Sunday, April 2, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - The Firm's Founding Partner Returns and Causes Trouble in 'Reddick v. Boseman'

CBS All Access' The Good Fight - Episode 1.08 "Reddick v. Boseman"

Founding partner, Carl Reddick, makes a surprise return to the firm. A renowned local pastor needs the firm's help in a legal matter that threatens to ruin his legacy. Lucca unexpectedly meets Colin's parents. Henry attempts to reconnect with Maia.

The Good Fight has taken a lot of its identity from The Good Wife. That's not all that surprising nor is it an inherently bad thing. It's fun to see guest stars from the old show continue to pop up here. It's fascinating to see what happened to these characters after Alicia Florrick was a part of their lives. And yet, too much of "Reddick v. Boseman" plays as an episode of The Good Wife without adding anything new to the similar plot beats. On top of that, it's just a really busy episode. It has a case-of-the-week, a vote happening amongst the partners, Lucca meeting Colin's parents and Maia dealing with her father attempting suicide. It's a bit crowded. And thus, some of the bigger moments don't feel as special or earned. The firm survived the attack from Mike Kresteva. And yet, this episode throws the firm right back into turmoil. It's an understandable way to tell the story. Just too much of it feels familiar and lifted from the original show without making things unique to this show and its characters.

The biggest comparison between the two shows has to be the mysterious founding partners at the firms. Adrian and Barbara have been managing the firm all season long. And yet, there are three name partners. This episode puts a face on the founding partner, Carl Reddick (Louis Gossett Jr.). The first season of The Good Wife did a very similar thing in waiting a long time to reveal Jonas Stern. Both are lawyers defined by their past glories who are no longer involved in the day-to-day management of their firms. Reddick is different from Stern because he returns to help the firm find itself again after losing its moral compass. He believes Adrian and Barbara are no longer fighting the good fight and the kind of moral causes that he founded the firm on. He wants to return as managing partner to revitalize the firm. That's a key difference between him and Stern. Stern was much more narcissistic and refused to believe that he was no longer capable of being a lawyer. Reddick still has some fight in him. It's amusing to watch him and Adrian approach the partners offering them anything for their votes in this matter.

And yet, the big vote is played as this huge moment that has the potential to change the direction of the firm. However, that's a tactic that defined so much of The Good Wife's run - especially in the later seasons. The main firm on that show went through so many iterations. Diane knows all about turnover amongst the partnership. But her opinion on the matter really isn't that important. That's good because she's no longer the one running the firm. Adrian and Barbara do seem like this show's version of Diane and Will. Two great lawyers who have to approach things different than the way their founding partner did. They have to stand up to him when they believe their direction for the firm is better. Reddick is right to say that the firm is in danger because it's being sued now. But Adrian and Barbara are right to take on clients that will pay the firm millions of dollars. And yet, the climatic moment of this story is lackluster. This show really hasn't given Barbara enough to do. I'm still waiting for her to be seen in a courtroom. But here, she makes a big deal about the fights of today being different than the fights of the past and that's why she's voting for Adrian. It's a solid moment that shows how strong that bond is. However, it's very easy to see Reddick's take on the subject too. Plus, the moment itself barely lands because there really wasn't enough buildup to this story. It just feels like something that happens to establish conflict amongst the name partners for the end of the season.

Similarly, the case-of-the-week is a little lackluster. Pastor Jeremiah is a character who popped up on The Good Wife as well. He's not one of the more famous guest stars from that show. But he doesn't have a prior relationship with Diane. So, that explains why she's leading the charge on this case when both Reddick and Adrian have opinions about it. The pastor just wants to evict a kid living in his mission house for violating the rules. It's then blown up into this whole thing of being accused of statutory rape. It seems like the show wants to live in the mystery of the situation. Did the pastor do this or not? Both sides can present evidence that back up their claims. The pastor says this didn't happen while the kid and his lawyer say it did. Fisher Stevens plays the lawyer and he's quite a character. But there are just a few too many pulls for focus. The story wants to be about Diane taking charge of this case in addition to Adrian and Reddick using it to show their different ideologies. There's a moment where Adrian believes their client is guilty of these accusations. It's suppose to be a big deal what he thinks. But it's a rushed moment that really isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. Plus, the story resolves in a very easy way with Jay and Marissa discovering a conflict of interest that proves the lawyer is just trying to extort the pastor.

And finally, it's interesting to see the show draw a parallel between Lucca and Alicia. For most of this season, it's seemed like Diane is the one who mirrors Alicia's journey from The Good Wife. She's the one disgraced from scandal and has to start over at a new firm. And yet, this episode shows that Diane is like Alicia in the workplace dynamic while Lucca is similar because of her relationship with Lucca. She meets his family and they are quite some characters as well. There is a lot of broad performances from guest stars in this episode. Perhaps that's why the hour struggles to find a lot of nuance in its stories. But more importantly, Lucca learns that Colin's family expects him to run for Senate. They see her as nothing but the pretty woman to stand by his side. She's being positioned as a political wife. That's an identity that defined Alicia so much. She held onto it until the very end. But it's not something that Lucca wants. Maybe she doesn't because of her friendship with Alicia and what all she endured. Or maybe she just never wanted to be in a serious and lasting relationship. That's what she says when she ends things with Colin. This relationship wasn't as real as it seemed. And yet, that's a very emotionally devastating moment. The season has given the audience a reason to care about this romantic pairing. And now, Lucca is bailing for something she didn't even talk to Colin about. That makes sense though I'm also guessing they'll find their way back to each other before the season is over.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Reddick v. Boseman" was written by Keith Josef Adkins and directed by Michael Zinberg.
  • Henry attempting suicide to free Lenore and Maia from the pain and scandal he has caused is a serious twist in that story. But it's still the weakest ongoing story on the show. It's hard to care one way or the other if he dies. He doesn't. He's seriously injured but doesn't kill himself. This act may be enough to bring his family back together though.
  • Maia is complicit in covering up Henry's suicide. She does so because she doesn't want her father to go back to prison. And yet, she also makes it a point to read the note he left behind to her mom even though Henry doesn't want her to worry.
  • This hour seemingly confirms that Lenore and Jax were a couple. That's what Maia always believed. It's what the audience should have believed as well. Lenore wasn't doing a great job denying that fact. But now, it's over with once she learns about the suicide note.
  • The idea of the law being a choice between the truth and the evidence is a strong one. This hour doesn't really get into the complexity of the situation though. The pastor has too much dignity to refute the claims of the kid. Anything can be perceived one way or the other. And yet, the show still takes the easy way out with this case.
  • Jay agrees to sponsor Marissa for a private investigator's license. It's not a surprising development. The two of them have worked well as a team. She's the one who discovers the Fitbits can be used as evidence for the case.
  • Lucca reacting to Colin's family was hilarious. And yet, all of those characters at the party were way over-the-top and broad. The show had no subtlety at all. It showed that liberal elites can be just as horrifying as the people they complain about. Colin seems better than them. And yet, Lucca still doesn't trust him enough to talk to him about the future.