Last week’s premiere episode of The Good Fight’s final season found Diane in a state of existential ennui, triggered by a chaotic world that had not progressed the way she envisioned and a career that had somehow deposited her on the literal bottom floor, where she occupied a dark office with first-year associates on one side and birds smacking into the window on the other. But there was an even deeper question she was having to wrestle with: Is she actually doing good work? Can she — and the firm — really claim to be living up to their ideals? By the end of the episode, she decided she would need a level of chemical dissociation stronger than microdosing to find out.
In “The End of the Yips,” it’s Liz’s turn under the microscope. That microscope happens to be an Interrotron, a documentary device created by the brilliant Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War) to question subjects through a video feed while keeping their eyeline correct for the camera. (As a bonus, it also seems to be extremely intimidating, which gives a shrewd intellect like Morris an additional edge.) Liz squirms under the Interrotron’s gaze when a filmmaker ostensibly on scene for a video about the “top five Black prosecutors” quickly zeroes in on a case in which she may have been in the wrong. It’s an ethically dubious tactic on the filmmaker’s part, to put it mildly, but it throws Liz’s conscience into disarray regardless. Her father was a legendary defense attorney who fought for civil rights. Is she worthy of his legacy?
The Good Fight has asked a different version of that question before, when Liz’s father came under scrutiny for sexual abuse. What’s surprising about Liz’s response to a documentarian suggesting her possible guilt of prosecutorial misconduct is that Liz doesn’t entirely dig in her heels. She certainly feels, right away, that the questions she’s getting are odd for a video about awesome Black prosecutors — indeed, the fact that Liz was a prosecutor at all is implied as compromising — and she naturally looks to protect herself. Jay confirms that the documentarian likely hasn’t been straight with her, and Liz makes sure to have Julius in the room for the next on-camera interview. But the case in question, about a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend, turned on the testimony of a detective whose corruption has upended other prosecutions. If she put him on the stand, knowing he had this cloud of suspicion around him, then she would be right to be called out for it.
It’s not that simple. That’s a key running theme of The Good Fight: People are imperfect, especially when they’re in an arena in which a morally or ethically clean decision isn’t always possible. Liz is startled to learn the filmmaker has an interview with a former co-worker who warned her about rumors of the officer’s sketchiness, but he also said that the evidence to convict was strong and that Liz wasn’t the type to play dirty. (“I don’t think she’s going to use that part,” the co-worker says, when Liz confronts him about it later.) Still, Liz isn’t necessarily looking for absolution, even though she’s worried about the damage the documentary could do to her reputation. She really is trying to ask herself if she ignored — or minimized, at the very least — the buzz surrounding her witness and pressed for an unjust outcome. She seems to conclude, on balance, that she did the right thing at the time. But it’s not an open-and-shut case.
Neither is the case that Marissa yipped her way out of last week. In a delightful development for fans of The Good Wife-iverse, Alan Cumming has returned to the fold as her father, Eli Gold, the devious Democratic operative who has passed along his combative friskiness to his daughter despite their estrangement. Introduced on the elevator, barking a filthy tirade about the “Defund the Police” movement into his cell phone, Eli winks to the viewers: “You never heard me swear before?” (No, Eli. And welcome to Paramount+, where you can be your true foul self.) Eli is there to rescue Marissa’s fledgling legal career, which has been damaged in the short term by her botched first appearance in front of a judge and in the long term by her involvement in Judge Wackner’s alternative courtroom last season. But Eli being Eli, there’s more to it than that.
Because this is The Good Fight and absolutely nothing is off the table, “The End of the Yips” hops onto the third rail of American politics by addressing the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relationships. The firm’s client is a pop star named Lila Royce, who cancelled a booking in Tel Aviv after fans online criticized her for performing in an “apartheid” state. As a “second chair” who can’t help but to take charge, Eli bristles so much at his own client’s opinion that he advises to flip the entire issue around and say Lila canceled the show for security reasons because of rocket attacks on the city. When that proves to be a dead end, they have to return to the original (and factual) argument that Lila was made aware of conditions for Palestinians and didn’t want to signal her tacit approval of them. That raises new questions, including about why she’s taking dates in China on an upcoming tour despite that government’s appalling treatment of ethnic minorities. Lila is suitably troubled. Where does she draw the line?
It turns out the line is already drawn for her whether she likes it or not. About a dozen attorneys for her record label appear in front of the Golds and make it clear Lila’s career as a musician will basically be over if she doesn’t reverse course on China and record an obsequious social-media video to that effect pronto. Although she perhaps goes too far in mending fences — did she really have to record a piece of it in Chinese? — Lila and Liz are facing circumstances that are not dissimilar. Lila doesn’t want to be seen as supportive of corrupt governments any more than Liz wants to be seen as a lawyer who brushes off talk about a problematic witness. But they’re both put in situations in which a perfect decision isn’t possible. They have to select the least odious of two options.
The punch-line conclusion to Lila’s case could sum up the values of the show: “I suppose it’s appropriate that a case involving Israel ended in a settlement.” Lawyers negotiate compromises all the time, and it follows that they might also have to settle for less ideal outcomes than they intended going in — which doesn’t mean they’re not constantly examining their own actions, as Liz does here. This episode is yet another example of The Good Fight jumping into the arena, too, and coming out a little dirty. The only way to play a clean game is not to play at all.
• “Could be antifa, could be Proud Boys.” Either way, Eli is characteristically unfazed by the grenade tossed into his elevator.
• This episode does a fine job underlining Marissa’s privilege and her lack of self-awareness about it. She’s a clever, capable investigator who will no doubt be a clever, capable lawyer, but she’s in the firm’s doghouse (or worse) if her powerful father doesn’t turn up to bail her out. And, in past seasons, she’s displayed some racial blind spots that have been conspicuous in a mostly Black law firm.
• Carmen’s blithe willingness to work basically as a mob lawyer out of a legitimate firm continues to fascinate. Ri’Chard has noticed her eye-popping returns, but she refuses his offer to move her up to the top floor and give her three young associates to boss around. She doesn’t want anyone to poke into her doings. Liz’s insistence at the end that she wants to continue to mentor Carmen may signal that the firm is about to take notice of the type of law she’s practicing.
• Diane is starting the season as a supporting player mostly on the fringes of the action. That does leave room for some whimsical touches, however, like turning her head trips into Pedro Almodóvar movies, where the colors seem to pop wherever she goes. I have no idea what’s in that blue drink she takes from Ri’Chard, but it looks unsafe. (Also what’s with the elf erection? Probably just some weird hallucination, right?)
• Don’t tease us, Baranski! Let’s hear the full-throated rendition of “Something’s Coming.”