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The Good Fight Is Going Out the Way It Came In

Trump's America remains the Paramount+ drama's central theme in its final season, and it's never been more unnerving.
  • Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski in The Good Fight. (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+)
    Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski in The Good Fight. (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+)

    When a TV show begins its final season, the question foremost on anybody's mind is "how is it all going to end?" This feels particularly pertinent to The Good Fight, a show that's essentially tracked the course of American political and social discourse ever since it re-tooled its premiere episode to reflect then surprising new reality that Donald Trump had been elected president and liberal America was going to have to figure out a way to deal with it.

    And deal with it The Good Fight has, quite directly in fact, making Life in Trump's America its central theme — it's "Big Bad," to use the parlance of genre television. And so, now as it enters its sixth and final season (planned or not), The Good Fight will in some way need to answer the question it's been asking all along: what's going to happen to all of us now that the world has broken?

    If that sounds ominous, know that The Good Fight is delivering plenty of ominous across the first episodes of its new season. After a contentious fifth season, legal partners Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald) meet on their way into work in the eerily quiet Chicago streets. There's talk of a police exercise being conducted somewhere offscreen, but we soon find out that it's the police cracking down on protesters in the streets.

    Through the first two episodes at least, we don't actually see the protests, just plumes of tear gas rising in the distance, paired with sirens, helicopters and crowd noise. This isn't the story, this is what's happening on the periphery of the story, but it's impossible to ignore, both because it seems so threatening and because it feels so thematically potent. The presentation is theatrical, like we're watching a play set inside the keep of a castle while the revolution rages outside. Do we know the nature of the protests outside? Black Lives Matter or pro-MAGA insurrectionist types? The whole thing is effectively unnerving, and it places the show's viewers and its characters in the same uncertain place.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, given this environment of threat and unease, Diane increasingly seeks to distance herself from reality. The season premiere sees her dealing with a bout of deja vu that feels similar to the vibes of the "what if Hillary won?" episode that kicked off Season 4.

    This sense of "haven't we done all of this before?" leads Diane, in a roundabout way, to a psychologist played by John Slattery who specializes in a hallucinogenic therapy akin to Psilocybin. This isn't Diane's first experience in tripping balls to feel better about the world; she's been microdosing since Season 2. But in this more structured environment, Diane gets explicit about what she's escaping from, and the answer to that is a big [gestures all around]. The undoing of Roe v. Wade and the Voting Rights Act, anxieties of a war with Russia that could go nuclear — have the last 50 years not meant anything? It's a hamster wheel, and Diane wants off.

    Diane is also massively checked out of what's happening at the Reddick Lockhart firm. After taking the L in her battle with Liz last season, Diane's been deprioritized, literally moved downstairs. She and Liz are back on good terms now, but it's Liz who has to deal with the firm's latest threat: new partner Ri'Chard Lane, played by the Emmy-winning Andre Braugher, who takes the stage in a real flourish.

    Braugher's Lane is a flashy presence at the Reddick Lockhart offices, marching in with what seems to be an army of acolytes, given to prayer circles and playing classical piano in his office. He immediately convenes an exercise where the junior associates all say what they don't like about the firm (as if complaints from the associates haven't been running rampant throughout the series). He seems transparently untrustworthy as he suggests to Liz that they operate as a team. Braugher is a tremendously compelling screen presence, which is a good thing since it's going to be tough to get the audience invested in yet another power play at the firm's highest levels, particularly with the end so close.

    Elsewhere, Sarah Steele's Marissa, now liberated from the madness of last season's Judge Wackner's kangaroo court, is getting her chance to be a lawyer for the first time. It's a rough start, and she's prone to the yips, but she gets help from a familiar face for Good Wife fans: her dad, Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), who makes a blistering re-entrance into the show's universe and steals scene after scene. He's here to help his daughter, of course, but he's also got ulterior motives. Of course. (He also brings that rarest of rare gifts: a mention of Alicia Florrick, although don't hold your breath waiting for that to lead to anything substantive.)

    The further the show gets away from its center, the less surefooted it is. This is felt more acutely in the character of Carmen Moyo (Charmaine Bingwa), who was introduced rather spectacularly at the top of last season, but has since then been on a storyline island all on her own. This season she's once again serving as counsel to a mobster (Ben Shenkman), and dealing mainly with said mobster's unlikely consigliere (Wallace Shawn). There appears to be a tug-of-war brewing between Liz and Lane over Carmen's mentorship, but the mentorship storyline went nowhere last season, making it hard to hope for much this time around either.

    As for how The Good Fight will ultimately wrap up, it's a thrilling and, at the moment, open-ended question. For a show that's been so much about reflecting the madness on display in the country, it's hard to imagine a way to end it all without, you know, ending it all. The new episodes introduce storylines about the metaverse and human rights influencers, all while the bigger picture stuff lurks on the periphery.

    There is something big and bad and scary threatening to break down the walls, and people are throwing fake grenades into elevators promising a reckoning. A reckoning for what? And to what end? It all holds the weight of heavy metaphor; whatever it is that's out there, it won't stay out there for long.

    As The Good Fight ends, its title portends a battle without end. That Diane wants to float above it on her medicinal mushrooms feels relatable, although one imagines not sustainable, either as a character path or as the message the Kings want to leave with their audience. There is no escaping the world in all its absurdity and dread, and one imagines Diane is going to have to deal with that, too.

    The Good Fight Season 6 premieres Thursday, September 8, 2022 on Paramount+. New episodes drop Thursdays through November 10.

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    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.

    TOPICS: The Good Fight, Paramount+, Alan Cumming, Andre Braugher, Audra McDonald, Ben Shenkman, Charmaine Bingwa, Christine Baranski, John Slattery, Sarah Steele, Wallace Shawn