This week marked the end of the six-season run of The Good Fight, which concluded with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and the lawyers at Reddick and Ri'Chard under siege by an ever-encroaching white supremacist mob, and Diane facing the decision to give up the fight for justice and retire to a chateau in France.
It sounds like a lot, because The Good Fight was a lot. More than any other TV show that was produced in the last six years, The Good Fight got to the heart of how it felt to live through the Trump presidency, and everything that's followed since, from insurrection to the repeal of longstanding civil rights. The world's gone mad, everything is spiraling into chaos, and Diane and her fellow litigators have been trying to lawyer their way out of it for six seasons.
Series creators Robert and Michelle King produced some incredible standout episodes over the course of these past six seasons. The best of these episodes combined The Good Fight's boldness and strong characters with a playful energy that included fan-favorite elements like the show's cavalcade of Broadway-borrowed guest stars and the truly audacious way the show would make viewers wait 15 minutes or more for the opening credits. What follows are our 10 favorite episodes, listed in ascending order. These are the ones that best get to the heart of what made The Good Fight such thrilling and cathartic TV.
10. "The One Where Liz and Diane Topple Democracy"
Season 3, Episode 7
Air Date: April 25, 2019
Opening credits time code: 16:25
Tony-winning guest stars: Lauren Patten
The Season 3 storyline where Diane joined a Resistance group (in the guise of a "book club") to help combat a possible Trump re-election was a fruitful one for the show, especially after she roped Liz (Audra McDonald) into its shadowy dealings. Her dealings with the Book Club hit Diane right in the in-between place of being fed up with the brazen lawlessness of right-wing extremism and her sincere ideals about the kind of democracy she believes in. This episode confronted Diane with exactly that, as the Book Club pressured her and Liz to manipulate a case of theirs involving faulty voting machines so that they can install a hack to help the Democrats.
It's only fair after all the voter suppression tactics the GOP engages in, right? Like the best Good Fight episodes, this one takes an expected moral arc (Diane will finally stand up for what's right even if the outcome isn't what she wants) and complicates it, undercuts it, and puts it through the wringer of our contemporary political moment. Liz turns Diane's liberal piousness against her, making a passionate and wounded argument about what true disenfranchisement in America really looks like. "This democracy that you talk about," says Liz, after giving a laundry list of actions taken against Black people to keep them from voting, "it doesn't exist for a lot of us."
9. "The End of Eli Gold"
Season 6, Episode 4
Air Date: September 29, 2022
Opening credits time code: 00:15
Tony-winning guest stars: Alan Cumming
Any episode that begins with a title card that reads, "This episode includes content that may be sensitive to some viewers… especially viewers who are disturbed by exploding brain matter" is setting a very high bar for itself, and this one clears it. Just as you might have been lulled into forgetting about that graphic little disclaimer, a Democratic party tête-à-tête between Eli (Alan Cumming) and Frank Landau (Mike Pniewski) was punctuated by Frank getting his brains blown out by an anonymous assassin who thought he was shooting Eli.
The specter of death and the racist/antisemitic targeting of lawyers has been lingering over the show since nearly the beginning (read on for further examples), and as The Good Fight neared its final episodes, things took a turn for the apocalyptic. Few things have ever rattled Eli Gold the way that moment understandably did, and we got some dynamite acting from Cumming and Sarah Steele (as Marissa) as they tried to help him cope with the trauma.
8. "The One with Lucca Becoming a Meme"
Season 3, Episode 4
Air Date: April 4, 2019
Opening credits time code: 10:00
Tony-winning guest stars: Lauren Patten
The incident of the so-called Central Park Karen, the woman who called the police to falsely claim that a Black bird-watcher was threatening her and her dog, occurred more than a year after "The One with Lucca Becoming a Meme" aired. Whether that says more about the times that we live in, or about how attuned to those times The Good Fight has been, is a matter for debate. But even if that particular real-life incident didn't inspire Lucca's storyline here, it's clear many others did. While walking her baby at the park and taking a business call, Lucca is accused and harassed by a white woman who's convinced Lucca's baby is stolen. The encounter ends up on a camera phone and goes viral, making Lucca a social media hero to some but also the subject of endless anonymous online threats. Cush Jumbo was an integral part of The Good Fight's first four seasons, and this episode was one of the best showcases of her ability to walk the show's fine line between the kind of outrage that makes you want to scream and the absurdities that make it impossible not to laugh.
