The fifth season of The Good Fight set a tall task in front of it. Not only did it need to resolve the dangling threads left by Season 4 — which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic — it also had to move on from the departures of series regulars Delroy Lindo and Cush Jumbo, and adjust to the new normal of pandemic life. Perhaps most crucially, the show had to adjust to the new political and social reality of a post-Trump America.
The Trump presidency had animated the show's entire run from the moment it derailed the thematic plans for the series which initially had Diane Lockhart's next act beginning in concert with the inauguration of President Hillary Clinton. Through its first four seasons, The Good Fight, better than any other show on TV, captured the galling lunacy of living under a regime that was hostile to facts, accountability, and justice, not to mention wide swaths of the American public. The Good Fight responded to lunacy with more lunacy, never pretending to have the answer to the Trump scourge but letting its audience know that, yes, this kind of crazy is how we were all feeling.
With its fifth season coming to a close today, it seems like a good time to step back and assess where The Good Fight stands with Trump out of the White House but its titular fight still far from over. With that in mind, here are a handful of questions at the top of our minds as we head into season six and beyond.
It is, of course, a misnomer to say that The Good Fight is now operating in a post-Trump era. We're all in the post-President Trump era, which is something, but 45's shadow remains, and the events of January 6th cast their own shadow. Clearly there is plenty of dread and unease with which The Good Fight can operate. In particular, the unmooring effect of the attempted insurrection loomed over this season, with both Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald) citing it as a dark turning point. The question on the show has moved on from how to operate morally and strategically under Trump to how to operate in a world where whatever is next feels right around the corner.
To this end, The Good Fight presented the season-long story arc of Judge Wackner (Mandy Patinkin), a copy shop owner who set up a makeshift "court" in the back of his store, where he operates his own kind of People's Court, arbitrating disputes in a manner that's more expedient, less legally byzantine, and (a big one) cheaper than the current legal system provides. It played like a quirky joke at first, and for a minute there its merits got touted, but as the season progressed, and Wackner's court grew in popularity and hubris, the dark implications of watching the growing influence of an extralegal demagogue, respectful of no institutions and high on his own supply, became apparent. It's no accident that Wackner's court (now a reality TV show) has been twice compared to Trump on The Apprentice.
Where the Wackner storyline shakes out, and whether it'll spill over into next season, will likely direct the course of The Good Fight's social commentary going forward.
In the season's second episode, The Good Fight introduced its newest character, first-year associate Carmen Moyo (Charmaine Bingwa), whose debut shadowed a familiar character in the show's universe: The Good Wife's Alicia Florrick. While Carmen wasn't coming out of a scandal-plagued marriage, her entry-level introduction to the new law firm mirrored Alicia's introduction to Lockhart Gardner back in the day, up to and including finding a somewhat wary mentor (Alicia with Diane, Carmen with Liz).
At first Carmen seemed like she was poised to get elevated to the status of the show's younger shadow lead. This cooled off significantly in the back half of the season, with Carmen's ongoing plot with an El Chapo-esque client taking a distant back seat to the Wackner shenanigans. With Cush Jumbo leaving at the beginning of the season and Rose Leslie having exited two years ago, the show certainly has space for a younger lead character. For now that's Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele), but it could be Carmen Moyo as well if the show is willing to invest in her.
Diane's marriage to Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole) has always been a purposefully odd one: she a crusading liberal feminist, he an NRA-supporting Republican don't-tread-on-me type. The charm of it all was that they made each other happy, enough for them to want to fight for their relationship amid their conflicting political allegiances. That feels like quaint notion these days, but one that The Good Fight (and The Good Wife before it) worked hard to keep from seeming naive.
That Diane and Kurt managed to weather the Trump years was something of a miracle, but this season, post-insurrection, with a plot that involved Kurt getting pursued by the FBI for having connections with insurrectionists, the rubber band may have stretched further than the show may intended. For some fans, Diane and Kurt's relationship is still worth fighting for, but for this fan at some point a person's values and morals being so diametrically opposed to one's own makes them an unfit partner. Put plainly: Diane's gotta divorce this guy.
Robert and Michelle King, executive producers of The Good Fight, have always been in the same general ballpark as David E. Kelley, but they've never been the same thing. Both have heavily dramatized the legal system, and both can't resist a quirky plot or side character. The dividing line was always the King's audacity to face down the thorniest or moral quandaries and a distinct aversion to making their characters quaint or cutesy.
This season, between the Wackner court and guest star Stephen Lang playing a quasi-Koch figure (i.e. an absurdly wealthy businessman who wants to use his money to influence public policy), things have started to resemble Kelley's James Spader/William Shatner series Boston Legal, a traveling circus of a legal drama that took laps in the pool of quirk. Part of this is that the Wackner court feels much like a parody of a show like Boston Legal. Part of it is that the Kelley DNA has always existed, dating back to The Good Wife's quirk-forward judges. But The Good Wife needs to keep Diane and Liz and the show's main players on the right side of this line in order to keep its identity.
This one's a humble personal request. You've got one of the greatest musical theater talents in history as your second lead. This is going to sound hypocritical after I just cautioned TGF from becoming too much like a David E. Kelley show, but can we find at least one excuse every season to let Liz Reddick belt out a tune? A dream sequence? A subdued piano bar? Anything, really. The show already squandered having Bernadette Peters around in Season 1. Let's not let this opportunity go to waste.
All five seasons of The Good Fight are now streaming on Paramount+. The show's sixth season is expected sometime in 2022.
People are talking about The Good Fight in our forums. Join the conversation.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor 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.