If you’re a fan of The Good Wife, as I am, you’ve likely eagerly been awaiting the spin-off, THE GOOD FIGHT, which finally premieres this Sunday on CBS. The series, which will only be available via CBS’s All Access streaming service after the pilot airs, is set one year after last spring’s series finale. While much of the show is the same, including plenty of returning faces, it also feels wholly different in both positive and negative ways.
I’m not going to lie, I was unpleasantly jarred when THE GOOD FIGHT fights first catches up with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), whose firm is now called Lockhart, Decker, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert-Lurie, Tannebaum, & Associates. Try saying that a few times fast. Not only has the name changed, but so have the sets. Gone are the familiar law offices we saw over seven seasons, and even Diane’s recognizable corner space. Instead, after merging with two other organizations, the digs are brand-new.
I can’t help but feel that change was unnecessary. While it makes for an easier separation between Diane and her practice, plot-wise, the same story could be accomplished without blowing up what came before. Given how much THE GOOD FIGHT keeps reminding us that this is set in the same universe, it feels very wrong to begin with the off-putting setting.
To play devil’s advocate, maybe this is done on purpose so that viewers aren’t sad when Diane does find the exit. Rather than hoping for some last-minute save that gets her back where we’ve come to think she belongs, by not having that home to return to any more, there’s no compelling reason to want her to go back. In that sense, it makes for a clean break.
In the first two episodes, Diane shares the central limelight with Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey), her goddaughter. Having just passed the bar, Maia is excited to go to work for Diane and the rest. But she barely gets settled in before her father, Henry (Paul Guilfoyle, CSI), is arrested for stealing millions of dollars from wealthy clients, including Diane. With her girlfriend and lawyer telling her to stay away from her mother, Lenore (Bernadette Peters, Mozart in the Jungle), until things get settled, which could take years, Maia is suddenly left with no job or family to speak of.
In a way, Maia is kind of like the new Alicia. Diane is somewhat of a mentor to her, but they aren’t super close friends. Maia is going through rough scandal because of what a loved one did, which makes her presence in a court room a distraction, welcome or not. She is young and strong and building her life, like Alicia was doing for the second time when The Good Wife started.
However, there are some very stark differences in THE GOOD FIGHT, too. The firm for which Diane and Maia go to work, where Lucca (Cush Jumbo) has already relocated prior to the series begins, is quite different from any seen on The Good Wife. THE GOOD FIGHT has different music, different lighting, and different direction, too, making it feel like its own thing right away. Plus, it’s hard not to mention the cursing, which feels natural to the characters, more so than avoiding it did in certain parts of The Good Wife.
Once THE GOOD FIGHT settles in to what it is, getting past the initial event, it quickly gets very good. It has solid cases and interesting ongoing narrative arcs. It isn’t a copy of its predecessor, but there are a LOT of returning characters, including Sarah Steel in a welcome lead role as Marissa. It also has a lot of new roles, such as Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo, Blood & Oil) and Barbara Kolstad (Erica Tazel, Justified), partners at Diane’s new job. It has something to say, as The Good Wife did, but is fresh in its approach to it. This balance of continuation and completely new is effective, and I wish I’d had more than two episodes to watch ahead of time.
Of course, the big question is whether to shell out for CBS All Access. As someone who canceled cable, I went ahead and got my subscription. It’s how I’ve continued to watch CBS shows. However, were I still getting a strong cable signal into the house (my antenna is unreliable), I’m not sure I’d want to pay $10 for a single show. (As someone who’s had a DVR since 2005, the cheaper subscription that includes commercials is not even something I’d consider.) The network doesn’t have enough offerings to fully justify the expense, even for someone who has cut the cord, but I do it begrudgingly for now, especially with Star Trek: Discovery joining THE GOOD FIGHT later this year. While I want people to subscribe and watch this show so it can continue, I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t, as the network has not made a compelling case for its ridiculously high fee. So I won’t recommend signing up, though I selfishly hope lots of people do.
THE GOOD FIGHT begins this Sunday on CBS and CBS All Access, continuing only on the latter from week two onward.