Sunday, April 1, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Good Fight' - Lucca and Maia Go On Memorable Ride Alongs with the Police in 'Day 436'

CBS All Access' The Good Fight - Episode 2.05 "Day 436"

Adrian and Diane serve as outside counsel for a broadcast network planning to air a controversial segment that would derail the career of a beloved male movie star. Maia and Lucca have vastly different experiences while on separate ride-alongs with the Chicago Police Department.

"Day 436" is The Good Fight's take on the #MeToo public narrative regarding sexual harassment and assault. That conversation has been so prevalent and empowering in our world lately. As such, it's fascinating to see this show examine the legal consequences of exposing a high-profile individual with claims of abuse. This hour treats such revelations a couple of different ways. It says that the mere accusation is enough to end a career. That hasn't always been the case. It may still not be the case given some of the people who've already been exposed. But it also feels like the world is changing and believing the victims more and more. As such, it could be inspiring to think that individuals like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Louis C.K. will never work in Hollywood again. It may just be a pipe dream. But it's something worth hanging onto right now because it represents a greater sea change towards supporting and respecting women. This story presents a liberal hero being the target of such accusations. Adrian and Diane are called in as the lawyers representing the network as they prepare to air this story. They are working to avoid a defamation case being filed across the network for the allegations outlined in the piece. It's all a very careful negotiation. Adrian, Diane and the network don't want to back down on the story because it's important and timely. Meanwhile, the famous actor has hired F. Murray Abraham's Burl Preston who is able to make a couple of convincing arguments. He also points out the differences between the women going public with their accounts of abuse and actually suing the actor in a court of law. There's a different standard of proof that is important to remember in handling these cases. The show is fully aware of the nuance of the situation. But it always presents itself as a champion for truth - no matter how uncomfortable it may become.

The actor at the heart of the news story isn't even a major character in the episode. He's just a figure discussed by the lawyers, reporters and victims. He's still just a character the show creates for this story. He's not some real-life celebrity whom the show is bravely calling out right now. Nor is he some fictional character this show or the previous one talked about frequently. He's just an action movie star composite who doesn't mirror anyone of note. His story is just similar to many that the public have heard about over the last few months. It's a story that puts the victims at the forefront of the narrative. Their stories are questioned. Burl points out that the #MeToo movement is becoming more politicized. Different people are using it for different reasons. Some are trying to gain fame by taking down someone of note who opposes their views. Some are desperately trying to be taken seriously no matter who the star is. The lines are becoming more blurred. This actor has made an enemy of the alt-right. The show certainly suggests that one of the victims may just be someone concocting a story because she happens to be an anti-semite and fan of Ann Coulter. But the show ultimately finds validity in this story. It says so at first through a taped phone conversation of the second anonymous victim being harassed by the star. That's proof that the story can move forward. But it also creates a legal problem because of the anonymity of the accuser and the fact it was recorded without the second party's consent. As such, that makes it unlikely that charges will ever be filed against this man even though it's clear that he has abused his power. In the end, the story moves forward because Adrian and Diane prove that the in-house counsel at the network is working against the story because he is a wannabe screenwriter with the perfect starring vehicle for the actor in question. It still leads to a defamation suit. But the characters all feel good for the work that they did here. They are helping women's stories be heard.

Of course, this hour is fundamentally an episode about perception. It's a story that highlights how people's opinions or memories of certain events are changed or questioned once someone offers new information. It's an episode that understands the value in trying to understand where other people are coming from and how those same events shaped them into the people they are today. The news story debated has no ambiguity about the guilt of this man in the end. But the show presents a more nuanced case of an abuse of power with a familiar character. When Adrian meets the reporter at the center of this story Naomi, he sees a beautiful and strong black woman. He asks her out. It's flirtatious and Diane is worried about his objectivity. And then, it's revealed that she was previously a student of Adrian's when he was a guest lecturer. It was the same class where he and Liz first meet. She believes that Adrian showed a bias towards Liz during every aspect of this class because he wanted to sleep with her. It made her feel like she wasn't being noticed and appreciated. She didn't pursue a law career because of that class. It's enough for Adrian to reflect back on his actions and whether or not he treated all of his students fairly. He wants to believe he did. He wants to believe he's a man who would never harass or mistreat a woman. And yet, he's still confrontational when someone believes he is what he is desperately trying not to be. It's only through hindsight that he is able to accept that he was at fault. But he also wishes to be absolved because he treated Liz better than her classmates because he wanted to form a relationship with her father. It's a strategy that ultimately worked out well for him even though his marriage to Liz didn't last. It was a case of him manipulating the situation to his benefit without realizing the consequences of his actions. There's little he can do now except admit that he was wrong in the past and appreciate being called out on it.

