Paramount+'s The Good Fight has always walked a tightrope between the absurdly brilliant and the brilliantly absurd. Premiering just days after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the series traversed the four years of his presidency with storylines that touched on everything from #MeToo and voter suppression to the Pee Tape and Jeffrey Epstein's penis. And from the very beginning, the show's opening credits have reflected the barely-hanging-on national lunacy of our times.
With operatic instrumentals booming, the credits feature a series of accoutrements to an otherwise polite professional society — wine bottles, tea sets, telephones, law books — and explodes them in slow motion. Freed from the time-constraints of network television (The Good Wife, the series from which The Good Fight was spun-off, didn't have an opening credits sequence at all), Fight's credits are so long that they even have time to list each episode's guest stars, which really helps the show put its best foot forward.
But equally as bold as the opening credits themselves is how oddly placed they often are within the show's episodes. While we've grown accustomed to credit sequences arriving after a short cold open, The Good Fight regularly pushes its credits fifteen minutes or longer into an episode. This wasn't always the case — most episodes in the show's first season began with the credits right away — but increasingly as the years have gone on, The Good Fight has seemed to knowingly relish in the chaos of pushing its credits later and later into an episode. It's a kind of psychological warfare with the audience, keeping us eternally off balance. It's fantastic.
So we decided to run the numbers, clocking the timestamps of each opening credits segment from every episode of the show to date.
Some of our findings were predictable; the average time from beginning of episode to beginning of credits has gone up every season, from an average of 7 minutes and 44 seconds in season two (the first season to employ semi-regular cold opens) to 14 minutes and 50 seconds in the in-progress season five (and that's not counting the episode-length cold open that was the season premiere). Some findings were more surprising. One hypothesis we wanted to test out was whether the episodes with the longest-delayed opening credits shared anything else in common — were they markers that the episode to follow was particularly unhinged, spectacular, or demented?
Below are the ten episodes with the longest wait between the start of the episode and beginning of credits. How crazy were they? And how intense were the scenes that kicked it to the credits themselves?
Time opening credits begin: 16 minutes, 16 seconds
The pandemic-shortened Season 4 only had one episode where the credits appeared after the 16-minute mark, but this was the one that introduced the season-long conspiracy storyline surrounding Memo 618, which allowed rich and powerful people to circumvent the law and threatened the careers (and lives?) of anyone who tried to question it. This was The Good Fight, as usual, getting to the heart of a particular societal psychosis and dramatizing just how helpless it feels to live in a world where the powerful fear no consequences. Ultimately the pandemic caused the season to be cut short, and the solution to the Memo 618 storyline was literally tossed off in the Season 5 premiere. A wild storyline, for sure, but not a particularly wild episode.
Time opening credits begin: 16 minutes, 28 seconds
This episode, on the other hand, is truly wild, and quite worthy of the long-delayed opening credits that accompanies it. Season 3 was often a battle between some of the show's worst instincts (Michael Sheen as an unhinged Roy Cohn analogue) and its best, which in this episode manifests in the storyline where Diane (Christine Baranski) and Liz (Audra McDonald) end up embroiled in a resistance group dedicated to thwarting Trump by any means necessary. In this cold open, that means introducing the idea of rigging the voting machines, a notion that is met by Diane — still holding onto the last threads of her old liberal ethics — with a hearty "are you fucking kidding me?" that sends us directly into the credits.
Time opening credits begin: 16 minutes, 54 seconds
This is also a very memorable episode, where Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) momentarily — and reluctantly — becomes a cable news pundit, and by the end of the episode, he's challenging his racist panel-mates to say the n-word. The opening credits themselves don't really launch from a particularly auspicious place; it's just Adrian and Diane walking into a reception full of some of the most powerful lawyers and businesspeople in Chicago.
Time opening credits begin: 17 minutes, 18 seconds
The arc where Democratic strategist Ruth Eastman (Margo Martindale) approaches the Reddick-Boseman firm to help them prosecute the impeachment case at Trump is the storyline that cemented The Good Fight as one of the definitive shows of the Trump era. The credits in this episode follow a whirlwind scene where Liz lays out a take-no-prisoners strategy for combatting the shamelessness and aggression of Trumpism with even more shamelessness and aggression. It scandalizes Adrian, delights Diane, and puts the audience on the edge of their seats. Perfect time for some exploding office equipment!
Time opening credits begin: 17 minutes, 20 seconds
This is another one where the episode is actually quite great — this is the one where Lucca (Cush Jumbo) and Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) are sent to monitor an election and end up having to face off against Nazi vote-suppressors — but the credits themselves come on the heels of a rather pedestrian scene of Michael Sheen calling in a nefarious favor.
Time opening credits begin: 18 minutes, 49 seconds
This is a case where the episode itself isn't a blockbuster — it mostly moves the chess pieces on a few storylines, including Michael Sheen as an existential threat to Reddick, Boseman, and Lockhart, as well as the Book Club resistance group stepping up their tactics — but the moment that kicks us into the credits earns its bombast. In this case, it's Liz Reddick shredding documents that would incriminate her late father in further sexual harassment claims, plunging Liz further down her own personal ethical rabbit hole.
Time opening credits begin: 18 minutes, 50 seconds
This episode almost single handedly kills the theory that the longest-anticipated opening credits are reserved for the most eye-popping episodes. This episode is decidedly unspectacular, with setups regarding Chumhum and the Book Club that don't pay off until the next two episodes. That said, it's a pretty heavy moment that leads into the credits, with Kurt (Gary Cole) discovering that Diane is involved with a potential voting-machine hack.
Time opening credits begin: 20 minutes, 07 seconds
The very first episode of The Good Fight had a lot of work to do, from setting a distinct tone for the spinoff to re-orienting Diane Lockhart into the protagonist of this new show, and it had to do all of it after scrapping its original plans to have the Hillary Clinton inauguration play thematically into Diane's story. Instead, the series opens on Diane watching in horror as it's Trump who's elected, followed not long after by the revelation that her retirement savings have been obliterated by a ponzi scheme. Without even realizing it, the audience finds themselves 20 minutes into the pilot before they get their first look at the show's bananas opening credits, and it all comes after the then-CBS All-Access show let Diane cut loose with the first of many f-words.
Time opening credits begin: 20 minutes, 11 seconds
Somewhat inauspiciously, the longest standard cold open in the show's history happened only a few episodes ago, delaying the credits well over 20 minutes as Diane was presented with the knowledge that Kurt was friends with one of the people being sought by the FBI for their role in the January 6 insurrection. When Diane finally decides to anonymously drop the dime on this guy — on a burner phone, no less — the moment is perfectly punctuated by those tremendously-delayed credits.
Time opening credits begin: 48 minutes, 16 seconds
This counts as the longest-delayed opening credits in show history, but it's kind of unfair to include it in this ranking, as it's a special case. The fifth season premiere had a lot of work to do in wrapping up the unproduced episodes from season four and getting the audience all the way from Spring 2020 to Spring 2021, a time period during which quite a few things happened! The gambit the show chose was an episode-long "Previously on" catch-up, and when the audience was finally brought up to speed after an entire episode … enter the opening credits. And not just any opening credits, but one suffused with ironic puppies and kittens to poke some pinpricks into the idea that just because Trump was gone, everything was fine. It was a brilliant episode, as well as a nod to the fact that we are all quite aware of how the show's opening credits contribute to the runaway-train vibe that this show presents when it's at its best.
The Good Fight is currently streaming its fifth season on Paramount+. New episodes drop Thursdays.
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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.