Sunday, March 11, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - Maia's Trial Begins as Diane and Lucca Try to Keep Her Out of Prison in 'Day 415'

CBS All Access' The Good Fight - Episode 2.02 "Day 415"

Tensions remain high when the firm learns another Chicago lawyer has been murdered by a client. Liz has her first day at Reddick, Boseman and Lockhart and positions herself as a potential ally for Diane. Maia's trial takes an unwelcome turn when a surprise witness is called to testify against her. Lucca and Colin go head-to-head in court.

Two episodes into the new season and it seems like The Good Fight is officially putting things to an end with the Rindell scandal. That was a huge story in the first season that never really clicked into place. It was a story that dealt with perception and memory. Maia was played as this innocent young woman who didn't know what her parents were doing. The entire season was mostly her trying to figure out just how guilty they actually were and if she was subconsciously aware of their crimes. There wasn't a whole lot of nuance to the situation. It always seemed clear that Henry and Lenore defrauded hundreds of people. Maia's life was forever changed by the scandal. But the truncated nature of the season meant that she couldn't exist as a character beyond it either. Whenever the focus shifted to her, it needed to be all about this scandal. As such, it needed to harden her as a character. There is evidence of that happening in the premiere. But it mostly feels like the show course-correcting in order to find a better use of Rose Leslie. Of course, it still feels the need to devote an entire episode to Maia being on trial for fraud. It works well within the procedural nature of the show without taking too much focus away from some of the other ongoing developments. And yet, it's very appreciated that it won't be dragged out any longer. Henry fled the country and that led to all of this. By the end of "Day 415," he's in custody and will be paying for his crimes. It presents Maia with a clean slate moving forward. That's exciting. Whatever the show opts to do next with her will ultimately define her as a character and whether or not she belongs in this show alongside Diane, Lucca and Marissa. That's exciting to think about. But it's still speculation for the future. Right now, we can only judge on what happens in this specific episode.

It feels like Maia should be commended for not having an emotional moment while watching this trial play out. That's a familiar plot device in order to bring excitement to a story where a main character is on trial. She is able to hold her tongue in court and communicate through notes with Lucca. This season has presented a harder Maia. She has been well-trained by Lucca. She knows when to be quiet and when to record conversations. Of course, she's still susceptible to emotional manipulation. In the premiere, the Justice Department tried getting her to cooperate based on a fake wire tap of Henry talking with his mistress about his secret second family. And now, she is being manipulated by the witnesses that Colin is calling to the stand. Of course, it's also just an excuse to see Colin and Lucca sparring with each other once again. That dynamic is just so electric. It's fantastic casting that is just so wonderful and playful to see on the screen. It's all fueled by personal emotions. They have this history and it is affecting their judgment in court. They both passionately object whenever the other makes a compelling point. It's even memorable to Judge Abernathy who has had them in court before and knows the routine. That awareness of the history makes this a compelling legal case far beyond what's currently going on with Maia and the mystery of if she'll go to jail. The stakes are still low because the audience knows she won't be found guilty and be written off the series. But there is still passion in the main plot thanks to Lucca and Colin.

And then, there is the twist that plays as personal but is really empty. Colin calls Amy to the stand. Amy is Maia's girlfriend. Their romance was seen last season. But it was frequently pushed off to the sides because Maia had more pressing concerns with her family. She never really came home to talk about all of these problems with Amy. It was never a relationship the show asked the audience to buy into - at least not to the same extent as Lucca & Colin and Diane & Kurt. As such, it's not as devastating and personal when Amy takes the stand. Of course, the audience did see the scene that causes a great deal of tension between Amy and Maia as well. Last year Maia was trying to remember how she acted whenever the fund came up with her close friends and family. It was a big deal that Amy's father wanted to invest but was denied. Here, there is a simple case of miscommunication where Amy and Maia both believe themselves to be right. Amy believed she saw a head nod inferring that there was a problem with the fund. Maia contests that she never nodded. That is their completely different takes on the same event in hindsight. They are both being asked to remember that fateful night months after it occurred. There is a difference of opinion. And then, the show returns home with the two of them as they try to figure out how to move forward. It's an interesting first step if the show is investing in the two of them as a couple this year. But if Amy is suppose to be someone the audience enjoys seeing, then she will need to appear more often with more purpose as well.

