The Good Fight
“It feels good to win for a change,” Liz says at the end of this episode of The Good Fight, and boy is she right. This season of the show has been about the near-impossibility of winning in a system where the rule of law applies unequally to different factions of society — if it even applies at all. Add to that the fact that Liz’s case is in military court, a venue that’s generally unkind to both defendants and civilian counsel, and the expectation of victory seems even more remote, especially after President Trump puts his thumb on the scale. When the panel returns with a favorable verdict, it’s a legitimate shocker. Justice is an unfamiliar sight these days, in our world and in the world of The Good Fight.
And yet, is it really that much of a win?
With only a few superficial tweaks, the episode makes reference to the controversy surrounding Eddie Gallagher, a former Navy SEAL who was brought up on war crimes charges after his final deployment to Iraq. Among the allegations against him: stabbing an injured Islamic State captive with a hunting knife and posing with the body; shooting at civilians with his sniper rifle, including children and the elderly; and randomly shooting into buildings and across neighborhoods where there was no enemy threat. His fellow SEALs were so horrified by his actions that they deliberately rigged the sight on his sniper rifle and insisted on reporting him, which broke the chain of command and risked their own reputations and careers in the military. Trump intervened in both the trial phase, where Gallagher was moved from confinement to house arrest, and after sentencing, when he stopped a demotion from happening. (Gallagher was only convicted on the charge of posing for the photograph.)
The guilt of Sgt. Meyers, the sniveling Gallagher stand-in of the episode, isn’t really at issue. The pro bono case Liz and Caleb take on is about defending one of Meyers’s Army subordinates, DeMarcus Laney, after he admits to sabotaging Meyers’s sniper rifle, which was subsequently used in the accidental killing of an Afghan translator. And so a “not guilty” verdict, the best scenario for their client, still does nothing to bring Meyers to justice. In fact, Trump pardoning Meyers becomes the ironic break Liz and Caleb need to win: Because he’s been pardoned, Meyers can no longer assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and they can bring him back up onto the stand and align the facts in Laney’s favor. Victory may feel sweet, but they’re really just keeping their heads above water here.
The staging of this modern-day A Few Good Men is the most central and compelling story line in the episode, but most of the hour coheres elegantly around the possibility of justice. There’s optimism in Liz and Caleb’s win, and there’s optimism, too, in Julius’s decision to rebel against the Memo 618 cabal that’s infected his decision-making from the bench. Julius is still talking to his noble surrogate from the stage play last week, and he opts to be the fair, principled judge he always imagined himself to be, even if it upsets the elite. It may seem like a fantastical notion for a conservative judge to render a verdict against a big-business defendant, but Julius bristles from the disrespect of those taking cover under the Memo 618 umbrella. He will run his courtroom however he pleases, personal advancement be damned. That’s another win on the episode — and perhaps another loss disguised as a win, too.
For Diane’s part, she’s shifted from fighting the new normal to coping with it. She’s introduced in this episode just looking blankly out the window: “That bird has been staring at me,” she tells Liz. “It’s been there for ten minutes.” When Diane discovers that one of STR Laurie’s lawyers has been filling notebook after notebook with dot configurations, rather than meeting notes, it’s a kind of revelation. When such scrupulous note-taking (and note-taking of the note-taking) doesn’t even figure into a meaningful result, then what’s the point of taking notes at all? Drawing dot configurations during depositions and meetings and court proceedings becomes an eccentric mode of self-care, equivalent to the micro-dosing that Diane was doing last season. Once a warrior for justice, Diane clearly still hasn’t found her bearings in the current state of things.
It’s hard to know what Lucca’s doing, but that’s more the fault of the show, which struggled for three seasons to find Rose Leslie something to do and is now struggling with Cush Jumbo. There’s precious little legal work for Lucca to do for Bianca Skye, a client who really just wants to rent a friend for $850 an hour; the only twist this episode is that Bianca is interested in buying the Saint Lucia resort where they’re lounging. When Bianca stakes Lucca in a high-stakes poker game and she scoops $1.5 million in winnings, she’s left puzzling over the ethics of taking her cut of the loot. But the whole subplot is as meaningful as dots on a page. Lucca didn’t become a lawyer to doodle — and the show should probably stop making her soon.
• Last week, I failed to identify the play-within-the-show — and the talk-back session, in particular — as a reference to Jeremy O. Harris’s Slave Play. Our own Chris Murphy did a rundown of Harris’s livetweet through the episode, which includes the infamous “Talkback Tammy” moment he says the show captured “word for word.” As a non-New Yorker, I apologize for whiffing on the whole thing. When you don’t have access to New York theater, you tend not to follow news about it.
• I haven’t said anything about Hugh Dancy’s performance as Caleb, the STR Laurie in-house spy who’s flirting with Marissa and sleeping with Liz. This was his first episode where he’s front and center, and he’s turned Caleb into an intriguing character — attractive, conscientious, possibly underhanded.
• A strong double reflection on the line “Justice delayed is justice denied.” In the case before Julius, the endless granting of continuances to monied defendants does exactly that — starves the plaintiffs until they can no longer pursue justice. But in the military trial, the judge’s refusal to allow for a continuance puts the defendant in a bad spot, because his new lawyers aren’t prepared for the finer points of presenting a case in that forum.
• Good on the show for scoffing along with Diane at a Saturday Night Live–style parody of Donald Trump that winds up featuring an appearance by the man himself. Satire is dead — at least on a show that allowed Trump to guest-host.