[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series finale of The Good Fight, "The End of Everything." Read at your own risk!]
The Good Fight went down swinging. Robert and Michelle King's madcap legal drama signed off Thursday, capping off six seasons of personal and political chaos with a series finale that was at once tense, funny, strange, and emotionally grounded, a fitting tribute to this surreal era in American history.
In short, "The End of Everything" goes like this: As protests continue to rage, the elevators shut down in the office. Diane's (Christine Baranski) recently dumped husband, Kurt (Gary Cole), and doctor-turned-fling, Lyle (John Slattery), meet while climbing 22 flights of stairs to reach her, only to uncover a white supremacist plot to trap the whole firm in one place. Their warning gives everyone just enough time to hit the deck before they're shot at from across the street — in a hail of bullets that winks at the show's explosive opening credits. Diane realizes she can't live without Kurt, the man she instinctively calls out for when she's in danger, and reconciles with her husband, who just quit the NRA. Diane also agrees to run a firm in D.C. that focuses on women's issues, setting aside her fantasy of moving to Europe. Marissa (Sarah Steele) recruits herself for a job with Diane. Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) leaves the firm to join the Collective. And Carmen (Charmaine Bingwa) elects to stay at Reddick-Ri'Chard, which Liz (Audra McDonald) and Ri'Chard (Andre Braugher) are hyping up with a successful if slightly tacky branding campaign devoted to the firm's civil rights legacy. Meanwhile, Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell) tries to use them all in his plot to take down Ron DeSantis. History repeats itself in the end: The series leaves Diane and Liz looking up at a TV screen as news breaks that Donald Trump is running for president again.
Is this the mile-a-minute end of a television universe that began with The Good Wife in 2009? The Kings — who co-wrote this episode, which Robert directed — say that while they can never say never, for now, the door is closed. "I think we need a rest," says Robert. "The world needs a rest, too." TV Guide spoke with the showrunners about crafting an ending (and a final outfit) befitting Diane Lockhart, as well as what it means to them that, in the words of the end credits, "This all happened."
I want to start with the way you worked in a reference to the opening credits with the objects in the office exploding in the gunfire. How long have you been planning that?
Michelle King: That was a bit of a last-minute addition. That came in the writing of the last episode. I wish I could say six years ago, we knew we were going to go that direction. Wouldn't that be clever?
Robert King: Our worry was always the tone would be off when you have bullets flying, because that's not our show. And so to reference it and put quotes around it by adding the elements that we saw blowing up through all the main titles felt like a good way to do that, [rather than] everybody diving on the floor Die Hard-style. Better that it's those elegant objects we've been seeing blown up. Which meant blowing them all up again, but now on our sets.
Diane and Kurt don't stay broken up for very long. What were your conversations like with the writers and with Christine about whether they should end up together or not?
Michelle: The conversations with the writers can be summed up in one word, and that's endless. We went on and on and around and around as to what should happen to Diane. Should she be with Kurt? Should she be with Lyle? Should she not be with anyone? And all of those options had their appeal. But in the end, we went to what at least I see as an aspirational ending, which is that two people that definitely don't agree, politically, but have a lot of respect for each other, have a lot of love for each other, and have a lot of personal integrity within their own belief system, can find a way to stay connected.
Robert: In the fifth season, we were going to break them up halfway through the season, and Christine was against it because she didn't think it was well prepared for. So she loved the argument she had at the end of this last episode, Episode 9, where they break up. But she's always been a proponent of [Diane] staying with Kurt, and I think the reason has to do with how much she loves Gary Cole as an actor.
There was old-school romance to the idea of both Kurt and Lyle walking up 22 flights of stairs for Diane. What did you like about sending them both up the stairs together?
Michelle: For one thing, we wanted to get out of our office, because we spent so much of that episode [in the] interior office. So the fact that there was a different space was appetizing, just for visuals.
Robert: Which is fun to shoot in, by the way, because you're always shooting down or up [in the stairwell]. And so much of the office is shooting across. It was fun because Gary Cole's performance style and John Slattery's performance style are so different, so it felt like, OK, let's throw them in together. We didn't know what it would be for a while there. Maybe it would be part of the riot on the street, that they're helping each other. But it actually felt a little more Waiting for Godot-esque — somehow absurd — that it's just the two of them in this massive empty space.
Michelle: And what I liked was while there is a competition and some friction between the two, we never go to a confrontational, "these guys are going to punch it out" place. I mean, these are men over 50. They're not turning this into a bar fight. They're going to end up working together.
Diane spent a lot of this season wanting to get out of practicing law. Was there ever an ending on the table where she did?
Michelle: Whatever ending you can imagine right now was at one point on the table.
Robert: But it seemed reasonable that the very first episode of the whole Good Fight was her thinking of going off to this beautiful villa in the South of France, and then to have her end up there. During the season that was interrupted by the pandemic, at the end, we knew we were going to lose Lucca, [played by] Cush Jumbo. What we were going to do is that her rich buddy has her build this resort on the island of Saint Lucia. And we thought it would end with her sitting on the beach in the sunshine, kind of enjoying it, but then not enjoying it after a little while because it's so quiet and empty. So one of the endings we were thinking of for Christine's character this [season] was that she gets that villa. That she would sit and look over the villa, she'd sip her wine and realize, "I don't like this." [Laughs.]
