When we re-upped Paramount Plus recently, the series I was most anxious to resume was Michelle and Robert King’s The Good Fight, an extension-slash-sequel to their excellent network series The Good Wife. The show was brash in its timeliness; in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, it leaned into the exasperated perspective of left-wing Chicago attorney Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), making the show a tense but therapeutic lens through which to view the chaotic new nationallandscape created by the MAGA crowd. This willingness to confront politics more than carried The Good Fight through its first three seasons, which got increasingly inventive along the way. Sure enough, given the world has gotten even crazier since then, the show’s later seasons have only gotten wilder, zanier, and messier – all while remaining as addictive as ever.
To be fair, season four’s messiness wasn’t entirely the show’s fault, with the pandemic shutting down production before it could complete. Truncated to seven episodes, the thematic focus of the season was again timely: the glaring lack of criminal accountability for the wealthy and politically connected. The lawyers at Reddick Lockhart – as well as their former colleague Julius Cain (Michael Boatman), now a newly minted Trump judge – run afoul of “Memo 618,” a nebulous document mysteriously shielding the wealthy elite from the consequences of their criminal acts. Escalating with an infectious 1970s conspiracy thriller vibe, season four continues the Good-verse’s continual slide from semi-realistic legal drama to increasingly combative and surreal political commentary. While it doesn’t fully manage to complete its arc, it’s another engrossing year, highlighted by an unforgettable season opener, in which Diane awakens in an alternate universe where Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election — only to find the American political landscape as destructive as ever.
Season five’s lead-off hitter is memorable for a different reason: it copes with the production shutdown by structuring itself as a “clip show” composed entirely of never-before-seen material. “Previously On…” cleverly fuses shot-but-unaired material with new scenes to backfill the gang’s activities throughout 2020 and early 2021, acknowledging the onset of COVID-19, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the 2020 election, and the events of January 6th. It’s not the rousing conclusion to the Memo 618 saga it could have been, but does tie off the threads of season four, as well as serving as an emergency send-off for departing series regulars Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) and Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) — who are sorely missed, alas. It’s a resourceful hour that sets the stage for season five’s thematic core: the notion that the law can only be enforced because we agree, as a society, that it should be. The fanciful notion at the center of the season is the rise of an unconventional “community court” run by pseudo-judge Hal Wackner (Mandy Patinkin), who wants to transform justice to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and massive expense of the American legal system. Wackner takes a shine to Marisa Gold (Sarah Steele), the ambitious Reddick Lockhart investigator who is once again repurposing herself for a legal career, and grows his meager enterprise into something of a sensation thanks to spontaneous connections made at the firm. Season five’s goofy “People’s Court” narrative continues the show’s skillful shift into an almost allegorical fantasy mode, commenting cheekily on American justice (or the lack thereof) while still executing the clockwork rhythms of the Kings’ wider world.
When The Good Fight concludes with its upcoming sixth season, it will cap off thirteen seasons of this memorable and infectious Chicago milieu. I have no idea what to expect from the final year: will it be a strategic, precisely executed endgame or a spiraling, out-of-control train wreck? Given how successfully the series has served as a warped-mirror reflection of our political landscape, I’m convinced either end of the spectrum can be satisfying – and the latter may even be more appropriate. Either way, I’ll definitely follow it through, along with anything else the Kings (whose body of work also includes the overlooked BrainDead and the clever, ongoing horror procedural Evil) set their sights on.