Back in 1996, a few years before HBO’s The Sopranos would usher in a boom of TV anti-heroes and well before major networks would follow, Fox aired Profit, a noir-tinged, darkly funny series that only lasted five episodes but was surely remembered by anyone who saw it. Adrian Pasdar, playing a character who would have been right at home in American Psycho — which Profit also predated by a few years — brought his slicked-back hair and chiseled jawline to the role of Jim Profit, a ruthless businessman who schemes his way up the corporate ladder. At the end of the pilot, we witness him come home from work to a darkened high-rise apartment. He curls up to sleep, naked, inside a cardboard box with a peephole in it. We learn later why he sleeps in a cardboard box, but it’s clear that material comforts are not the motive for his treachery.
There’s no evidence that Carmen Moyo sleeps in a box (though there’s no evidence to the contrary, either), but her spartan apartment has the same vibe. When Charles Lester pops by unannounced, Carmen is exercising on the bare floor in front of her flat-screen TV in a living room with no couch and a recently purchased handgun that’s still half in the package. Perhaps she doesn’t have all her furnishings moved in yet, but it nonetheless seems like a window into who she is — and how, much like Jim Profit, the unsavory transactions she conducts at work are a defining obsession. She isn’t happy that Lester has slipped past security and gotten this glimpse into her private life, but she’s perfectly happy to be in business with him and the killers he serves.
In yet another strong episode that picks at the corrupted values of the firm, the main story lines involve lawyers serving two masters at once and having to choose which one to represent properly. As it happens, Lester has turned up to take Carmen to a “Crypto Prom” — “Everything old is new when you put ‘crypto’ in front of it,” he quips — and a meeting with Ben-Baruch, the crime boss who’s been writing her some big checks lately. But not long after Carmen identifies one of the partygoers as an undercover cop, the police storm in and arrest Lester for murder — which surprises him, because for once it’s a crime he didn’t actually commit.
The situation puts Carmen in a terrible spot: Lester wants her to represent him, but she feels her working relationship with Ben-Baruch puts her in a conflict of interest, and so she counsels him to take another lawyer. The problem is that Lester and Ben-Baruch are both adamant that she represent Lester in court, but they’re at cross-purposes, because Ben-Baruch wants Lester to take the fall and orders Carmen to throw the case. Now, I haven’t been to law school, but that sounds like an ethical no-no. The prosecution’s case against Lester is reasonably strong, however, because of surveillance video they have of him leaving the scene of the crime. The good/bad news for Carmen is that Jay discovers it’s a deep-fake sham, surely orchestrated by Ben-Baruch. Carmen could get Lester’s case dismissed fairly easily, but she would get murdered for doing it. All in a day’s work for a criminal criminal lawyer.
In another courtroom, Ri’Chard and Liz are handling a case that they’ll live through, but they’re at cross-purposes, too. The pair are representing a Black football coach in a discrimination suit that’s a Trojan horse for the wealthy man who’s financing their efforts. The case mirrors the real-life lawsuit filed by Brian Flores against the NFL and three teams for racially discriminatory hiring practices, starting with the New York Giants, whom he accused of deciding to hire a white coach before doing obligatory interviews with minority candidates. Here, the Chicago Crows football team is accused of the same practice, a charge supported by a whiteboard image listing the “Rooney Rule” (a 2003 rule that requires teams to interview at least two women and/or persons of color to fill prominent positions) and a bullet point simply stating whom the club intended to hire.
But finding justice for Ri’Chard and Liz’s client isn’t exactly the point, they discover. When they start looking into the seemingly unrelated issue of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the brain damage that’s affected many players post-retirement and led to stricter (if still dubious) concussion protocols, they discover that the Crows have not only a league-worst record of CTE cases, but a racially unbalanced concussion protocol, too. The relevance of the CTE information to the coach’s case against the team is a little thin, but the moneyman likes the angle because his real motive is to drive down the team’s value and buy it. He doesn’t even intend to hire the coach, who’s only tangentially involved in his own lawsuit — on the sidelines for a case in which he couldn’t be on the sidelines.
The Good Fight runs the two subplots in sharp juxtaposition, coming to tough conclusions about how justice serves the highest bidder. (Judge Wackner was right about that last season, but he’s not incorruptible himself.) Ironically, Lester winds up being the better-served client of the two, despite the mortal threat hanging over Carmen for giving him a good defense. In her chemically blissed-out state, Diane swoops in to present the deep-fake evidence in court, with the idea that Carmen could do her requisite bad lawyering in bringing Lester to the stand. When that doesn’t work out, Carmen calls on a second criminal connection, Oscar Rivi, to talk Ben-Baruch out of killing her. It’s becoming clear that Carmen isn’t just morally flexible enough to represent murderous kingpins, but she thinks like a kingpin, too. We’ll see how well she continues to fit at a legitimate law firm — or if she’ll eventually have to make the partners an offer they can’t refuse.
• Prophetic speech from Lester to Carmen at the Crypto Prom: “You’re like me. I walk down the street and I know who the real people are — the ones who can kill me. They’re not the largest. They’re not the loudest. They’re people like you and me — easily dismissed, but who can take down people in the blink of an eye.” Carmen is the one who knocks now.
• Very funny to have Marissa put in charge of preventing Diane from “doomscrolling” — or paying any attention to the news whatsoever — for 72 hours as a way to adjust her mind-set. For the Extremely Online, the habit is compulsive and corrosive — and yet, what responsible person can disconnect with everything outside their immediate control?
• The judge in the football case is another in a long line of robed dunces that The Good Fight has introduced post-Trump, as a wave of young Federalist types have filled judiciary vacancies. His politics are unknown, but his type is familiar.
• She may be on the wrong side of the law, but kudos to Carmen for getting the last laugh on her smug former law professor. “This is going to be a lot harder than you think,” she says. And she’s right.
• I’m going to say that an explosion that rocks the office of a mind-soothing practice is a bad omen.