The Good Fight, CBS’s new spinoff of the critical and fan darling The Good Wife, picks up during the worst moment of all of our lives—Donald Trump’s inauguration. It was an event none of us wanted to watch, but sort of had to just confirm it was real. On a significantly less Armageddon-scale, I had a similar feeling when sitting down to watch The Good Fight, though luckily to a much better outcome.
Perhaps it was the name, of which I was initially very skeptical but have come to accept. The lack of Cary Agos was another major blow to my excitement. Plus, the original series ended with a dud and had grown a bit stale towards the end—in part due to the loss of Archie Panjabi as Kalinda and a few too many and unnecessarily confusing story lines. (I could have done without 70 percent of the NSA plot points, myself.) However, I am happy to report that my fears were for naught.
The Good Fight offers the familiar formula that made The Good Wife so successful, which makes the carbon copy name of the series all the more apropos. Christine Baranski returns as the veteran Diane Lockhart, Rose Leslie joins as the wide-eyed newbie, Maia Rindell, and we get more of Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn, the shrewd brown woman who knows better than just about everyone else.
Like it did with Alicia Florrick, the series opens with Diane facing a personal disaster. On the heels of her retirement, a Ponzi scheme drains her savings, forcing her to return to work. With the wheels of her departure from the firm already in motion, Diane must turn to a somewhat unlikely ally for help, joining the firm of a one-time rival. Maia has recently passed the bar and struggles with her own connection to Diane’s financial ruin as well as managing her new career, while Lucca is living her damn life, sleeping with a very fine white boo, practicing law and rocking the hell out of that pixie cut.
It all makes so much sense and is exactly what I imagine we wanted: The Good Wife but not The Good Wife. Those who felt the original series ended with more ambiguity than necessary will find satisfaction here with some of the pressing questions from last season answered.
More than anything, The Good Fight gives us the wit and legal theatrics that made the original series so good, but with some necessary updates. There are only a few passing references to Alicia, and Eli Gold’s very particular brand of humor is replaced with his daughter Marissa.
For those feeling nostalgic, many familiar faces are still around including the (hilarious to some) bigoted and senile Howard Lyman, Diane’s husband Kurt McVeigh, the still weaselly David Lee, and Elsbeth Tascioni. The immeasurably luxurious Bernadette Peters joins as Maia’s mother and Delroy Lindo provides some necessary levity.
Most interesting is how they’ve put Diane in a fish-out-of-water setup rooted mainly in the fact that she’s white, while the rest of her new coworkers are black. It’s a decision with the potential to be successful and entertaining assuming there are some black writers on staff to keep things from going off the rails.
Though they didn’t do it particularly often, The Good Wife addressed race with a smart touch and frankly it only makes sense to bring more black people into the fold considering the show is set in Chicago. The premiere episode revolves around a case of police brutality which perhaps reflects a thematic shift from the original series along with a continuation of The Good Wife’s procedural-esque habit of dramatizing current events.
With USA’s Suits flailing a bit, The Good Fight will likely provide my new legal drama fix. The original series was always best when it focused on the relationships between Diane, Alicia and Kalinda and show creators Robert and Michelle King don’t seem to want to fix what ain’t broke.
Of course, this all means nothing if you’re not willing to pony up the $5.99 a month for CBS All Access where the series will air exclusively. If you’re still not sold, the The Good Fight premieres Sunday, February 19 at 8 pm on CBS proper, with future episodes released on Sundays for subscribers.