Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart.
Spoilers ahead for episode four of The Good Fight, now streaming on CBS All Access.
This week’s episode of The Good Fight feels downright prescient in its examination of fake news, alternative facts, and people in power telling vicious lies to achieve their sociopolitical goals. It isn’t exactly escapist entertainment, but I’m here for any television show willing to spend an hour exploring whether “truth” even exists anymore.
Maia faces down the problem of fake news most directly, beginning with a Twitter account that’s impersonating her. Its tweets feature graphic descriptions of her sex life, allegations that she’s about to get fired from the firm for being a lesbian and, bewilderingly, tips for canning fruit and vegetables. When Marissa exchanges pictures with the account in an attempt to meet up, she’s sent naked pictures of Maia. Maia immediately identifies them as photos taken by an ex-boyfriend, Ted, and she goes to confront him. Marissa, delightfully, offers to come along to “stand there and seem threatening.”
There’s a real air of misogynist bro-dude around Ted, who claims he set up the account as a Twitterbot back when they broke up. It’s just gaining traction now because of Maia’s new infamy. (We don’t see Lenore, Henry, or Jax throughout the episode, so Maia’s mentions of the scandal are all we hear of it this week.) Ted claims that if he deleted the bot, it’d just duplicate itself, which sounds suspect. Couldn’t he set the bot to private? Eventually, he snaps at Maia, “You’re the one who broke up with me. Tell your girlfriend to fix it.” Maia responds by slapping him across the face. Later, Maia and Marissa get excited because Marissa contacted Twitter and they agreed to suspend the bot. This seems to be a prime example of People Who Write Television Not Understanding the Internet — Twitter is notoriously slow to respond or downright unresponsive to claims of abuse and harassment.
It turns out that it doesn’t matter whether or not the account is active. Fake-news outlets have started running stories based on the tweets, claiming that Maia is about to be fired and is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on jewelry. Eventually, she decides to create equally inflammatory fake-news stories about Ted — calling him a child pornographer, accusing him of stealing, and something that involves the Marissa-provided SEO terms “hooker, butt plug, BDSM, and leech.” Ted comes to the firm, calls Maia a bitch, and threatens her, but Adrian steps in. After Ted leaves, Adrian tells Maia, “At this firm, we stand up for each other.” It’s oddly touching, especially considering how lonely and isolated Maia must feel. Ted agrees to stop his fake stories if Maia stops hers.
Meanwhile, Diane and Barbara are representing Laura, a woman hoping to get back the eggs she had harvested and sold. Because the couple who purchased them didn’t use them within a set time period, ownership was supposed to revert back to her — but the clinic storing them was dissolved and the eggs were transferred to a university. Eleven of the eggs were used in stem-cell research, and the last was given to a doctor in private practice. It’s been fertilized, and is about to be used.
What follows is, essentially, a custody battle for an egg. It’s made more complicated by the fact that the couple currently in custody of the egg plans to harvest its genetic material into a separate embryo, rather than letting it grow to term on its own. It’s an experimental procedure that the family will have to pursue in England, where it’s legal. Throughout, the judge is understandably distressed by the need to discuss potential human life as, essentially, property. The case ultimately goes Laura’s way when Diane figures out the couple in possession of the egg paid more for it than British law allows, prohibiting the procedure. Laura, understandably emotional, approaches the couple after the trial and offers them a relationship with her child — after all, the man will be its biological father. “This child needs to know love!” she enthuses. “Fuck you,” he replies.
There’s a lovely moment in all of this where Barbara asks Diane if she’s ever regretted not having children. I’m positive Diane must have had a similar conversation on The Good Wife that I’m not remembering, but it’s fascinating regardless, especially when she says she most regrets it when she thinks of Kurt. She wonders what a son of his would be like, and later, she calls him, but then quickly hangs up. My imagining of Diane has always been “childfree by choice, no regrets,” and it’s fun to be surprised by her after all these years, even if the moment is bittersweet.
We’re also revisited by Matthew Perry’s Good Wife character Mike Kresteva, who ran against Peter Florrick for governor and was so reviled on the original series that Alicia once told him, “Die choking on your own blood, please.” Mike has a new position with the DOJ and is tasked with finding a way to reduce the number of police-brutality cases in Cook County. He comes to the offices of the firm and asks Adrian for advice. Adrian’s response is, “You could start by putting brutal cops in jail.” Mike, unsurprisingly, has a more sinister plan up his sleeve, which he sets in motion by stopping by Diane’s office. They make small talk for a few minutes, and Diane asks about his son, who recently passed away. But Diane makes it clear that despite Mike’s assurances that he’s one of the good guys now, she still doesn’t trust him.
She’s right not to. Mike subpoenas Diane, Adrian, Lucca, and Maia almost immediately. When Diane shows up to testify before the grand jury, Mike flat-out lies about the nature of their conversation. He claims Diane said “the people of Cook County hate African-Americans and treat Black lives carelessly.” It’s an obvious lie, and there’s nothing Diane can do but tell the truth, then watch as the grand jurors seem to take Mike’s side. Diane’s powerlessness at being unjustly wronged in that moment is so strong that it’s palpable. It’s an incredibly effective moment of storytelling.
Eventually, Adrian and the rest of the lawyers deduce that Mike’s plan to curb police-brutality lawsuits isn’t to train police officers more effectively, or weed out crooked cops from the police force, or prosecute police-brutality cases more vigorously. He has no interest in actually stopping police brutality. Instead, Mike wants to shut down or discredit the firm that takes on the majority of police-brutality cases, statistically lowering the number of suits without addressing the systemic problem. It is a despicable plan, which means it will almost certainly succeed.
But the firm finds an unlikely ally in Colin, the AUSA whom Lucca and Diane went up against in last week’s case. His flirtation with Lucca continues, and they set a date for frozen custard and sex. (It’s an interaction that’s both more and less awkward than it sounds.) Colin freely admits that Mike lies, and in a meeting with Mike and their boss, convinces their boss that taking down a predominantly African-American firm would be a public relations nightmare. Their boss agrees, telling Mike he needs more before he can act.
Mike is suspicious of Colin’s motivation to protect the firm, but he’s undeterred. By the end of the episode, he’s formed a war room and is egging on associates to find damning information about Adrian, Barbara, Lucca, Maia, Diane, and the rest of the firm. One of his first pieces of “evidence?” The fake-news article about Maia’s alleged spending sprees. The Good Wife was a show about how the truth is malleable, but there’s something more visceral and immediate about the way The Good Fight is addressing that same subject. Once again, it echoes a question of the world we’re living in: If the truth doesn’t matter, what does?