The Good Fight
The politics of The Good Fight aren’t exhilarating because they’re affirmative. The show could certainly be described as left-leaning, but it’s definitely not doctrinaire — if anything, the writers seem most excited about making progressive-minded people uncomfortable. As our own Angelica Jade Bastién wrote about this season’s audacious premiere episode, the show used an alternate-reality scenario where Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election to criticize corporate feminism, pegged to the likelihood that Harvey Weinstein, a Clinton supporter, might have been understood as a reliable donor to women’s causes and not a convicted sexual predator.
After taking a breath with a relatively straightforward episode, The Good Fight is back throwing bombs with “The Gang Gets a Call From HR,” which returns to the internecine battles of the Democratic Party — and, consequently, the numerous conflicts within Reddick, Boseman itself. The office gets a visit from Frank Landau, Marissa’s bête noire, and assumes he’s there to scold her on behalf of her father for some ideological heresy, like her support of Julius’s bid for a judgeship last season. (She greets him with a hilarious preemptive rant: “I’m not a Republican and I’m not going to vote Republican, but I might fall in love with a Republican and have little Republican children.”) But Frank is there with other business.
Big business, as it happens. Heading into the 2020 election, the DNC wants to reenergize black voters, a constituency the party has long taken for granted without feeling like it has to do anything to earn their loyalty. And who better than the minds at a majority-black law firm to strategize a new way forward? So all of the firm’s black employees are gathered into the conference room and Frank poses a simple question: What’s the biggest issue facing the African-American community today? A few issues get tossed around, like civil rights and police brutality, and everyone nods in agreement when one lawyer says he “wants to feel like Dems are talking right to me about me.” And then Jay drops a bomb: “The Democratic Party is doing jack shit to combat racism.”
With that, The Good Fight finds that sweet spot where it just makes everyone squirm. Adrian asks Jay to dial down the DNC-bashing, so as to not alienate a potentially massive client. The conversation turns to reparations, which definitely energizes the room, but also divides them into different camps over whether payment is necessary for past oppression and whether any amount could ever be considered sufficient. One voice in the room presents a fascinating contrary thought: “I say keep the reparations,” she says. “I’d rather have white guilt. That I can leverage.”
When the sentiments in the room get too radical, white members of the firm are gathered as a twisted kind of diversity measure, which leads to the decidedly unhelpful contributions of guys like David Lee, who asks, “What’s ‘40 acres and a mule’ in 2020 dollars?” The entire fiasco becomes a referendum on Democratic Party politics in general, where dysfunction is high, consensus is nearly impossible, and the interests of black voters are often mediated by white leadership. Then Adrian drops the N-word into an anecdote about Vernon Jordan and an entirely new discussion about speech in the workplace opens up. (In the middle of it all, the DNC quietly exits stage left.)
The N-word issue becomes a statement of principles for The Good Fight, which advocates for candor over soft, HR-approved (or network-approved) language. Adrian feels he’s well within his rights to use the N-word in the context of the Vernon Jordan story — and in the context of being a black man himself — but Mr. Finch and the firm’s new overseers have a “zero tolerance” policy for that kind of language. So there’s an absurd investigation launched, with multiple people brought in front of the (white) HR head, and the strongest airing yet of philosophical differences between the partners of Reddick, Boseman and STR Laurie. (Or “STD Laurie,” as Marissa puts it.)
Suspicion falls on a white member of the firm as the whistle-blower here; when everyone naturally turns their heads in David Lee’s direction, he says, “Oh, come on. I’d rather cut my wrists than go to HR willingly.” Most of the black lawyers in the room are adamant over their right to say it, e.g., “Autonomy over that word is our reparations,” but the complaint turns out to have come from one of their own. Which is the type of uncomfortable revelation expected from The Good Fight, where examples of plain old easy-to-condemn racism are difficult to find. The only position it ever takes unambiguously is that these conversations be allowed to happen. So in the N-word discussion, it sides firmly with Reddick, Boseman.
Elsewhere, the mysteries of Memo 618 continue to haunt Diane, who discovers not only that the injunction meant to protect her client’s diner can’t be found, but the case itself doesn’t exist in the system. When she and Marissa take their complaints straight to Julius, he acts as if he doesn’t remember the case and then, when his denials get too obviously ridiculous, he refers them to “Adrian’s girlfriend,” who they come to learn is Charlotte. Diane’s clever gambit is to bring the case again to Charlotte’s court as if it never existed, but even there she meets some roadblocks. A key line of questioning gets shut down when a clerk shuffles Memo 618 under Charlotte’s face.
The origins of Memo 618 are unknown, though it still seems like a cabal of powerful elites working the system to its benefit. When a law message board boots Diane and Jay on a TOS violation just for asking about the memo, they discover that the shutdown only happens on STR Laurie’s Wi-Fi. To paraphrase When a Stranger Calls: The cabal is coming from inside the house.
• Fascinating answer to the question of why the DNC is hiring lawyers rather than PR people for its outreach to black voters: It wants attorney-client privilege. A good early signal of how messy the process is about to get.
• John Larroquette telling Zen master stories has become a delightful ongoing thread this season, because no one can roll their eyes openly at someone of his stature. So Diane, Adrian, and Liz have to sit there listening to the story of the Zen master holding a young man’s head under water for one minute and then telling him, “Come back when you want truth as much as air.”
• I know it’s a parody of a time-wasting video game, but I’m ready for the peeling-rutabaga app should anyone be inspired to develop one.
• An office full of black lawyers being forced to watch a racial-sensitivity training video is about right.