Michelle: The Graduate ending, essentially.
So much of the season toyed with the temptation of escape and wanting to tune out the bad stuff. And The Good Fight has not been a traditionally escapist show. It's been a lot of fun, but you've looked right at some of the worst headlines. Did you put any of your experience making this show into Diane's journey this season, or conversations you had with the writers, in terms of debating whether you can actually afford to look away from bad things?
Robert: I think every time you see more than three people or four people arguing in a room [on the show], that's our writers room. In this last episode, there are arguments about whether they should represent the Felix Staples character, even though they know he's lying, because they think it will help who they want politically. The writers room has argued that kind of thing a lot. There have been other years where they argued that the white writers in the room didn't know the names of the African Americans who were victims of police brutality, and the Black writers did. That's kind of straight [to the screen]. So I think a lot of what we pull into the show is probably our own emotional state, about our reaction to a world that's gone a little topsy-turvy, or even a lot topsy-turvy.
Ri'Chard is rolling out a big branding push for the firm in this finale. What made you want to play with branding this season?
Robert: Branding seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue these days. You're kind of like, what does that even mean, except using the terminology of capitalism to suggest —
Michelle: Right, it seems like it's just publicizing yourself and limiting what you do.
Robert: But what we liked about it is that a self-starter, who pulled himself up to the position he's in, has much more claim to being a brand. It was kind of self-flattering, it was egotistical, but also, I liked how Andre, and the script, was playing him as unembarrassed about that… [He's] someone who can really use the sense that T-shirts are the way to create the next revolution.
We saw that debate on revolution play out in a different angle through Jay, who chooses to join the Collective. How did you settle on that ending for him?
Robert: Last season, he had that long-haul COVID, and he was seeing a lot of Black intellectuals and great figures who were arguing, OK, what do you do in a world where George Floyd — where you have cops kneeling on the necks of Black people? We felt this was right for him, because I think he felt like he was doing a lot of stupid stuff at the law firm. He saw these people, and really what he reacted to was their competence. He was looking for, not what you might look at when you see the Democratic Party, which is a lot of incompetence. You're looking for someone who really knows what they're about. I don't even think I judge him for it. I think it was probably the right thing for him.
Michelle: Oh, for sure.
We end on the image of Diane and Liz looking at Trump's announcement that he's running again, which is a full-circle moment for the show. How long did you know that the series would end there? And did you have any alternate endings so that you could be reactive to the news?
Robert: Oh, we were so worried.
Michelle: We knew we should and we didn't.
Robert: We had it from pretty much the first episode this year that we were counting down toward some kind of starting pistol for a civil war. And that's what 11/10 was going to be. Although we didn't know what date we were going to do. We thought our last broadcast was going to be in August, so then we had to reshoot those hand grenades with the other date on it. But we knew from the beginning [it would end here], and then we've been kind of sitting on tenterhooks the whole time because the Mar-a-Lago search felt like he was going to announce right after that, and we didn't know what we'd do. The only thing is Ukraine, and the way Russia has been… threatening nuclear war. One of the B possibilities was what happened in Hawaii where they thought North Korean rockets were coming, where they all thought they had 20 minutes to live. That's what we thought this ending would be if we were going in that direction. And we wouldn't need nuclear weapons to land, it just would be that threat that made everybody realize that they are saying their last 20 minutes of whatever they want to say. That was the original B idea. Near the end, we didn't know what we were going to do if Trump announced too early. For our cause [laughs]. Too early for our cause.
How did you play with deja vu and history repeating itself while still keeping the story fresh?
Michelle: It was almost impossible not to. If the writers, and we, are paying attention, and the characters are paying attention, that's simply what's going on around them — that things that felt settled, like voting rights or abortion rights, are suddenly up for grabs.
Robert: Originally, we thought a lot more of the episodes of this year would be almost replays of what had been happening in other seasons. We started to back away because it started to even bore us, so I think you'll find that most of the deja vu talk is in the first two episodes. And then it becomes: How do you find peace outside of politics?
Michelle: Diane's journey is a recognition that the only peace she's going to find is to do what she knows how to do well, in spite of it all.
Dan Lawson did incredible work designing the costumes on this show, and we got a killer last outfit for Diane in this episode. What did you want to say with Diane's final look?
Michelle: We love the idea of her looking as magnificent and youthful and powerful as she ever has, right up to the end.
Robert: Metaphorically, it's her turning over a new leaf. When she takes off the clothes [she was wearing] because of the tear gas and puts on these, it's her taking on a new character, and Charmaine's character is very different from hers. Much more willing to take chances, more youthful, even more dangerous. That felt like what we wanted to have Diane be in this last episode. Having two men chase her up the stairwell to fight for her.
At the end of the credits, you've got an end card that says, "This all happened." What does that mean to you?
Robert: Think of it as a time capsule thing. For us, the show is bracketed by Trump's inauguration and Trump now running again, and there was just this insanity all throughout, and the insanity wasn't too different from what we all experienced. So to say at the end, "This is not a fairy tale. As stupid as this was, this all happened." You know, everybody would be lucky if their shows were even remembered three years from now or five years from now. It'd be lovely if this was [remembered as] one of the shows that really explored a very specific time that we lived through, and an interesting time, in a way that I don't think any other show has. I don't know if we should take credit for that or blame.