But Amy wasn't the big surprise witness that Maia and Lucca were warned about. Instead, that honor falls onto Diane. She's the person who is shockingly called to the stand in order to throw off Lucca's rhythm. It's a move that signals Colin is attacking the charitable foundation that Maia was an active participant. But Diane knows this move is coming because of the addition of Liz to the firm. Her presence presents the firm with insider knowledge. She can't admit to openly sharing secrets about strategy and evidence that was collected from her time at the Department of Justice. She can't just join the other side and use that evidence against her former employers. But she's being more stealthy with passing information along. She wants to help Diane with this case. She explains that she wants to hurt the institution that she just devoted the last decade of her life to. She was forced out for such a silly reason. She sent a tweet that ruffled the wrong feathers. And now, she has no problem turning against her former co-workers. As such, it's fascinating to see how quickly new bonds form with Liz. Diane is quick to strike up a friendship with her because of how open and candid she is. It's because of her advice that she is well-prepared for when she gets the subpoena to testify. Lucca is ready to strike back with her counterargument that can disprove every point Colin is trying to make. But Liz seems to turn on Diane just as quickly as she did her fellow colleagues. She goes to Adrian at the end of the episode saying that Diane may be looking to retire because of how insane the world has gotten lately. She took what was said in confidence during drinks and is using it to better her standing in the firm. She's shifty that way and makes it so the audience is conflicted as well over whether we should trust her.

Maia's case then comes to a conclusion because of the actions she takes. That's an important characteristic for this story to showcase. For the majority of this episode, a lot of things are happening to Maia. The show wants the audience to be sympathetic to her. We are suppose to see her as innocent even though she mostly comes across as naive and forgetful. She confronts people when their views of the truth don't line up with hers. That's understandable but not all that exciting. What is exciting is seeing how Maia takes a little bit of information and uses it to find her father. The Justice Department only wants him. They've put Maia and Lenore on trial as the next best thing. But Maia got a clue with the reveal that her old tennis instructor, Rosalee, is working with her father. At first, it's a case of Marissa showing just how crafty and resourceful she has become when she has a task to focus on. She is able to arrange this phone conversation between Maia and these criminals. But it's still ultimately Maia's decision to tell the Justice Department about what she's doing so that they can track the call and arrest her father. It's her cooperating with them in order to avoid jail. It basically makes this entire trial pointless. It was played as a last ditch effort to prove that Maia is capable of having sparks of genius as well. It's nice to see her have that empowering moment. But it's also moving as she tells her father that she just wants him to take away her pain. She's betraying him knowing that he's never going to do that. He has hurt her too many times by avoiding the consequences of his actions. And now, he is in handcuffs because of his daughter. That's karma. But again, it's a thrilling conclusion because it's fascinating to see whatever comes next for Maia. Maybe she can finally focus on being a lawyer once more.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Day 415" was written by William Finkelstein and directed by Jim McKay.
  • This creative team loves the imagery of two women going to a bar to share drinks and stories together. It's been a potent image ever since the first season of The Good Wife. As such, it seems like Diane and Liz are the next iteration of that kind of relationship. But it already seems destined to fail because of what Liz takes away from that sit down. She used it to get the lay of the land. And now, she's positioning herself better for it.
  • Another lawyer is killed this week. That's how this episode begins. Adrian is just searching through the channels to get confirmation that it is actually true. It's still shocking to see just how graphic the news channels are willing to get as well. Here, they show a lawyer being murdered by a man with a gun. Then, they repeat the image of the previous lawyer being hit by a vehicle. It's enough for Diane to look for comfort from the gun in her desk. That's an ominous image that sets up that that weapon will be used at some point this year.
  • The death of this lawyer also prompts Liz to suggest going after some of his clients. The news reports that he had to file for bankruptcy following a crushing defeat. And yet, Liz knows of one client who will need a lawyer soon based on the case the Department of Justice is building. Of course, nothing ever really becomes of that story. It's mostly just setting up a future legal case-of-the-week.
  • Colin has another surprise witness willing to testify against Maia as well - her mother, Lenore. He springs that on the defense all of sudden after Diane's testimony doesn't go according to plan. And yet, it's surprisingly easy for Diane to go to the prison to convince Lenore not to betray her daughter. It's enough for Maia to tell her mother that she loves her right as she's being sent back to her jail cell.
  • The firm on The Good Wife was always growing and expanding. That appears to be the case here as well. There's just a running story about the offices being in disarray because of a redesign. As such, everyone has new offices. The space is a little different but it's not all that notably different either. It's just a case of the show pointing out that the firm is actually growing despite the changes.