingering issue for very long. Adrian and Barbara are giving her two weeks to provide the money. Meanwhile, her accountant wants her to ask them for a loan. She doesn't. But that sets a clock on how long this can be delayed without being addressed.
  • It's fascinating that Lucca trusts Maia's instincts as a lawyer. She signs off on her spending more time on this case in arbitration. And yet, she also recognizes that Maia is still new and unprepared as a lawyer. So, she has to step in and help as well.
  • Lucca has some pretty strong points about the Freedman method not being a great interrogation technique. She knows the importance of words and how easily someone being questioned can become anxious. However, it's also understandable why so many companies would have middle management go through this program.
  • The one analyst being unnerved by swear words could easily be a way for the show to avoid using them. Of course, Adrian is right back to saying "Fuck" in the very next scene.