Season 1, Episode 1
Air Date: February 19, 2017
Opening credits time code: 20:07
Tony-winning guest stars: Jayne Houdyshell and Bernadette Peters
Famously, the series premiere of The Good Fight had to be re-tooled when the expected — and thematically significant, especially for Diane — inauguration of Hillary Clinton as the first female President of the United States did not occur. Instead, The Good Fight kicked off with Diane staring gobsmacked at Donald Trump being sworn in as the new President, and the show pivoted towards becoming a real-time chronicle of the ailing psyche of Trump-era America. It also kicked off the “Diane Lockhart on Streaming” era, which meant she could now curse. And so we got perhaps TV's single greatest deployment of a curse word, as Diane learned she'd lost her entire savings in a Ponzi scheme and let out a despairing "F*CK!" as the show cut to its very first unveiling of those operatically insane opening credits.
6. "The End of Democracy"
Season 6, Episode 9
Air Date: November 3, 2022
Opening credits time code: 17:19
Tony-winning guest stars: John Benjamin Hickey and Phylicia Rashad
In its final season, The Good Fight was determined to go out like a lion. And so in its penultimate episode, Diane is asked to help Chumhum CEO Neil Gross (John Benjamin Hickey) in his bid to purchase the Democratic Party (not to mention Fox News) and save America from itself. Not to mention the fact that while all this was going on, Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) and Carmen (Charmaine Bingwa) were helping Renetta Clark (Phylicia Rashad) in her extralegal underground group's efforts to curb white supremacist activity by sending assassins and attempted college bombers to Antartica ("every day they can look out on white"). Also, Marissa marries her krav maga instructor, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson cures the chairman of the Democratic Party of his wounded leg, and Diane and Kurt are maybe finally splitting up, potentially ending TV's worst marriage.
5. "And the Two Partners Had a Fight…"
Season 5, Episode 6
Air Date: July 29, 2021
Opening credits time code: 22:15
Tony-winning guest stars: Mandy Patinkin, Danny Burstein, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Elaine May
One of the challenges in spinning off Diane from The Good Wife to The Good Fight is that the former show, with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) as its lead character, could sometimes make Diane the bad guy. Her aims weren't always Alicia's aims, and she was sometimes a little underhanded in going about them. Hell, that series ended with Diane slapping Alicia clear across the face (Diane was in the right on that one, though). With Diane at the center of The Good Fight, would we lose the ability for Diane to sometimes be the bad guy? An episode like "And the Two Partners Had a Fight…" served as a reminder that the Kings were very much willing to let Diane be wrong. In this case, the introduction of a Slack-esque work chat program at Reddick Lockhart unleashes a lot of simmering resentment towards Diane as the white name partner of a Black law firm.
At this point, Diane and Trump-supporting Julius Cain (Michael Boatman) had just finished defending Kurt from charges that he'd aided in the January 6th insurrection. Facing pressure from Liz to reduce her presence at the firm, Diane instead seeks out advice from Kurt and, well, the ghost of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Elaine May), who both encourage her to stay and fight for her position on top. Diane moves behind Liz's back, using her white clients' discomfort with the Black partners in the firm to make a power play to keep her position. It's nasty stuff, the selfishness of white feminism personified, and it allowed The Good Fight to be a far more complex show than it might've been if it had allowed Diane to be the good guy. This episode also featured David Lee (Zach Grenier) saying "What is Black Twitter?," so bonus points there as well.
4. "Day 471"
Season 2, Episode 10
Air Date: May 6, 2018
Opening credits time code: 09:55
Tony-winning guest stars: Katrina Lenk
This is the episode where Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) gets shot by an unseen assailant in the Reddick Boseman elevator, an act that nearly goes unnoticed amid the hubbub of high-profile clients, balloon delivers to a very pregnant Lucca, and a receptionist on her first day on the job. Rather than have the rest of the episode ride on the minute-by-minute drama of whether Adrian will survive, though, the crisis puts Diane and Liz at odds, which is far more interesting. Liz is more than a little uneasy with the caliber of big-money clients that Diane is bringing into the firm. That these clients include Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) and Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker), two of the most notorious recurring clients on The Good Wife creates an undercurrent here where Diane is representing The Good Fight as an extension of The Good Wife universe, while Liz wants to cut ties and look to the future.
