The Good Fight tackles online abuse – and gets pummeled in the process.
It’s a busy week on The Good Fight! Having recently moved all of his business to Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad, ChumHum CEO Neill Gross (John Benjamin Hickey) has a massive task for his lawyers: develop an airtight terms-of-service agreement in order to limit the alt-right (a group of people with conservative ideologies) harassment on his platform. After reviewing thousands of comments, the firm’s legal team clashes on where to draw the line between free speech and hate speech – sparking vigorous debate.
In the end, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) suggests banning all accounts spewing hateful comments – but setting up an appeals process for further review. Problem solved, right? Wrong.
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Instead of casually reading through the hateful comments, the creators chose to include interstitials of men delivering their tirades on-camera. One of these men – Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell) – is summoned before the panel in order to defend his online statements. While it seems obvious he will never regain access to his profile, the writers (Robert & Michelle King) manage to put on a show for Barbara (Erica Tazel) and Adrian (Delroy Lindo). Ultimately, the abusers start using Neil Gross’ name as a replacement for the N-word and he directs Diane (Christine Baranski) to overturn the ban – talk about an anti-climax.
In some disconnected part of the episode, Maia (Rose Leslie) learns that her father (Paul Guilfoyle) might be working against her – to the advantage of none other than Mike Kresteva (Matthew Perry). Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) was also present but she made no real mark on this week’s convoluted storyline – what a shame.
Money can buy anything – but respect.
After last week’s surprise cameo, Neil Gross (John Benjamin Hickey)) is officially back for more. When we last saw him on The Good Wife, the ChumHum CEO was flawlessly depicted as your typical Silicon Valley wizard – bringing in millions at the touch of a button. This season, however, the writers are exposing a more insidious side of the tech mogul as he approaches Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad. While Gross insists he loves all of their “black faces”, he only acknowledges Diane (Christine Baranski) – the highest-ranking white person at the firm.
This scene, much like the entire episode, brings to light a more obscure form of racism in which overcompensation is key. In a way, this dilemma pertinently illustrates the main issue of the show: The Good Fight continually claims to oppose inequality but regularly fails to deliver on this promise. Instead of delving below the surface, the show sidesteps how its African-American characters are impacted emotionally by the racism perpetuated on a daily basis.
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“He misspelled my name.”
“He’s bringing in 86 million a year. I’ll teach him how to spell your name.”
Missing: Cook County State’s Attorney.
Doesn’t it just strike you as odd that we have no idea who the current State’s Attorney is? For seven lengthy seasons of The Good Wife, Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) boasted about the power he possessed as an elected official – which is why it was so strange we didn’t know who replaced him. Until now.
When Colin Morello (Justin Bartha) – a rising star at the State’s Attorney’s office – reports back to his boss, we finally get a glimpse of the man who took over the most corrupt office in Chicago. Interesting, because we’re only treated to a brief conversation between the two. Where The Good Wife continuously emphasized the prominence of this position, its successor totally disregards our well-conditioned esteem for the job. Even though we’re only treated to a brief conversation between the two, Mr. State’s Attorney still manages to throw some shade. Some things will never change.
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“Report back to me on their progress.” – State’s Attorney
“Will I have veto power?” – Colin Morello
“No. Oversight power.” – State’s Attorney
“What is that?” – Colin Morello
“It’s like a drone without bombs.” – State’s Attorney
Julius Caine, a lost cause.
For weeks on end, we have been mulling over the significance of a character like Julius Caine (Michael Boatman). While there is tremendous potential for him to break out of old habits, the writers don’t seem to recognize the opportunity. Ever since The Good Fight started airing, Julius Caine has been ‘the counterargument’, the other voice. While most of the cast portrays liberal characters adhering by leftist ideologies, Caine is the sole Trump-voice in an African-American law firm. That should be interesting, layered and nuanced television – but it isn’t.
When Julius defends the alt-right abuse by invoking the 1st amendment, he displays a lack of compassion that only Donald Trump himself could appreciate. Failing once again to further develop his political beliefs, Julius quits the firm at the end of the episode. While his arc is definitely not complete, we have officially given up hope of him becoming a three-dimensional character. Instead, he’ll just end up a boiler-plate villain. Shame.
“You just lost your most loyal employee – Julius Caine
The alt-right is all wrong.
Much like its predecessor, The Good Fight solves challenging problems in a creative way. While this episode is heavy on written comments, it never bores its audience. The showrunners have cleverly opted to include interstitials of characters delivering their tirades on-camera – effectively providing the anonymous cynics with a face. Hearing those shameful words aloud makes them feel that much more personal – and repulsive. Let’s just say we’re happy this show isn’t airing on network television.
The moment Maia (Rose Leslie) casually reads one the comments – before cutting to the interstitials – proves to be one of significant value. Contrasting her indifference to the room’s shock was a beautifully orchestrated move. Kudos.
“I’m hoping they find your address. I hope they cut off your nipples and rape you in a pool of blood” – Anonymous
A Staple of animosity.
Much to our surprise, Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) was not this week’s most bizarre character. Instead, Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell) – a dramatic Milo Yiannopoulos-esque provocateur – took home that honor. Brought before ChumHum’s appeals committee, Felix revels in attention as he proclaims himself a martyr to the firm’s “political correctness”.
While most of his scenes don’t feel organic at all, there’s a universal truth to this character that plays out beautifully: as soon as the committee decides it has heard enough, Staples’ energy dwindles down. The lesson here is that hate speech is like a blazing fire – take away the oxygen, and it dies down. Feed it, and it will keep spreading. The Good Universe has always been King at delivering these types of metaphors and even with contrived characters like Felix Staples, it manages to get some things right.
“Damian is a gay prostitute, whom I paid 50 dollars to blow me. Right now. Who’s the conservative?” – Felix Staples
Final Verdict: absorbed by criticism, The Good Fight loses track of the bigger picture – failing its outstanding cast and crew.
We were surprised to learn that this week’s episode was written by the show’s creators, Robert & Michelle King. Looking back at their track record, some of our favorite hours have been penned by the couple and we couldn’t help but be disappointed by their latest venture. While director Jim McKay’s approach to the hate comments makes for a dynamic episode, the plot itself fails to further develop any of the and characters we have come to know and love.
In the next couple of episodes, we hope that The Good Fight gets back on track. While tackling current issues and themes is appropriate given this show’s background, it is important to remember story always comes first. Taking a political stance is fine – as long as it doesn’t overpower.
Having watched the first five episodes, we’re confident the show can get back to its former greatness. And we can’t wait.