Pilot: The Good Fight and TV Retrospective: The Good Wife

Yeah, I know, I’m two weeks late to writing this. College has been leaving me exhausted and uninterested in writing here. But better late than never, right?

I think I’d probably consider The Good Wife one of my favorite TV shows. I’d definitely call it one of the best I’ve seen, although I don’t watch a lot of prestige TV so that might not be saying much. Still, I think it earned its frequent classification as “the best show on network TV,” and it’s one of two shows I’ve ever seen manage to reinvigorate itself and even possibly reach its peak after season three.

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Juliaana Marguiles absolutely killed it in this role.

But let’s start with the beginning. The Good Wife came about when network TV was still mostly focused on procedurals, and on CBS no less, where procedurals still reign supreme. And in some ways I think the show was strongest in its early seasons when it had to play by these procedural rules, as I remember the cases of the week being more interesting and effective than later in the show, where they got less screentime and often felt perfunctory.

I think it was season four, though, where I stopped watching the show for a period because, well, it got pretty bad. The serialized conflicts began to feel stale and the cases of the week felt pointless, and of course there was the total mess that was Kalinda’s husband.

Luckily, though, I got back on board early in season five, because that season was possibly The Good Wife‘s best. Over the course of the season the show shook up its entire status quo in a way that brilliantly intertwined the interpersonal drama and power struggle machinations that were the show’s strengths. Even the previously-staid cases of the week were more interesting since many of them now saw the protagonists on opposite sides of the courtroom.

I’m not as hard as seasons six and seven as other people seemed to be, but they were certainly a letdown after season five’s peak. Still, Lucca Quin was a fantastic character, which is impressive given the typical quality of characters introduced for a show’s final season (see Jason Crouse, who was also introduced in season seven and kind of sucked), and the show did a good job bringing back past characters for one last hurrah. I don’t think the actual end to the show quite worked, but given the show’s strong body of work I’m not sure that’s a huge deal.

So that brings us to The Good Fight, which picks up a year after the end of The Good Wife.

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That “hand on the neck” pose is sooo unnatural-looking.

I wasn’t totally sold on this show on paper. It had potential–promoting Lucca to protagonist role sounded awesome, and the ability to refocus a bit and shed some of the baggage from The Good Wife (Alicia’s kids, ugh!) could allow for improvement over that show. But at the same time, there was the possibility that the show would feel kind of pointless, adrift, by picking up in the same place as the show it’s a spin-off from except now without the main character.

But no, the pilot was really damn good and absolutely feels like it has a purpose. Some of it is simply due to the world we live in–an older, powerful, unabashed liberal and feminist woman, a black woman, and a lesbian as your three protagonists is pretty much a “screw you” to our 45th president–but most is outright on the strength of the writing. Diane was always a fantastic character and getting the opportunity to see more of her inner life after all these years is engrossing. Meanwhile, Lucca was one of the best things of the final season of The Good Wife and has a ton of potential as a protagonist. The pilot didn’t give a lot of development to Maia, the third lead, but she should be good as a link to the serialized plot and outsider to the show’s world.

Beyond just the strength of the lead characters, though, this is show creators and writers Michelle and Robert King at their best. The dialogue is snappy, the pacing perfect, the tone perfectly blending situational humor with high-stakes emotional and social drama. This is one of the best-crafted pilots I remember ever seeing, and I can only hope the rest of the series holds up to this level of quality.

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