The Good Fight
Spoilers ahead for episode nine of The Good Fight, now streaming on CBS All Access.
I was a tiny bit distressed as I settled in to watch the season finale of The Good Fight, and not just because I was sad to see it go after a ten-episode season that flew by. My main concern was the sheer number of loose ends the series had yet to tie up, and the fact The Good Fight’s show runners had to treat the episode as a series finale. (The show wasn’t renewed for another season until partway through its run.) I was prepared for a finale that felt rushed or unbalanced, and, if I’m being frank, I was worried that the show would try to shoehorn in a last-minute Alicia Florrick cameo. But I shouldn’t have worried; it was a finale worthy of the rest of the very strong series. Let’s get into why.
The episode orbits around a traditional “case of the week,” and it’s an incredibly effective way to wrap up each of the three lead characters’ story lines with equal focus. No one is the center of the episode aside from a thumb drive full of malware. Diane’s former client Dylan Stack shows up at the firm with a garbage bag full of money and asks for representation; he says he’s being set up for cyberterrorism. A program that will cause a citywide blackout mysteriously turned up on his computer, but he doesn’t know how it got there. One of the only missteps in the episode was the way in which Diane speaks to Dylan — exclaiming things like, “That’s crazy!” and responding to his technical explanations with, “Okay, I understood about five of those words.” She’s normally more poised and arch, and I’m not sure whether it was a lapse in writing or an attempt to show Dylan that these days she’s not at a regular law firm, she’s at a cool law firm.
Lucca takes a thumb drive with the destructive program to Colin, asking for immunity for Dylan, since he’s helping to save the city from a massive blackout. But when Colin passes the drive off to his boss, it floods his computer, and presumably the whole government system, with malware. Like all story lines about technology in the Good Wife/Good Fight universe, there’s not quite enough exposition for the story to hang together as cohesively as it should, and the computer interfaces look like they’re tricked out with the finest technology the early 1990s has to offer. Sometimes it seems like the show’s production-design budget gets funneled into costuming and, by extension, more chunky jewelry for Diane. This is (mostly) not a complaint.
After Lucca winds up in custody for refusing to give Dylan’s identity to the authorities, it’s up to Adrian and Maia to defend her, especially when the charges escalate to a criminal level. Lucca’s accused of intentionally giving Colin the malware. Diane finds them help in an unlikely source — Felix Staples, the neocon blogger from a few episodes back. After finding out that Felix had 4chan contact with both Dylan and the originator of the harmful code, Diane approaches him at a speaking engagement of his that’s being heavily protested. It feels an awful lot like the Inauguration Night protest of an alt-right blogger’s speech in my hometown, which makes it officially the first and only moment of The Good Fight that warrants a “too soon” in its first season. This season of the show was written in anticipation of what a Trump presidency might look like — filming wrapped before he was inaugurated — and it will be interesting to see what the second season looks like, now that the writers will have more to go on than their imaginations.
Diane brokers a “one for you, one for me” deal with Felix. She promises to handle lawsuits against everyone who’s wronged him, and for every suit she agrees to file, he has to give her a piece of information that will help exonerate Lucca. Everything gets incredibly convoluted from there, but the highlights include Maia finally finding her feet and her voice in the courtroom, Marissa continuing to crush it as a junior investigator, and Dylan and Felix having a meeting of the minds and the flash drives in a sketchy Chinese restaurant. Dylan is eventually taken into police custody, but that doesn’t stop the blackout, which means the final scenes of the season take place in the shadows, occasionally lit by candles, cell phones, and flashlights.
These images of tiny pinpoints of light shattering sheer darkness are a little bit on the nose, but they bring a stillness to the episode that’s really compelling. They feel a little hokey in the moments when Adrian and Diane are sitting in a darkened conference room, talking about the shambles of the world they (we) live in and coming to terms with the fact that all they really have to rely on is the law and the work that they do to uphold it. Barbara secretly overhears this conversation and has an inscrutable expression on her face as she does; let’s hope this isn’t a setup for a return to the Barbara/Diane rivalry in season two.
Lucca’s final moments are a brief good-bye to Colin, and while I’m not wild about her story ending in a way that’s mostly focused on her romantic life, it’s sweet regardless. Besides, Lucca’s had way more to do throughout the season than she was ever given on The Good Wife — she may have spent more time in the courtroom than Diane did. But Maia’s story doesn’t end on an equally lovely note. Early in the episode, Henry is offered a 35-year plea, which will save Maia from five years in jail for the perjury she committed in last week’s episode.
Because Henry can’t bear the idea of going back to prison, he hires a (presumable) hit man to murder him at the end of the day. Maia goes over to her parents’ house for what she doesn’t realize is their “one last dinner.” When she hears that Henry is planning to take the plea, she tells him to stay, to keep fighting. Then, without preamble, Henry says, “I’m guilty.” He explains that he ran the Ponzi scheme intentionally, with the help of Jax, Lenore, and any government official he could pay off. He hugs her and Lenore good-bye, then gets into a waiting car. Maia and Lenore assume it’s his lawyer, who’ll be bringing Henry in to self-surrender. Instead, it’s the hitman. Will Maia still be safe from jail if her father dies instead of surrendering? This is really the only proper cliffhanger of the episode, and it’s appropriately suspenseful.
It’s fascinating that the series chose to end Diane’s story not in the triumph of a hard-won court case, or even on her hopeful, hopeless conversation with Adrian. It ends with her driving Kurt back to his house in the country after he was injured while — I feel a little bit ridiculous even typing this — saving a baby from a carjacking. (The resulting YouTube footage is appropriately heroic.) She gets out of the car and they stand in the light of the headlights. He says he loves her; she makes it very, very clear how badly he hurt her. Diane turns and gets back into her car — but only to turn her headlights off. She and Kurt walk hand in hand into her house. References to Hamilton lyrics are probably all played out by now, but all I could think of in that moment was a line from “It’s Quiet Uptown,” a song that discusses trying to heal a relationship after it’s been deeply wounded: “She takes his hand/Forgiveness/Can you imagine?”
Its subtlety is what makes it so powerful — it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the final moments of The Good Wife, in which Diane slapped Alicia across the face in a (justifiable) fit of rage. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, because one of the best things The Good Fight has accomplished is righting the wrongs of The Good Wife. It’s healed the relationship between Kurt and Diane. It’s given us insights into who Lucca really is. It’s put women and people of color at the forefront of its storytelling. Above all, it’s taken what was good about The Good Wife and made it something great.