The Good Wife starring Juliana Margulies as Attorney Felicia Florrick, was a consistent ratings winner for CBS as she juggled the vulnerabilties her career with being… the good wife. Following the show’s ending in 2016 and Margulie’s departure, the screen was ripe for a spinoff.
In 2017, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) started a new life at a new law firm, Reddick, Boseman and Lockhart, following her falling victim to a financial scam which almost ruined her financially. The Good Fight was ready to pick up where its predecessor left off. It wasn’t a spinoff in the traditional sense, but more the next book on the same shelf.
Robert and Michelle King who created both series, took the reins and put them on another horse focusing on Lockhart. The key difference between the two series was that the latter more closely followed current affairs. The Good Fight didn’t wait until enough time had passed before tackling a controversial topic with a distant set of eyes. They developed storylines while the real events were still unfolding. It was a case of art imitating life and life imitating art all at the same time. These storylines included Jeffrey Epstein’s death which were fresh enough in people’s mind to sniff out any inaccuracies or biases in the name of drama.
Then came the Federal Elections in 2020 and season 4 of The Good Fight. How would the most controversial election in the modern era be dramatized in light of the deeply polarized electorates, each fighting not only over ideologies, but facts.
It’s been documented that the American Civil War was fought on the issue of slavery versus the abolitionists, The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidency on markets versus workers, and the Trump Presidency on proven versus alternative facts. This was fertile ground for Mr. and Mrs. King to unspool Season 4 Episode 1, aptly titled The Gang Deals With Alternate Reality. What the heck is an alternate reality? Some kind of mind-bending party drug, mental health lapse, or the result of someone who abused those said drugs? Something is either real or not. Proven or not. One plus one equals two. It’s a binary outcome. Facts are facts. Unless they aren’t. We must be reminded that some people in the South refused to accept their loss of the Civil War after the North declared victory.
Which brings us back to The Good Fight after the 2020 elections when Diane Lockhart asks, “Who’s the President?” This isn’t a catch cry a là, “Who’s your daddy?” Although the answer should be obvious, it isn’t. Sign of the times.
The opening episode of season 4 breaks the reality/ time continuum where the president could be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. (We didn’t know at this point that it would be Joe Biden, but we also knew it couldn’t be Hillary. Or did we?)
Showrunners Robert and Michelle King continued confusing and titillating the audience with possibilities, alternative narratives, parallel reasonings, and time shifts, so much so, that the audience well and truly didn’t know the sum of one plus one. Is this good television? No, it’s stunningly unique and thrilling. A gripping rollercoaster ride where you can’t anticipate any sharp turns even if you tried. The show’s creators use parallel timelines to exceptional effect. This isn’t an option A or option B time warp where one event happens at the exclusion the another.
But wait. There are some snippets from various headlines we read in the newspaper – assuming it’s not fake news. “They were very fine people? Where there really children in cages?” utters Diane Lockhart. What about the Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer cases? “The judges ruled in favor of the defense.” Definitely not fake news. Harvey Weinstein was awarded a Presidential Medal Of Honor, Elizabeth Warren became a Supreme Court Justice, and Hillary Clinton cured cancer.
“We made many lists of alternative outcomes in the TV writers’ room, especially representing the #MeToo movement.” The writers’ room was split on which issues should be tackled and how far to push them. The showrunners tested the audience with their outrageousness. This wasn’t an hour of shock television based on a stunt script. It had its intentions firmly grounded in the moment.
The episode concludes with Trumps disciples breaking into song on Trump TV, “This wall is your wall. This wall is my wall.” There was a wall, right? A big, beautiful wall that was built to completion?
How does one end an episode which relies on a reality warp to propel its narrative. Was it a dream? A nightmare? Diane is in a daze? Is she in heaven? Hell? Somewhere in between?
Showrunners Michelle and Robert King decided that distorting our sense of reality wasn’t enough. The Good Fight is a legal procedural and needed to make a comment beyond a case of the week.
Justice is a function of the law and the zeitgeist
Apart from being a hyper-stylized piece of television art, the show’s creators delivered a powerful social commentary on our social ills. Not only are they keen for heated debate on political dogmas, but questioning the nature of reality has unintentional consequences.
The showrunners ensured there wasn’t an explicit pro or against Trump judgement. This isn’t cable news. They focused on what the Trump Presidency represented more than what it was. “The Trump years unleashed self-reflection, anger, and intense reactions to change,” said Michelle King. “It’s wonderful to laugh at the absurdity of our history.” Why so serious?
She continued on what else the episode explored, “What makes people so suspicious to the point of acute anxiety? Was there a left-wing conspiracy to kill Jeffrey Epstein?”
There is little doubt that occasional questioning of our engrained beliefs are not enough. In times of tumult and uncertainty, we need to turn them on their heads to the point of alternate realism.
Alternative truths, mistruths, and beliefs are not always rooted in provable events. The Good Fight’s exploration of Trumpism is more an exploration of people’s feelings and grievances during those times. Logic and feelings don’t always intersect.
Remind us, who won the 2020 Federal Election? Didn’t you get the memo?