'The Good Fight' is a well-executed spinoff

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 5:44pm

NOSELL

CBS

 

I’ll admit, when I first heard about CBS’s plan to make one of its first series for its new online portal, CBS All Access, a spinoff of “The Good Wife” (after “Star Trek Discovery” was delayed), my reaction was an eyeroll. At its peak, “The Good Wife” was one of the best shows on television. However, by the end of its run, it was struggling. Its finale ended on such an angry and bitter note that I didn’t know if I wanted to ever spend more time in the universe and with these characters. Still, my love for the majority of “The Good Wife” ’s run piqued my interest just enough to get me to tune into “The Good Fight,” and I’m so glad I did. With the new series, Robert and Michelle King’s (“BrainDead”) writing feels reinvigorated and fresh as they somehow make old characters more compelling than before.

“The Good Fight” follows Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski, “Into the Woods”) who, as she’s about to retire, loses her life savings when a ponzi scheme run by her investor, Henry Rindell (Paul Guilfoyle, “CSI”) is exposed. She’s forced to postpone her retirement and go to work for the firm Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad. Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo, “Vera”) works there as well, and Diane brings along Maya Rindell (Rose Leslie, “Game of Thrones”), a new associate who is also Henry’s daughter.

“The Good Fight” continues what “The Good Wife” started in terms of letting a great ensemble of New York City actors work with strong material. Something “The Good Wife” did so very well was build out a deep cast of strong actors, from the regulars to the guest stars. It all starts with Baranski, who provides a compelling center for the show. She portrays layers of Diane that we haven’t seen before. She’s clearly hurt after her husband cheated on her and Alicia (Julianna Margulies, “ER”) exposed it publicly in the “Good Wife” ’s finale. As she works her way through losing her life savings and starting a new job, Baranski brings these emotions to life. Jumbo also does excellent work as Lucca, as we see her take the lead on cases and become a more relevant character.

Being on CBS All Access means “The Good Fight” can do more in terms of language and sexual content than “The Good Wife” ever could. As Diane finds out about the Rindell’s ponzi scheme, the show cuts to commercial, but not before she can exclaim, “Fuck!” It sounds jarring at first, but the show takes its extra abilities and runs with them, and the language is now a part of the fabric of the show.

It’s through the story where “The Good Fight” truly stands out on its own. The case-of-the-week format remains from “Wife,” but fewer episodes seems to allow for them to come up with cases are more interesting than later seasons of “Wife.” This year, we’ve seen a surgeon fight for the right to assist a surgery in Syria over Skype and a woman try and regain the rights to her eggs in order to have a child, running into twisty legal hurdles along the way. The show’s also found a more natural way to integrate politics into the show. The first episode opens with Diane watching President Donald Trump’s inauguration with a shocked look on her face, and the show had a story in its third episode where the lawyers at Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad struggle to keep a client who wants to go to a firm where the leaders are close with Trump. Throughout “Wife,” the Kings showed an interest in keeping up with current affairs, but on “Fight,” they have found a way to be relevant without forcing it.

“The Good Fight” reminds me of exactly what I missed about “The Good Wife” in the first place. It has a similar cast of extremely talented actors with a compelling central character in Diane. It’s surprising how well the pieces of this show fit together, and I’m excited to see where they take these stories and characters.