Meanwhile, Maia and Lucca are in their own separate stories where they are on police ride alongs to write up reports of how officers can better follow the law in the field. It's something that they don't want to be doing nor do the police officers want them there. It's the show presenting two very different shifts for patrol officers. It isn't a story treated differently because of the race of the two main characters. Maia and Lucca are treated roughly the same. In fact, Maia is viewed differently after her officers learn that she was in prison for a little while. But it's mostly a story that sees Maia learning how to step up and be heard. This season is presenting her more as a lawyer. Frankly, that's a very good thing because her personal life hasn't always been all that entertaining. She's still just a first year associate learning how to do this job well. Of course, her story has the most ambiguity in it. She sees just how different these officers can be in any given situation. She sees them be rough when trying to control a crowd that has gathered. Then, she sees them be respectful of the dead and her reaction to seeing a dead body for the first time. They are confrontational with her while also being sympathetic. It's the show respecting the job and just how complex it can be. They are trying to keep the peace while still being susceptible to bad judgment calls. Maia feels the need to record them on several occasions. It's the most damaging when she sees them stealing items from the deceased's apartment. She sees it as a crime where she has the evidence to do something about it. When she confronts one about it, he is able to craft a story about the deceased being a fellow police officer who needs to be treated respectfully in death so that his loved ones don't know what he was keeping from them. It's a story that seems a little hard to believe. How did this officer learn all of this in the time that elapsed from the discovery of the body to lifting the items? It seems unlikely but it's still a story that gets Maia to see the situation differently and not include the video in her report of the shift.

Then, things are played for the comic relief with Lucca for a long time as she's with the patrol that doesn't see a whole lot of excitement during the night. Maia is involved in a high speed police chase that causes several accidents. Meanwhile, Lucca is just sitting in a car watching a duck cross the street. And yet, she gets some excitement as well. That comes when Colin's mother, Francesca, is revealed as the woman being arrested for a DUI. It allows for a real lively performance from Andrea Martin. She has a lot of fun as a drunk woman trying to talk her way out of this arrest and not doing a great job at it. She keeps getting distracted. She sees Lucca and immediately needs to talk about how her relationship with Colin didn't work out. She loves seeing a friendly face. And yet, that's not enough to avoid being arrested. But it's sweet that Lucca calls Colin to ensure that Francesca is taken care of. She even actively chooses to overlook things when Colin asks the officers not to book her for a DUI because of his status as an Assistant United States Attorney. But the story also makes Lucca aware and worried about the genetics of her baby. During her rambling moments, Francesca talks about alcoholism and depression running in the family. It's still clear that Lucca is terrified about being pregnant. But she also has a change of heart in regards to Colin. She wasn't going to tell him about the baby. Here, she changes her mind and shares the truth with him. She does so not looking to get anything out of it. She just wants to keep him updated on what's going on. That news completely changes his life though. He's ready to make a serious commitment to her. He was having sex with a woman when he got the call from Lucca that his mother was being arrested. But a couple of hours later he was dropping down on one knee asking his ex-girlfriend to marry him simply because she was pregnant. Lucca has the appropriate response of laughing at the suggestion and repeatedly saying no. This isn't a swoon-worthy moment for the shippers of this couple. Instead, it's a rash reaction that doesn't take things as they seriously are. As such, it's important Lucca doesn't get swept up in the emotions. But it should form a new line of communication between them as they figure out how to be parents to this child and whether a relationship can form out of that.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Day 436" was written by Marcus Dalzine and directed by Jim McKay.
  • Emmy winner Peter Scolari plays the head of the network who just wants his lawyers to present a united front to get this story out there for the longest time. It's not a notable character. And yet, he does have a significant moment upon realizing that his in-house counsel isn't properly representing his interests. And thus, he decides to run the story largely in reaction to that news.
  • Naomi also points out that just because a woman is an anti-semite doesn't make her immune to sexual harassment or assault. It's just a way to discredit her story. The show still judges her because of how paranoid she is and how afraid of Jay she is in that moment. But it also has to be objective in listening to her story and understanding if it is true or not.
  • Tully continuing to call Diane basically proves that he won't remain a one-night stand for her. She was filled with remorse the morning after that sexual encounter occurred. She wanted to tell Kurt but couldn't. And now, this case and these phone calls from Tully are the only things adding excitement to her night. Otherwise, she would be at home trying to avoid shows that are affected by Trump in some way.
  • Tully also happens to be at a protest that is being broken up by the police. The show never really explains what he is protesting or why he gets arrested. It's just important to point out that he is their leader. He needs bail money from Diane. She still comes to the station and hands over the money. But she doesn't stick around to see him. She cares but not too much. The show has the same view. It cares about him being an ongoing character but not enough to give him a meaningful story here.
  • Adrian is ultimately honest about his actions as a young man because Liz backs up the story that he favored her during this class. She has a clear and distinct memory of that class. She knows that Naomi was very attentive and engaged by the law. She remembers every single detail when the memory is so fuzzy for Adrian. It's that familiar connection calling out his bias that makes him willing to admit his shortcomings.