The Good Fight
In the classic 1949 screwball comedy Adam’s Rib, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy star as married lawyers who square off against each other in court, with Hepburn representing a woman who took a shot at her unfaithful husband. Like many great comedies of the era, Adam’s Rib was really about equality between the sexes, a struggle that starts in the courtroom and then inevitably spills over into the living room and bedroom. It’s a film about a shift in traditional gender roles and reimagining marriage as a truly equal partnership — contentious, perhaps, but with mutual respect and love surviving a little professional combat.
Equality is not the issue between Diane and Kurt. Still, there are echoes of Adam’s Rib in the friction between them, driven mostly by Diane’s concern that their values are too misaligned for their partnership to survive. This season of The Good Fight has been dancing around the problem, but it finally confronts it head-on in this episode, which comes to a conclusion that may be unsettling to some viewers but reads as true to who Diane Lockhart is, not necessarily who we or her colleagues at Reddick Lockhart would like her to be. She has made her bed with a right-wing gun nut, and she quite literally chooses to lie in it.
However, getting to that moment takes some doing, throwing Diane into such inner turmoil that she needs the ghost of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to lead her out of it — or at least make her feel less guilty about wanting things that would seem to conflict with her values. As many modern-day office conflicts do, it begins with resentments burbling up from the office messaging system, which for many of us is Slack, but here is called Donk. Donk users are allowed to post anonymously, which gives them the freedom to speak their minds without professional repercussions. It turns out the Black associates at the firm have some strong opinions about Diane and Julius and what they see as a demoralizing mission drift.
These issues have been floating around for a while, but the catalyst now is the embarrassing presence of Diane at a Black Lawyers Association event coupled with Julius representing Diane’s husband, who may have been officially cleared of aiding an insurrectionist but seems all too comfortable with his ideology. As one senior attorney notes, bringing white people like Diane into prominent roles in the firm was a fine way to survive the Trump years, but those days are over. Meetings that were once about civil rights and social justice are now about “billable hours, million-dollar clients, and corporate payouts,” which is exactly what Diane brings to the table. She’s an earner, and Reddick Lockhart has become addicted to the money they’re raking in, often from clients who are on the wrong side of an issue.
Though Diane savvily conceded Adrian Boseman’s corner office to Liz and suggested they bring on a Black partner to replace him, that’s not enough of a concession, especially when the Black attorney they’ve empowered is a rock-ribbed conservative like Julius. So Diane is pressured to step down, and Liz is pressured to encourage her to do so despite their friendship and shared desire to have women like themselves in power. For Diane, the decision to step down naturally commingles with sleepless nights worrying about her marriage to Kurt and whether she continues to tolerate his politics. Did he vote for Trump in 2020? Did he think the election was stolen?
The moves Diane eventually makes to keep her partnership are underhanded at best and racist at worst. She knows that David and the corporate bosses who actually hold the power upstairs need the firm to be profitable, and no one can deny that she’s done that part well. And so Diane summons those (white male) clients and informs them that she won’t be the primary on their account every day, but a well-qualified Black attorney will take over for her. What happens next isn’t surprising to her: Those clients are “uncomfortable” with Diane taking a step back and those complaints go upstairs, which sends David into a predictable rage-fit. He’s not an idealist. To him, the mission of the firm is to make money. We were reminded of that last week when he admitted to rescuing Jay from “the Pit” because he was too valuable an investigator to die.
In her conversation with RBG — honestly, the show may need to retire the cameos from historical figures — Diane takes away a couple of points: One is that she should never step aside for anyone because women like them are often asked to step aside. The other is that human relationships are not entirely defined by political opinions, which was true of Ginsburg’s friendship with her conservative foe, Antonin Scalia, and can be true of Diane’s marriage to Kurt. Is it right for Diane to love a man who trained anti-democratic (and possibly white-supremacist) radicals and is about to take a job for the NRA? Dramatically, it’s entirely in character for Diane to accept those terms if she’s getting the support and intimacy and laughs she needs from him. Her colleagues might have a different opinion. Viewers might, too.
In the other big subplot, Judge Wackner’s alternative court finally hits the inevitable legal snag when a gaming company bristles at the settlement Wackner awarded a TikToker who successfully argued that her dance was stolen for an avatar. Judges who preface rulings with lines like “By the power invested in me by absolutely no one” are asking for scrutiny from judges whose power is invested by the people and subject to public accountability. Nevertheless, Judge Farley, played by the always delightful Jane Curtin, doesn’t seem threatened by Wackner’s court, even if she balks at some of his blustery shenanigans.
Liz argues persuasively that both parties in the case agreed to allow Wackner to arbitrate their dispute, but her client and his backers don’t make it easy on her. David Cord’s financial stake in Wackner’s operation was always going to be a problem — he reads like an old, dark money schemer in the Roger Stone mold — and Liz is angry to learn that his investment in a competing gaming company calls the already dodgy integrity of this fake court into question. Adding to this three-ring clown circus is her lover, Dell Cooper, who wants to produce a reality show that he describes as “The People’s Court meets Mr. Wizard.” Until now, Wackner had seemed completely sincere in wanting to make justice efficient and accessible to Joe and Jane Lawsuit. But the grifters have descended.
• Kudos to the show for making Kurt a genuine far-right conservative rather than someone who supported a more milquetoast corporatist like Jeb Bush in 2016. In 2021, there’s not much daylight between a Trump supporter and someone who wrote in Ted Cruz that year, but if that’s a meaningful distinction for Diane, then so be it.
• Being able to post anonymously on a Slack-like messaging system would be a true recipe for disaster. Just one Anonymous Platypus could poison an entire company.
• Saying that “Diane’s billable hours speak for themselves” is not the best defense for her in this case. Though the only argument that matters is the one where the bosses upstairs consider her too valuable to cut loose.
• An Adam’s Rib–like exchange between Kurt and Diane in the end: “Do you want me to not take the NRA job?” “I want you to take it and be happy. Then I’ll sue you.” Roll credits.