In the opening scene of The Good Fight (premiering Sunday, Feb. 19 at 8/7c on CBS and CBS All Access), liberal warrior Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski, reprising her role from The Good Wife) is watching a playback of President Trump’s inauguration on TV, and the horror and disgust on her face is unmistakable. It’s a timely and darkly amusing sequence that also proves to be the premiere’s weakest.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, series creators Robert and Michelle King acknowledged that the scene in question was a last-minute add. “Like most pollsters, we thought Hillary Clinton would win, so we wrote scenes about Diane retiring from the law because she ‘broke every glass ceiling,'” they said. “Obviously we needed to rewrite [it].”
Fair enough. The problem, however, is that while a Clinton victory would’ve served as the perfect springboard for what happens next, a Trump win does not. So it’s jarring when, immediately following that ominous, demoralizing introduction, we cut to the South of France, where a happy, sated and all zen-like Diane is plunking down a 1.5 million euros to buy her dream villa, after which she triumphantly announces her retirement to her fellow partners at the now-ginormous Lockhart Deckler Gussman Lee Lyman Gilbert Lurie Kagan Tannenbaum & Assoc.
On the bright side, the rest of the opening hour is so strong that you quickly forget about the continuity-challenged start. It helps that a Trump presidency quickly becomes the least of Diane’s worries. Just as she’s preparing to launch her lavish, low-key second act, she gets word that her entire life’s fortune — including her retirement fund — has been Madoff’d by her accountant, leading her to drop the episode’s first of many wonderfully liberating F-bombs. (CBS All Access, baby!) It also propels her into the unusual position of underdog, which, in turn, allows Baranski to show us her alter ego at her most broken and vulnerable. Not surprisingly, the actress rises to the occasion, thereby confirming what many a Good Wife fan suspected going in: Baranski makes a helluva leading lady.
And the Emmy winner is in very good company. Fellow Good Wife standout Cush Jumbo is back as steely Lucca (whose shoulder chip has become considerably more pronounced in the intervening year), and Game of Thrones‘ Rose Leslie makes a solid first impression as Diane’s goddaughter Maia, who also happens to be the offspring of Diane’s allegedly duplicitous accountant. The scandal enveloping Maia’s dad casts a shadow over the nascent lawyer’s first week as an associate and essentially sets her up as the Alicia of the story.
Suffice it to say, Diane is forced to call off her retirement and continue practicing law, but not at Lockhart Deckler Gussman, etc., where her plea to rescind her resignation is flatly denied by that weasel David Lee (Zach Grenier). Without giving too much away, she takes a job with the only firm that will hire her (hint: it’s the one that also employs Lucca) and brings Maia along with her.
The premiere spends a fair amount of time laying pipe, so Episode 2 provides a more accurate picture of what the series will look like moving forward. And it looks really good. As with The Good Wife, the offshoot juggles a case of the week with several serialized — and thus far compelling — story threads (one of which is the mystery over what really happened to Diane’s fortune). Good Wife fans will also recognize the dramatic score and the Kings’ signature breakneck pacing, as well as additional familiar faces, most notably the sublime Sarah Steele as Eli’s no-nonsense daughter Marissa.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: The Good Fight stumbles a bit after the bell but quickly recovers to deliver, if not a K.O., at the very least a victory by unanimous decision.