UK TV review: The Good Fight Season 3
Ivan Radford | On 18, Mar 2021
The Good Fight Season 4 begins at 9pm on More4 on Thursday 18th March. Never seen The Good Fight? Read our spoiler-free review of Season 1 here.
“Does everything have to be an argument?” asks Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) in Season 3 of The Good Fight. When a legal drama reaches the point where its characters are questioning that, you can tell that things have reached stretching point. And yet that’s where this spin-off from The Good Wife really excels, capturing the state of a nation where tensions are high and patience is frayed.
Over all three seasons to date, the show has dazzled consistently with its fearless appetite for turning topical issues into thrilling drama, provocative debate and hugely entertaining dilemmas. Season 3 gets off to a flawless start by centring on non-disclosure agreements – complete with an animated short explaining NDAs to the non-lawyers watching at home – and the subjects of them inevitably involve a past #MeToo incident involving Reddick, the firm’s former (now deceased) lead partner. Boseman leads the company as they try to navigate the aftermath of the discovery and do the right thing – both for the parties concerned and the company’s commercial wellbeing – and he’s backed up with heart, humour and humanity by Audra McDonald as Liz, Reddick’s daughter, Michael Boatman as Julius Cain, the firm’s pragmatic veteran, and Sarah Steele as the scene-stealing investigator Marissa.
That sets the tone for a season in which the firm and its employees are constantly asking themselves who they are. After two seasons of taking on the world with gung-ho determination, they now turn their gaze inwards to examine how they’re responding to the ever-shifting reality around them. What emerges over the 10 episodes is a company falling into division, and writers Michelle and Robert King intentionally pull apart their ensemble to focus on them as individuals as well as a team.
That means more time for Cush Lumbo to dazzle as Lucca, who finds herself trolled online after people thinking she’s kidnapping a baby. While facing that kind of racial prejudice in public, she also finds herself in competition for a partner spot with Rosalyn (Christina Jackson), which then questions who out of the two Black women would be a better choice for the company’s image. A conversation in the board room in which she points out that none of the white employees at the firm can remember the names of the many victims of police killings in recent years is precisely the kind of well observed detail that makes The Good Fight stand out from the prestige drama pack, weaving wider commentary into character-driven confrontations and decisions.
Nothing in the show is quite as confrontational as Roland Blum, a loud, brash and completely corrupt lawyer played with scene-stealing relish by Michael Sheen. Devouring the scenery with his larger-than-life presence, he derails any attempt at justice by the books, whether he’s playing nice with Boseman or enacting a vendetta against his firm. He’s the whirlwind of chaos in a Trump society personified, and watching Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) get pulled into the storm is a joy.
Maia has always been a slightly awkward distraction from the stronger elements of the show, but Season 3 is where The Good Fight finally works out what to do with her, giving her the kind of plot line that the character both needed and deserved. Leslie sinks her teeth into Maia’s increasingly tough edge, as she follows Blum’s lead and becomes increasingly calculating to achieve her aims – a ruthless streak learned the hard way after a stint in a soul-destroying call centre. By the end of the show, she and Blum are both heading for the exit, but in a way that makes sense for each of them – and also involves some killer fashion choices.
Christine Baranski is, it goes without saying, fabulous as Diane Lockhart, whose own experience of NDAs gets a little more personal, fuelling her own campaign for change. And, the more she gets drawn into an extreme group fighting to stop Donald Trump getting re-elected, the more Baranski’s sing-song defiance of expectations continues to entertain; she’s at home swinging an umbrella around like a spy as she is facing down Blum in court, and never does quite what you think to resolve a mess. It’s only fitting that she’s with Kurt (the brilliant Gary Cole), who is torn between doing the right thing and furthering his career by tolerating his own connections with Trump’s family – a twisting situation that you’re never quite sure how Diane’s going to react to.
She’s not the only one trying to work out who she is, with Julius (the show’s MVP, Michael Boatman) in particular enjoying the chance to take central stage as he plots a move into federal judgeship. The token conservative in a liberal firm, it’s all too apt that his potential departure is what sends fresh fissures through the organisation, highlighting the racial divisions and presumptions that sit quietly underneath the desks of even this most superficially confident outfit. “We’re family,” Julius remarks at one point, and the bickering that intimacy entails has rarely been so visible, with every conversation about salaries and promotions deliciously spiky.
Throughout this turmoil, Nyambi Nyambi’s superbly performed Jay DiPersia and Marissa are a lovely, heartwarming constant, their ability to work together as fixers and fact-finders rather than compete with each other marking the path forward – one rooted in honesty, co-operation and communication.
But while that sounds quite serious, The Good Fight’s third season is also its funniest yet, as the writers get increasingly meta in their jokes. Zippy scripts and case-of-the-week ethical challenges never fail to entertain, but they’re punctuated by such flourishes as Blum recruiting a show audience to cheer and boo in court, Jay drawing cartoon characters to explain complex matters to a dim, Trump-appointed judge, even more animated shorts (including one explaining how they can’t show a TV clip due to copyright reasons), and some text pointing out an iPhone bug that’s been fixed since the show was written. It peaks, perhaps, with the casting of Downton Abbey star Gary Carr in a cameo that’s uproariously funny and unabashedly romantic.
And yet as daft and overwritten as The Good Fight gets, this is still a show about how ridiculous real life has become in recent years, and the series sketches out its backdrop with scorching details, from bent judges to riots breaking out at polling booths. Even when a judge makes the right call about preserving the basic tenets of the legal ecosystem, he does it for the wrong reason.
To say that the season closes on an apocalyptic note is no real spoiler, then, as lightning balls are reported on the news – a sign of the end times, as one character interprets them, although the end times, arguably, have been hailed by the show for some time. And so things once again wheel back around to the same conversation that Boseman was having at the end of Season 1, when he argued that the law would be the one truth to hold to and save the company and the country amid unrest and uncertainty. Delroy Lindo’s performance, which deserves all the awards for the way he balances humour and gravitas, has never been better than when he finds himself on the witness stand. “I won’t be held to account because the firm that I helped to build doesn’t conform to your idea of a Black law firm,” he declares.
It’s a rousing reminder of his conviction in doing the right thing, and of the way that this show continues to admire the audacity of facing down attacks with nothing but good old-fashioned words. Is everything an argument? In an age where facts are up for debate, The Good Fight suggests that it is – but a shocking cliffhanger, involving a SWAT team, leaves us wondering whether even that will be enough to survive.
The Good Fight: Season 1 to 3 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.