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The Good Fight - Inauguration - Review: "You're Poison."

"You wait, you listen, and watch."

In the opening hour of The Good Fight, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is looking towards retirement as her god-daughter, Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) is starting her career as a lawyer. However, things change suddenly in the wake of a ponzi scheme unearthed by the FBI, that implicate Henry Rindell (Paul Guilfoyle), Maia's father, one of Diane's oldest friends and advocate for her retirement fund. 

Diane goes from the height of her career, headlining the largest law firm in the midwest, to being unemployable overnight, as she was a vocal proponent of the Rindell Investment fund. The ponzi scheme is said to wreak havoc across the liberal-elite community of Chicago.

Christine Baranski absolutely owns her expanded role in the spin-off series, while bolstered by the streaming-only format, which has allowed for more emotional and life-like responses to the tense situations that pop up in the show. It's a breath of fresh air to me as a fan of The Good Wife, which often went to lengths that broadcast tv doesn't typically venture into, but still had to censor itself in very odd ways when it came to dialogue.

Her scene with her estranged husband, Kurt (Gary Cole), was heartbreaking and set the stage for what's to come. The frightening thought here is that she likely feels as if this is rock-bottom, but expect tensions in her financial and personal life to tighten as the story progresses this season.

Maia serves as the viewer surrogate as the story turns inside and out of the courtroom, in contentious depositions and arguments on the inaugural case of the new series: a police brutality case brought against Cook County. Having just won their 32 million-a-year business, Diane is set on making her last case before her supposed retirement a statement to her firm's ability to keep settlements manageable for Cook County, while opposing counsel Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) and his recent hire, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) fight her tooth and nail along the way.


Maia is nervous, "green" as they come, and eager to make something of herself as she starts her career in Diane's firm. She even discovers a piece of evidence that turns the police brutality case on its head. However, she too has her world shaken by her father's arrest: She's called out in the media as a part of the ponzi scheme, she's followed and accosted while on the job, and her relationship with her girlfriend, Amy (Helene Yorke, who is marvelous in her small role) is smeared and mocked with "sex tapes" and lies.

"It's hard. But it ends."

Lucca, another returning character from The Good Wife, comes in as a bit of a self-assured wildcard. She's steely, and very clever, but she's got a streak of compassion in her as well. She serves as Diane's unexpected ticket into Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad after the Rindell fraud comes to light, as a character witness to the lead partners on whether Diane would be an asset at the firm if they brought her in.

She also consoles Maia after Maia is accosted by a disgruntled victim of the Rindell fraud. Just from this first episode, she's more autonomous as a character than what she was handed in The Good Wife. It seems as though she has the ear of her managing partners, and an influence that goes beyond her short few years as an up-and-coming lawyer. (Just 1 year or so ago, she was merely a low-paid lawyer in bond court.) I hope to see her be on equal footing with Diane and Maia as far as being a "perspective" character goes.

Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad is very reminiscent of the original firm we're introduced to in The Good Wife's firm Stern, Lockhart & Gardner. Reddick is nowhere to be found -- at least yet, Adrian Boseman is the charismatic showman, and Barbara Kolstad (Erica Tazel) is Adrian's methodical, tempered counterpart. They complement each other very much like Will Gardner and Diane did, but they're their own characters, to be sure.

As Adrian approaches Diane in her likely darkest hour to recruit her and her knowledge of the workings of the Cook County courts, they immediately tap into a rapport, or some closed-off aspect of Diane that I haven't seen since she lost Will Gardner as her other lead partner. She spent the rest of the series looking for a worthy successor, but did not find it in Cary Agos, nor Alicia Florrick. At the the end, she meets back up with Maia, after both have left Lockhart, Lee, blah blah blah... and trudge forward, onto a new firm.

As a first installment, it introduced a much more overall interesting premise than its predecessor, and as a follow-up, it's true to form for the excellence expected from a spin-off of the acclaimed The Good Wife.

So, In the spirit of our new, untethered, cable-friendly television series:
I'm so fucking excited.

Notes:

FYI: (Episode 2 is already out, but I will be covering it separately.)

- "How is my life so fucking meaningless!?"
Best F-bomb of the 4-5 dropped in the first hour. I could feel the emotions welling up during that whole scene.

- Who was the person that Adrian Boseman was name-dropping that he said he'd spoken to in the elevator? That went over my head.

- I have barely seen any of Erica Tazel's Barbara Kolstad, but I want more. She was always an underrated part of Justified, and I'm really excited that she's been brought into this tv universe!

- Jerry Adler's Howard Lyman is just as clueless and insensitive as he was in the original series. It's great to see him back and complaining about something silly again if only for 1 episode.

Was I the only one thinking Kurt was shooting these at his firing range?

- What are your thoughts on the opening credits? David Buckley once again brings in an incredible sense of drama with his scoring and the theme music is outstanding. The slow-motion explosion of items representative of the law, office furniture/decor, and technology are on the nose but interesting to me. I've heard mixed thoughts on the opening sequence (especially after The Good Wife's opening was relatively understated and could be mapped easier to the quick-paced original series. It's harder to throw a minute-long negative space-filled sequence into a show 20-30 minutes in) but honestly, I really like that chaotic feeling that comes from it.

- The phone call scene between Adrian and Lucca was funny, because she used her actual accent for that call. The other thing about that scene was how she seemed leery of Adrian, as if she might worry about how he seems to value "loyalty" over objectivity in the workplace. I might be reading too much into that, though.

- There were multiple places in this episode that winked at the original plot and progression of The Good Wife -- such as parallel scenes. One of the better examples was Lucca actually referencing Alicia's hardships with a public scandal when consoling Maia in the restroom. It echoed Alicia's instructional speech to a client, wherein she tells her to keep up appearances, read a book, and do not watch the news.

- Another tidbit I noticed that made me grin: "You're poison." They mirror those fateful words Will Gardner spoke to Alicia in "Hitting the Fan" (a.k.a. the greatest episode of The Good Wife ever) in which he spat "You were poison!" In the original series, she was unemployable due to being the wife of a disgraced State's Attorney. It was in past-tense, though, as the scandal was mostly before the events of the series. This time, it's present tense, as Diane's relationship with the Rindells after a multi-billion dollar financial scandal has hosed her professionally, in real time, with much more dire consequences.

- Adrian Boseman, who very much feels like the Will Gardner to Barbara Kolstad's Diane Lockhart saying "I called an audible" is him using a sports metaphor (I had to look it up, because I'd never heard that phrase before). Will Gardner characteristically used sports metaphors often when discussing cases or decisions with Diane.

- One of the problems I always had when writing for The Good Wife was wanting to unpack every scene, every quippy bit of dialogue, and all the density that is added to each episode. This always led to unwieldy and huge re-tellings of the episode, with my take on the events as a response. There's an alternative version of this review that has an entire retelling of the episode's events with my commentary, but that's an exhausting read, to be sure. So I rewrote it...

Screenshots: The Good Fight

Alright, now it's your turn. What did you think? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

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