Sunday, February 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - Diane and Lucca Team Up to Help a Doctor Accused of Terrorism in 'The Schtup List'

CBS' The Good Fight - Episode 1.03 "The Schtup List"

Adrian and Barbara face a cruel realization about a high profile client. While second chair to Diane on a case, Lucca is in for more than she bargained for thanks to the state's attorney's office's golden boy, Colin Morello. Maia visits her father in prison.

With only 10 episodes in its first season, it's still somewhat surprising that The Good Fight is giving the bulk of each episode's running time to a case-of-the-week story. On CBS, The Good Wife had to have standalone case-of-the-week stories in order to fill out a 22-episode order. It was a lot of work but some of those standalone hours were the best episodes the show produced. The Good Wife never would have had its best arc in Season 5 if it weren't for a standalone experiment it did in Season 4 - "Red Team/Blue Team." So, it's still nice to see the spinoff want to maintain the spirit of the original series. The show is still interested in an ongoing narrative. Each episode explores a little bit more of the Rindell scandal. But it also understands that it's great to see these characters in the courtroom or dealing with the politics and moral implications of the law. That's fascinating and shows that this creative team still has its hand on the pulse of real-life legal woes.

The main case in "The Schtup List" also happens to be strong as well. A doctor is arrested for aiding terrorists simply because he is walking a Syrian citizen through a medical procedure through Skype. He had no knowledge that the patient was an alleged terrorist. So, it's fascinating to watch as Diane and Lucca team up to help the doctor continue to provide care for this man even though the government is watching every move he makes. It's an interesting journey. Of course, the main mystery is why the government is so interested in all of this. That answer comes at the very end and is very satisfying (but horrifying) as well. But the story is also engaging when it's simply Diane and Lucca facing off with new assistant state's attorney, Colin Morrello. Justin Bartha is a welcome addition to the series regular cast. He's the new point-of-entry character for the prosecution. That has always been an interesting and necessary component of these cases. The show is always wise when it can explore an issue from all angles. And here, it's compelling to see who knows what and when. Colin originally knows much more than everyone else in the room. He knows the identity of the patient and why the government cares so much about him. But it's also clear that he doesn't know everything about the government's plans for this case.

Of course, the episode also spends a lot of time focusing on Lucca and Colin together both in and out of the courtroom. There is a nice tension between them. Lucca seems to perfectly describe him in a matter of seconds with his slick demeanor and charming smile being able to get him whatever he wants. She's smart enough not to fall for those kinds of tricks - even though she does share lunch and a drink with him throughout this hour. The show does a very smart thing in the end with the final reveal about the case too. The government was so interested in pursuing charges against the doctor because it wanted to delay treatment of this man for as long as possible. That way his brother - a more infamous terrorist - would show up and they could eliminate him. This franchise has always been very political. It can be optimistic about the prospect of power and government. But it can also be very cynical and realistic in showing just how cruel and manipulative the government can be. This is a horrifying ending. It also has the potential to ruin whatever is going on between Lucca and Colin before it even gets started. If Colin knew what the plan was all along, that would ruin him as an ongoing character. His ignorance may make him seem naive but it still leaves the door open for growth and possible romance.

It's also still clear that the show had to adjust on the fly to the election of Donald Trump. The main story doesn't call him out by name or blame what ultimately happens on his decision-making process. Instead, he's a focus of the subplot with Barbara and Adrian. It's understandable that the change in administrations would have an impact with their business. Clients who depend on government contracts would be looking for firms that would have a better job appealing to the new administration. The show is not at all afraid to say that the majority of its main characters were Hillary supporters. But it's also fascinating to see them react to this news and try to create an environment of working with all different kinds of opinions. Adrian and Barbara are able to keep this client. So that means the partners won't have to invest even more into the business to keep things stable. That's good news for Diane who still needs to come up with her capital contribution. But that also means singling out who voted for Trump at the firm. The only person who did was Julius. Now, does that make complete sense given everything the audience knows about him? Not really. And yet, he has never been that important a character before. He recurred on The Good Wife and had some moments of interest. But he never rose in prominence like David Lee or Howard Lyman. This story has the potential to be interesting. The firm says it won't ostracize him for how he voted. But he's already seeing the looks of confusion and gossip. Plus, he has a job offer for a firm that would welcome his political opinion. So, this story may just be a way to write him off this show after serving in a transitional position in the early going of the season.

And finally, the ongoing investigation into the Rindall scandal is perhaps the weakest story on the show at the moment. It's similar to the Peter Florrick scandal in a number of ways. It's hard to care about whether Henry and Lenore are guilty or innocent of this crime. Instead, it's more dramatically interesting to see how the scandal changes Maia's life. Right now, it just appears to be an eye-opening experience for her. She sees that her parents are flawed human beings who are capable of lying to her. They could also be guilty of this crime which would prove them to be awful and selfish human beings who cared more about their luxurious lifestyle than caring for other people's money. If that's the case, it shows how naive Maia was for never seeing her parents for what they truly are. But right now, she's still holding onto the hope that her father is innocent in all of this. Her lawyer knows she shouldn't talk with him or do anything that he asks. If she continues to dig, the situation will only get more complicated. It does because she breaks into her Uncle Jax's computer to get the schtup list - which gives this episode its title. That list may be necessary to prove Henry's innocence. Or it could criminalize Maia in a whole new way while showing how easily manipulated she can be by her father. Hopefully, the show doesn't wait too long to definitively give answers in this regard though. Uncertainty can be a powerful motivator but this story needs some more truths and certainties to it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Schtup List" was written by Tegan Shohet and directed by Marta Cunningham.
  • I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but those opening title credits are absolutely ridiculous. It takes the basic themes of the show and puts it in a very blunt and over-the-top way so the audience can get it. The visuals are fun but it doesn't match the complexity that the show actually represents.
  • It was my understanding that CBS All Access was releasing the show at a fixed time in primetime on a weekly basis. That was the plan. Sure, it was CBS thinking as a broadcaster instead of a streamer. It just makes no sense for CBS All Access to wait until primetime on Sunday to release the new episodes though. So, it was a welcome surprise to wake up this morning and see this episode already available to watch.
  • Maia has been a fascinating character so far (like most of the new additions on this show). However, Rose Leslie's American accent is incredibly wobbly and more than a little distracting. But hey, she got to deliver this week's F-bomb.
  • Marissa has no aspirations to be the new investigator at the firm. And yet, she keeps finding herself doing more of that than assistant work. That's good because she's much better at that. And now, she has new friends in Maia and the firm's actual investigator, Jay (who seems territorial at first but welcomes her help in the end).
  • The way that the camera leaves the lawyers out of Maia and Henry's visit at first is pretty great. The reveals work really well. It would have better if the audience didn't know Maia's lawyer was actually going to be there though.
  • Diane and Lucca have a tense history together. So, it's fascinating to see them paired together for this case. Barbara does it largely just to exert her power - which Adrian recognizes right away. But it's also great that Diane and Lucca come together as a team in the end and emerge victorious - until that final reveal uncovers the government's true intentions.