The Washington Post
‘The Good Fight’ pushes satire of Trump to its bleak conclusion
Last week, President Biden sounded a (belated) alarm on a group he accused of “destroying American democracy.” In a prime-time speech from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, he identified “MAGA Republicans,” whom he contrasted against “mainstream Republicans,” as a grave threat to the nation’s future.
“MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution,” he said. “They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.” Their willingness to embrace political violence, he concluded, has led to the existential turmoil of the current moment: “Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.”
Among other things, then, Biden’s address was an admission of an unfulfilled 2020 campaign promise. The wresting of the presidency from Donald Trump was supposed to herald a return to normal. But we never got normal back.
The sixth and final season of “The Good Fight,” the Paramount Plus spinoff of “The Good Wife,” hauntingly captures the resigned malaise of living in a reality that feels irreparably untethered. The first five episodes (of a total of 10) are bustling but unmistakably downbeat; it’s shaping up to be the most sorrowful season of the series. The Chicago of these sister shows
was never free of violence, despite their well-heeled characters and white-shoe settings. (RIP, Will Gardner!) But in its farewell year, “The Good Fight,” the best of the #Resistance shows, mournfully reckons with just how much Trumpism has unmoored the country, dragging it, perhaps, toward a 21st-century version of civil war in which civic destabilization takes the form of increased domestic terrorism, particularly against marginalized groups.
The unshakable feeling of unsettledness among liberals since 2016 has long been the series’ thematic leitmotif. During the Trump years, “The Good Fight” — half legal procedural, half political satire — often felt like the only show absurdist enough to outabsurd the daily (hourly?) outrages of the past administration. Diane’s life was correspondingly thrown off balance. She lost her retirement savings to a Ponzi scheme, forcing her to go back to work — this time in a mostly Black law firm, where her progressive values are constantly challenged by the practicalities of overseeing an office rife with potential inequities. Her commitment to her conservative activist husband, Kurt (Gary Cole), has been undermined by their contrasting values. And her restless fury at Trump’s policies, like family separation at the border, took her in dangerous proximity to an inchoate left-wing terror group made up of fellow recent rageaholics of the bookclub demo. No wonder she spent six months microdosing hallucinogens. Who could get through the past six years sober?
Diane also coped with the surreality of Trump’s America with a heartily amused, ever-so-slightly unhinged laugh — a not-quite cackle in which Christine Baranski conveys both her character’s acceptance of the ludicrousness around her and her conviction that, surrounded by such wild inanity, there’s nothing anyone can really do but try to find the humor in it to keep from losing their mind. The laugh is heard in Season 6 — pretty regularly, actually, with Diane experimenting once more with psilocybin — but the litigator, amid an all-consuming midlife crisis, might not have much fight left in her anymore. The exhaustion of feeling ungrounded for the past several years, combined with her sense that the new normal might well be a thrum of right-wing violence and rollbacks of the last halfcentury’s progressive gains, drives her to a questionably managed despair.
In keeping with husband-andwife showrunners Robert and Michelle King’s knack for casting flavorful character actors in supporting roles (also on display in their other current show, the delectably camp demon-possession procedural “Evil”), the new season adds to the cast guest stars John Slattery, who plays Diane’s psychedelics therapist, and Andre Braugher, who plays a new partner at the firm whose flamboyance begins with his wonderfully wackadoo glasses collection and seems to know no end. With “The Good Wife” fan-favorites Carrie Preston and Alan Cumming returning, respectively, as a loopy lawyer and a slimy campaign manager accused of “the Democratic Watergate,” this valedictory batch of episodes also adds in passing minor epilogues to the stories of “The Good Wife’s” main characters, Alicia and Peter Florrick.
The Kings don’t seem to mind offering up some fan service. And yet the most satisfying storylines belong to Diane’s legal partner, Liz (Audra Mcdonald), and protege, Marissa (Sarah Steele). For all the series’s mastery in exploring the many layers of Diane’s White guilt, it never quite managed to do justice to most of its Black characters, such as Cush Jumbo’s Lucca and Delroy Lindo’s Adrian, two former members of the firm. But Mcdonald is enjoying her meatiest season to date, going toe to toe with Braugher’s Ri’chard and his colorful encroachment. And in a midseason highlight, Liz, after publicly rebuking Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, fields apparent calls from (an unseen) Ginni Thomas (a la Anita Hill) that turn from angry to chummy to something else.
Conservative protests drag on for weeks on the streets below the downtown firm’s office on the 22nd floor. While a high Diane carries a sunflower through the angry crowd with the blitheness of a Kendall Jenner in a Black Lives Matter-themed Pepsi commercial, newly minted lawyer Marissa sees her world getting darker — and her sense of safety annihilated as anti-semitic attacks hit too close for comfort. The violence is no longer theoretical. Grenades are thrown into full elevators, unclaimed car bombs sow suspicion on both sides of the political aisle and far-right groups get bolder in their demonstrations that they can get to anyone, anywhere (and that the circumstances’ only saving grace is the aggressors’ sheer incompetence).
It’s one of the first glimpses in pop culture of a normal that’s utterly unacceptable, and yet, according to some experts, not too far off from today. It’s a stingingly sad last chapter to the Trump years that wisely rejects the easy triumphalism we so wanted from Diane and company. But “The Good Fight” only ever amplified our reality.