The Good Fight
Two things surprised me about the second episode of The Good Fight. The first was that Diane didn’t spend any time in a courtroom — and the second was how little I minded. Based on the CBS advertisements, The Good Fight seemed like it would be the Diane spinoff, but it’s clear from watching these first two episodes that the show will explore the lives of all three of its leads. Although that means a little less Diane in “First Week,” I’m really pleased with how effectively the show is developing Lucca and Maia so far.
It’s Diane and Maia’s first week at the new firm, and Diane’s already butting heads with one of the partners, Barbara. In the series’ first episode, Barbara was livid with Adrian for hiring Diane without talking to her first, and that animosity hasn’t thawed. David Lee makes matters worse by sending over a bunch of African masks in Diane’s boxes from the old firm, which Barbara sees in her office. Barbara’s also lined up several interviewees for the position of Diane’s assistant, all of whom are women of color, and she’s affronted when Diane instead chooses to hire Eli Gold’s daughter Marissa. (More about Marissa, the queen of my heart, later.) I have a tendency to rankle at story lines that pit powerful, capable women against one another, but the great thing about The Good Fight is that it explores lots of different women in lots of different relationships. It’s fine to explore women as adversaries so long as you’re not only exploring women as adversaries.
This is also one of Maia’s first weeks as a real, live lawyer, and she acts appropriately coltish throughout the whole episode. I’m hoping she finds her feet quickly: Although it’s a little charming to watch her stammer through her first cross-examination in court, it’s also territory that’s been covered by other legal shows, including The Good Wife. Besides, Maia’s girlfriend works in the State’s Attorney’s office (and she and her family money almost certainly went to some very fancy law school), so it doesn’t quite check out that she’s so uncertain. To be fair, Maia does have reason to be a bit wobbly. Throughout the episode, she gets dozens of very graphic threats from angry people who lost their money. It’s a little odd to enthuse about a television show’s ability to depict graphic harassment and threats — including rape and death threats — but being subject to those threats is part of being a woman in the world. The appropriate-for-network-TV threats that Alicia faced on The Good Wife always felt far too anesthetized. I hate that this is a reality, but I’m glad Good Fight is being true to it.
Maia, Lucca, and several other lawyers from the firm offer a pro bono legal consultation clinic for one of the firm’s union clients. There, Maia meets Frank, whose wages are being garnished because he confessed to stealing 400 pairs of running shoes. Lucca signs off on Maia representing him at an arbitration, and then asks her, “Everything good with you?” Maia says yes, and Lucca points out that it always helps to focus on someone else’s problems. While I enjoy Cush Jumbo, I was never particularly passionate about Lucca on The Good Wife, especially because she was added to the series under circumstances that didn’t really allow her character to develop. We knew Lucca mostly in terms of who she was to Alicia. But this Lucca — fierce, smart, unyielding, yet generous — well, I’m already loving her.
During the arbitration, it emerges that Frank was interrogated for seven hours by a security officer using something called the “Friedman method.” Maia finds a Friedman workshop being offered that day and signs up. (How convenient!) It’s taught by a man who clearly fancies himself to be the Steve Jobs of strip mall interrogation, and he has a particular focus on analyzing tiny facial movements. At the seminar, she and Lucca discover just how many companies use the Friedman method, and they realize they have a potential class-action suit on their hands. Marissa’s the one who actually puts the class together: She goes back to the mall where she used to work as a juice barista and works connections until she has a list of two dozen people who were forced to confess that they stole and who are now having their wages garnished. She waltzes in and drops it on Diane’s desk. “Who is that?” Adrian asks. “My new assistant,” Diane replies.
Adrian uses Maia to get a favorable judge — the first one lost a million dollars to her father’s Ponzi scheme — and the case is transferred to The Good Wife’s beloved Judge Abernathy, played by Denis O’Hare. Weirdly and wonderfully, he presides over the first half of the case wearing mirrored prescription sunglasses. It’s everything good about Good Wife–style trials: lots of twists and turns, compelling witnesses, and a sweetly obnoxious opposing attorney (Christine Lahti, reprising her role from the original series). For a while, it looks like Maia and Lucca have it locked up by proving that the Friedman method results in too many false confessions. But when it comes out that Frank was also accused of stealing at a previous job, the case falls apart. Maia laments, saying she hates losing and that she really believed Frank. “You know, people can lie and still be telling the truth,” Diane explains. “Nobody’s 100 percent of any one thing.”
Meanwhile, Lenore (the wife of Diane’s former financial planner Henry) shows up at the firm, asking to see Maia. When Diane tells her to go, Lenore trots out an impassioned speech about how they’re being wrongfully accused. She claims Henry’s brother, Jax, is behind the Ponzi scheme. Diane goes to see Henry in prison, and he once again asserts his innocence. He explains that, a few months ago, he’d noticed some discrepancies in his brother’s accounts, but when he confronted Jax about them, Jax turned him in to the authorities. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Henry have warned Diane way back when the discrepancies were noticed? Would he really have told Diane, who’s supposedly their oldest friend, to borrow against her account two weeks ago if he’d known for months that something was amiss?
Diane point-blank refuses to be his lawyer, but after Henry tells her that Lenore’s cancer is back, she agrees to tell Maia to go to see her mom. Maia uses the Friedman method to try to figure out if her mother’s lying, and her facial movements indicate that she might be.
Still, Diane encourages Maia to give her mother another chance, and so Maia goes to see her at the end of the episode. She lets herself in, and Lenore tries to send her home, telling her they’ll get breakfast tomorrow. But a man casually ambles into the entryway and asks Lenore where the tea is. “Hi, Uncle Jax,” Maia says. Boy, this just got exciting! Bernadette Peters is one thing, but Bernadette Peters as a villain? That’s an embarrassment of riches.