Liz ends up making the ill-advised decision to leak the Reddick Boseman client list to her cop husband, ostensibly to help him find Adrian's shooter, but of course he mostly uses the information to harass Chicago PD targets like Bishop and Sweeney. Meanwhile, Diane is busy fending off the acquisition attempts by guest star Alan Alda, which culminates in a classic “Diane Lockhart Will Take No More of Your Sh*t” moment that ends with, "It's okay if the world is crazy, as long as I make my little corner of it sane."
3. "The End of a Saturday"
Season 6, Episode 6
Air Date: October 13, 2022
Opening credits time code: 11:02
Tony-winning guest stars: N/A (justice for Carolee Carmello)
While The Good Fight often succeeded by going BIG with outrageous cases and operatic flourishes, "The End of a Saturday" proved that the show could be one of the best procedural dramas on TV by going small. The episode drills down on one case, involving Ri'Chard Lane's young nephew who needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant, but the donor has pulled out. What follows is an all-hands-on-deck quest where every major character (down to John Slattery as Diane's silver-fox therapist) pitches in to find ways around both the law and human nature to get this kid the medical procedure that will save his life.
For all the chaos that constantly surrounds the characters on this show — literally so in Season 6’s omnipresent riots and protests — this episode has a Swiss-watch discipline to it as they move from setback to workaround to setback to workaround, all under the ticking clock of a kid who might be dying. Among the episode's many virtues, it's a tremendous showcase for Andre Braugher, who joined the cast in its final season. Ri'Chard was introduced with much bluster and bravado, but Braugher is an actor who can go big and small, and the core of decency and gratitude he brings out in the character here is remarkable.
2. "The Gang Deals With an Alternate Reality"
Season 4, Episode 1
Air Date: April 9, 2020
Opening credits time code: 01:05
Tony-winning guest stars: John Cameron Mitchell and Annaleigh Ashford
In perhaps the most audacious move of an already pretty audacious show (and that's saying something for a show that gave you Jeffrey Epstein's penis in a jar), The Good Fight kicked off its fourth season with a what-if scenario that Robert and Michelle King had likely had on their minds since the beginning of the series: what if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election? What if The Good Fight never had to exist in Donald Trump's America? Diane's the only one who knows she's in an alternate reality, and watching her and Marissa who's-on-first their way around four years of altered American history is a trip.
But the episode isn't just a comedic interlude. Instead, it asks the audience to marinate in an uncomfortable truth: Trump’s victory led to the Women's March and the #MeToo movement and the downfall of monsters like Harvey Weinstein. In the alternate universe of "The Gang Deals with an Alternate Reality," the good vibes of Hillary's victory meant nobody was particularly interested in igniting a sex scandal against one of her biggest donors. At its best, The Good Fight's morality is as messy as it is confrontational, and there are no easy answers, even in a fantasy world.
1. "Day 450"
Season 2, Episode 7
Air Date: April 15, 2018
Opening credits time code: 17:18
Tony-winning guest stars: Andrea Martin
The ultimate The Good Fight episode. If there was one episode to show to a non-watcher to explain to them what this show has been trying to do for six years, it's this one. Margo Martindale reprises her Good Wife role as Ruth Eastman, Democratic Party bigwig who shows up to audition Reddick Boseman Lockhart for their upcoming effort to impeach Donald Trump after the 2018 midterms. The Good Fight, as ever, was on the pulse about what was in the air during the Trump administration. But rather than just use this episode to walk through the litany of Trump's crimes, the Kings take this opportunity to offer their mission statement.
With Julius Cain (Michael Boatman) howling about how his liberal colleagues are all suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome," Liz and Diane each deliver Emmy-clip-worthy monologues about what it's going to take to combat the madness of the Trump era. Liz makes the case for fighting lies with ever more brazen lies. "This is shameless," she says, "and impeachment has to be shameless or it will fail." Then Diane delivers her now-iconic (so much so that it's referenced in the series finale) monologue about how she's tired of being the adult in the room while the GOP rolls back civil rights.
The episode also features Andrea Martin as Lucca's meddling not-quite-mother-in-law in a handful of hilarious B-story scenes. But it's Diane's "when they go low, we go lower" determination to take her Smith & Wesson out into the streets and start raging that gets to the heart of what The Good Fight was all about: the struggle to stay sane in politically deranged times, and the determination to fight back.
All six seasons of The Good Fight are streaming on Paramount+.
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: The Good Fight, Paramount+, Alan Cumming, Andre Braugher, Audra McDonald, Charmaine Bingwa, Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Delroy Lindo, John Slattery, Michelle King, Nyambi Nyambi, Robert King, Sarah Steele