"Chaos," the Season 1 finale of The Good Fight, certainly lived up to its name in that a lot of crazy stuff happened throughout the episode. Not all of that craziness worked on a dramatic level, but it was still a generally entertaining hour that rarely sagged.
The bulk of the finale's nuttiness centered around the appearance of Dylan Stack (Jason Biggs), a technology lawyer who, when he first appeared on The Good Wife back in 2012, may or may not have invented Bitcoin. Here, he claimed that someone was trying to frame him for an impending cyber attack on Chicago's power grid by planting the malware code on his laptop. So far, this was pretty fine. Stack has always been a quirky -- if shifty -- character, and as someone whose history with the character dates back to Wife, I was having questions about the validity of his claim before the show even broached the topic.
Lucca (Cush Jumbo) brought the code on a flash drive to the Department of Justice office, handed it over to Colin (Justin Bartha) and, after some icy post-break-up conversation, went on her way. And here is where things went horribly awry for the characters but also for for the episode. Colin turned the code over to Dincon (Adam Heller), who then proceeded to just plug the flash drive right into his work computer.
Now, putting aside whether or not you trust Stack at this point, a senior official within the DOJ plugging a flash drive that contains malware code into his own computer is just insanely stupid. Surely the DOJ has a cyber crime branch -- or at least a smart IT person -- who would advise against plugging in a foreign flash drive into a computer connected to a federal government network.
It was a very flimsy contrivance that spurred on the rest of the episode. It needed to happen this way so that Dincon had a reason to come after Lucca to A) have a way to try and get to Stack and B) spur Maia (Rose Leslie) into being more assertive and aggressive, motivated by them coming after Lucca. That it rested on the DOJ looking deeply inept, and there was apparently no fallout for Dincon being a world-class dummy, made the whole thing decidedly inelegant.
The rest of the plot had to move probably a bit too quickly to make sure it can get to its resolution, including a quick sprint to bring back Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell) as Stack's partner in cyber crime. The entire storyline was almost worth it -- beyond what it did for Maia -- as the series returned, again, to this idea what causes are worth fighting for and how and why you fight them. Stack wanted actual change and revolution (you guessed it: he's a Bernie bro), and he was willing to start staging power outages across the U.S. to make a point. Staples, really, just wanted to have fun and see what would happen next (connected to being a bored, wouldn't-it-be-funny-if Trump voter).
I'm glad that Fight keeps returning to this issue of doing "right," as it's baked not only into the title but how the show has steered into the present political moment through the firm's stated ideology. Not too many shows have leaned in as hard as Fight has, but it gives what could otherwise be a reheated or stale law show some real freshness.
The other portion of "Chaos" dealt with Maia attempting to be more assertive and present in the firm. She's competent and quick, but there is (as I'm sure we're all aware at this point) a lack of temerity that has made her a decidedly passive presence on a show on which she's ostensibly a co-lead. So this chance to jump to Lucca's defense by shadowing Adrian (Delroy Lindo) and eventually filling in for him in court (and having to deal with Staples, no less), was a much-welcomed one. I loved her refusal to let up on Dincon in court, pointing out his attempt to play on the judge's religion to maintain an objection. It was a good way to show us, and herself, just how good she can be.
Sadly, the rest of Maia's time was spent wrapping up some Rindell stuff. I'm hopeful that in Season 2 we won't have to sit through phone conversations of Henry (Paul Guilfoyle) and Maia straining to communicate, because there's simply nothing dramatically engaging about their relationship that helps to carry those elliptical chats. Of course, given that Henry bolted and left Maia on the hook for her failure to disclose that she knew about the Ponzi scheme, it might mean that there likely won't be any chance for those conversations soon.
Maia, of course, is not going to end up in prison for very long, if at all. (At least I hope not.) Given how she sprang to Lucca's defense, I'm sure Lucca will agitate for the firm to return the favor in Season 2. I do hope, however, that Henry's actions result in an honest-to-God break between father and daughter. Maia's always been mostly on his side through all this, but I feel like there's not much left for this relationship, especially once Maia finds out the deal Henry cut and then bailed on, something I'm sure Dincon will inform her of.
Overall, this first season has been strong, if a bit weird (in a good way). Again, the show tapping into the current political zeitgeist proved to be a major part of its success. It provided The Good Fight with a shocking amount of relevancy that I don't think it would've had if Hillary Clinton had won the election, or if the writers and producers only engaged with real life every now and then.
The result was a law show that exploited actual politics and discourses of what the "right" thing is in a similar way in which its predecessor dealt with technological advancements and, independent of its emphasis on technology, how one keeps one's morality in tact. Wife was a much broader show in that way (albeit in keeping with TV trends of the time), while Fight is very much of the moment. And you can chalk some of that up to the fact that, if Fight aired on CBS and not All Access, it may not have been as aggressive in its stances.
That political emphasis, however, created something of a bizzaro vibe as the Rindell storyline felt like family melodrama poorly stitched into a political law firm melodrama. So every time that the Rindells intruded, despite being the catalyst for the show's premise, it was a weird tonal swerve that the season could never correct, let alone make feel like it belonged in the show -- which Wife managed to achieve with the Florricks' home lives with some degree of ease.
I'm curious about what Season 2 will be, however. Given that the series is off until 2018, there's at least seven months worth of political happenings that it can't engage with but will have to acknowledge in some way when it returns. (Maybe a time jump?) Either way, it'll be interesting to see how Fight adjusts to whatever political landscape it finds itself in when it returns.
One thing I do want for certain, however, is a defter balancing of character. Maia kept fading in and out through the season, and Leslie is, frankly, too good to waste like that, especially given her obvious chemistry with the rest of the cast. Given that I think it's fair to say Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad won't be cutting Maia loose, Season 2 would be a good time to really let her shine.
Similarly, other characters deserve some more play as well. Barbara (Erica Tazel) was sorely underused, and given her implied concerns over Diane (Christine Baranski) and Adrian's friendship, there's plenty of good material to mine from that. Even Diane herself and her too-quickly-remedied financial situation deserved a longer leash than it received, and now with her apparently renewed relationship (praise be!) with Kurt (Gary Cole), some dedicated time with Diane's state of mind would be more than welcomed, too. In short, as much as I have loved the show's political bent -- and, truly, I do -- more emphasis on character will be a good adjustment to the series.
And I think that Fight can achieve this. Ten episodes isn't a lot of room to play with, so having a clearer sense of seasonal plotting -- the Rindell scandal simply drifted after the premiere -- will allow for a pace that either enhances character or will allow the writers to integrate character arcs within the main plot with a defter hand. Gestures were certainly made with Lucca and Colin's relationship, but their storyline needed more to it than sexy flirty times and road sex.
That this is my major expectation for a second season speaks to the strength of Fight's first season. There doesn't need to be a total overhaul or retooling. Tweaks and adjustments are all that needed for the show to find its next level, and I very much believe that The Good Fight can punch up even more.
Season 1 of The Good Fight is available to stream on CBS All Access.
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