The Good Fight series finale review: When a happy ending isn't very happy

The Good Fight series finale review: When a happy ending isn't very happy

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the series finale of The Good Fight.

"Nothing happens here," says Jay (Nyambi Nyambi). "What we build up one day gets knocked down the next." He might be the law firm's best employee, a Swiss-Army investigator who can shake facts out of NDAs or hack whatever the plot requires, plus also the gun stuff. Sonic screwdriver + tricorder + muscle = Jay. Now, 10 minutes before the end of The Good Fight, the show's most trustworthy character argues his whole show is pointless.

Jay is speaking from the wreckage. The finale climaxes with white supremacists free-firing into the offices of Reddick-Ri'Chard. In the aftermath, every window and piece of furniture has bullet holes. Still, Jay would have a good point if it weren't for the active shooter.

This courtroom drama's final case never even became a case. Fascist goof Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell) waltzes in with phony allegations about DeSantis. The con man's Ron job provokes a final attorney dialectic. Isn't Felix lying? But wouldn't this ice DeSantis' presidential chances? But then wouldn't that clear the way for Trump? But don't we want that because Trump can't possibly win? But didn't the Democrats think that in 2016? In the end, the partners pass. "This has been a waste of a day," sums up Ri'Chard (Andre Braugher). A waste and a nothing: How's that for a series finale mood?

The Good Fight
The Good Fight

Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+ Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, André Braugher as Ri’Chard Lane, Audra McDonald as Liz Reddick in 'The Good Fight'

"You can't think only about the bad," Ri'Chard cautions later, when everyone hides from sniper fire. There are hopeful things about "The End of Everything," and a couple ending-ish moments that let down the show's sharpest instincts. It's weird when Liz (Audra McDonald) lists random clients Diane (Christine Baranski) has helped. It's too simple for Kurt (Gary Cole) to quit the NRA. Co-creators Michelle and Robert King threw the last vestiges of professional realism out the window, so Ri'Chard and Liz are now co-running STR Laurie, and they've got an all-female Washington firm with Diane's name on it.

Witness victory from the jaws of defeat. Diane and Kurt reconcile. Diane ditches the villa life, rededicating herself to the law. The actual shooting is a deftly filmed slice of action. Robert King directed the episode, and he captures the hide-for-your-life terror. The whole season has built to this. Actually, the whole series: Unlike Mad Men, these opening credits really were a prophecy. The flower pot, the telephone, important books, a purse: They all explode from gunfire.

Nobody dies, which counts as a good 2022 day. "I like working here," Carmen (Charmaine Bingwa) tells Jay. "I still have something to learn here." She stays, he goes. Ambiguous? Both-sidesy? Good Fight privileges one perspective. We do not follow Jay to his new underground activist life, much as I wanted to see the Collective's racist Guantanamo in Antarctica. Pals Carmen and Marissa (Sarah Steele) say goodbye. Diane kisses Kurt. Liz joins Diane outside the office for some sum-it-all-up-pal dialogue. Good Fight was always wise in its deployment of the McDonald-Baranski fireworks. You don't need to oversell eight Tony Awards. They were work friends and circling titans — not overly invested in each other's personal life, but respectful of each other's toughness.

It's a credit to Good Fight's late-stage sturdiness that it could credibly end as the Liz and Diane Show, without even a glance back at the Boseman days. Just when it all seems a bit too too — romance and work and friendship all figured out for dear Diane! — the trap door opens. An episode-long countdown ends with onscreen text: "Time's Up." The women check their buzzing phones. Donald Trump will run in 2024. The cycle begins again: Liberal mouths agape as the thrice-married human orange prances back into American history. I will never listen to "Y.M.C.A." the same way. And I still haven't really stopped laughing.

The Good Fight hated Trump, in an explicit way that made a lot of nominally progressive TV series look shrouded or gutless. And for once, with this ending, the show may have actually been too pessimistic — however the votes shake out, it wasn't a great week for the ex-(and-future?)-president. But the series also hated what Trump was doing to people who hated Trump — and it was suspicious of the forces that created him. The fundamental antagonist might have actually been the media. Good Fight was often a TV show against television, which was obvious when season 5's fake court got cameras and lost its soul. But you could also point to The Big Six, a new kid-friendly mega franchise introduced in the finale, which transforms Civil Rights legends like John Lewis and Roy Wilkins into a superteam.

Liz licensed her late father's IP for half a million dollars a year. (Classic Tolkien grandchild profit strategy.) Still, she's suspicious. The dopey cartoon has a tie-in shooting game; James Farmer killing Klansman perhaps doesn't capture the spirit of the Civil Rights movement. Ri'Chard waves away her fragile sensibilities. He's a cynical realist, who doesn't care if Ford and Nike commercials use racial-equality speeches to sell sneakers. The entertainment will be educational. But what if the dumb game and the dumb cartoon are dumbing down history? What happens when the only way to teach moral righteousness is to give kids a digital gun? This in an episode where, you'll recall, everyone gets shot at.

A peppy finale, but look again. Good Fight ends with America in a semi-permanent Cold Civil War, with a well-funded vigilante society extraditing omnipresent white supremacists. The impotent Democrats are selling out to a tech billionaire and praying Dwayne Johnson chooses them over the Republicans (and Scorpion King 6). Police are useless, explosions are constant. From the jaws of victory, defeat. I think there's a reason that Good Fight over-indexes among journalists, since we know how it feels when an industry — and a whole framework for understanding the world — steadily collapses. Just what is the point, so many Good Fight characters and viewers wondered, when people lose faith in your institution's past, and hold no hope for its future? Why not become one more ravager dominating this ruined world — or just leave it all behind? This would be a great time for a speech about fighting the good fight. Sometimes, the truth is simpler. I like working here.

Finale grade: A-

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