Sunday, April 9, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - Diane Represents Colin Sweeney While Maia Speaks with a Federal Agent in 'Self Condemned'

CBS All Access' The Good Fight - Episode 1.09 "Self Condemned"

Diane and Adrian find themselves involved in another police brutality case, this time representing a surprising but familiar face, Colin Sweeney. Lucca represents Maia for her interview with a federal investigator seeking information on the Rindell scandal.

Overall, The Good Fight has had a strong first season. It's tried juggling a lot of story ideas. But most of them have been fascinating. Similarly, it's been able to maintain The Good Wife's approach to unique legal stories that showcase different sides of the law. It's a really smart legal procedural. However, the Rindell scandal has been a major story this season. It's also easily the weakest element of the show. It is just so difficult to care about what happens to those characters. It had importance in the beginning. It started all of this for Diane. And yet, she hasn't been directly connected to it for a long time. Instead, she's been able to find herself again at her new firm while earning the respect of the fellow partners. That's been a fascinating and personal journey. Not much of it has had to do with finances even though that was the origin of this move for her. Conversely, the scandal has been the major definer of Maia as a character. She doesn't really exist outside of the scandal. That's a huge problem. The audience doesn't really know her wants and loves of the world. It's instead all about the mystery of whether or not her parents were complicit in this Ponzi scheme that ruined so many lives.

"Self Condemned" seems to clarify that Henry, Lenore and Jax were all in on the Ponzi scheme. Right now, it's just a question if Maia knew about it as well at least subconsciously. But it's also hard to trust this story in this particular episode because it plays as flashes of memory. The Good Wife really knew how to handle the murky details and corruption of memories. It provided comfort to the characters even when their recollections of events didn't line up with what really happened. That's seemingly what's happening here as well. The show is forcing the audience to question the images that we are seeing of Maia and her family. Was she aware of the scandal and the affair for a long time and just denied it to herself? Or was she completely in the dark? Things can be perceived both ways. That's getting to her as she goes in to answer questions from a federal agent. But it largely plays as the show wanting to be as mysterious as possible with this story. It doesn't work because the mystery is so one-note. It all seems inevitable which makes it even more grating the longer the show delays answers. This hour seems willing to confirm a couple of things. But it's ultimately just one more manipulation from the writing.

The most fascinating part about Maia's story is the inclusion of Lucca and Jane Lynch's Madeline Starkey. Lynch just feels like an actor who would work well in this universe. That's confirmed in this episode. And yet, it also feels like a character type the show loves and has used on a number of occasions. Lynch is essentially doing the same thing that Carrie Preston, Martha Plimpton and Mamie Gummer have done. They use their quirks to hide the fact that they are really skilled at their jobs. It's a fun character type that this show does well. But it also feels familiar. It's great that Lucca doesn't really buy into it. She is completely aware that Madeline is trying to use "gotcha" tactics to catch Maia in a lie so all of her answers can be used against her in court. That's the final outcome as well. Madeline will recommend criminal charges against Maia for knowing about her parents' Ponzi scheme. She believes Maia lied in this interview. Meanwhile, Maia is just confused over what to do and say. This plays as the big twist at the end of the episode. But largely, it's just a way to increase the tension heading into next week's season finale.

Jane Lynch isn't the only big guest star in this episode either. Dylan Baker returns as the infamous Colin Sweeney as well. That's clearly a character the creative team loves and wanted to bring back for the new show. And yet, he had already run his course on The Good Wife. His schtick was already getting old and tired. And now, The Good Fight only confirms that. Him now interacting with Diane could have been a welcome change to the formula. His episodes were largely defined by his relationship to Alicia. Now Diane needs to be the one to put up with his lies because she's the lead of the show. The show has to explain why this new firm would put up with Sweeney and his reputation. Working with him is the only one to get a corrupt cop off the force. And yet, it still feels like the characters get too comfortable too quickly with Sweeney. They are willing to work with him even though they know he's the devil who's still free somehow despite numerous charges filled against him over the years. It's a little too much of a stretch to take all that seriously. However, the show puts up with him because it allows the characters to talk about police brutality once more.

It's also important to have that scene between Diane and Adrian as they discuss this case when it looks like it'll end badly. They've both grown a lot since they faced off against each other in that police brutality case at the start of the season. He gave her a new home when no one else would. And now, it's fitting that they are working on another police brutality case together near the end of the season. But it's also fascinating to see if the characters are truly happy. They both love this job so much. They have such an appreciation and respect for the law even though they frequently manipulate it for their clients. And yet, Diane was going to retire. She was going to give it all up. Does she actually miss the life she was planning for her future? She's dreamt about the house she could have had in France. But this season has also reminded her how much she loves the law. She belongs in the courtroom working on cases she's passionate about. Adrian loves that as well. He sees it as his responsibility to keep on fighting until justice is found in this world. He has to do that because everyone who works at the firm is counting on him. He just recently won the battle against Reddick to maintain control of the firm. He's committed to the good fight. It just seems like a losing battle in this moment. Of course, it ultimately isn't. Diane and Adrian prove their case and get the criminal charges dropped against Sweeney. But it's still a bittersweet ending knowing that Sweeney has no intentions of being a part of a civil suit which is where the real money comes into play that could change the corrupt system.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Self Condemned" was written by William Finkelstein and directed by Jim McKay.
  • How many times has Sweeney been with a woman who is into very sexually kinky things only for her to testify against him for some reason in court? That's a plot twist that has happened in so many episodes that feature his character.
  • The idea that Colin Sweeney was being considered for an ambassadorship is hilarious. It's a major twist in this story. It motivates his actions and how far he's willing to go for this case. He wants that and doesn't believe his past and reputation will hinder it at all. The fact that it doesn't should be extremely telling as well.
  • The birds crashing into the window in Madeline's office was good as a quirky joke once. But the more it happened the more horrifying and unsettling it became. It largely just highlights how she isn't an ally in this situation. She's going to be trouble some way or another.
  • The painting going on in the federal building was a quirky detail as well that was meant to throw the characters off their normal rhythms. But suddenly, Maia and Lucca could go anywhere they wanted as soon as they figured Madeline and her tactics out.
  • Madeline asked a few questions about Diane in regards to her relationship to the Rindells. So that probably means Diane will be targeted by the federal investigation shortly too. That will probably increase my investment in that story but only because I care about what happens to Diane.
  • Marissa and Colin are suspiciously missing in this episode. With Colin, it's probably because Lucca no longer wants to be dating him. But it could also be because the show didn't want two characters named Colin in the same episode. Meanwhile, Marissa's absence has no explanation. Though it does show that Jay is a very capable investigator without her by his side.