The February 2017 series premiere of The Good Fight, the spin-off of CBS’s Emmy-winning legal drama The Good Wife, was meant to usher in a season of triumph for both its characters and the country.
Set to arrive on the heels of what left-leaning pundits assumed would be a historic 2016 presidential election, The Good Fight would follow the resolutely liberal Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), one of the name partners at the law firm where The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) had first found her footing after her husband’s political scandal. As the new show’s protagonist, Diane would be self-assured, glamorous, and confident in the weight of her accomplishments. She would stand in front of her male co-workers in her iconic statement jewelry and tell them her retirement was deliciously inevitable: Why continue to practice law now that there were no more glass ceilings?
There was, of course, one minor hiccup: Three months before The Good Fight premiered, Hillary Rodham Clinton did not win the 2016 presidential election. As polling results began to roll in, the show’s cast and crew realized that their show about Diane Lockhart’s post-Hillary world would need to account for a seismic culture shift. “It was uncanny—that the beginning of The Good Fight became more about this sea change that we psychically and spiritually and politically experienced as a country,” Baranski said as we sat in the courtroom on the show’s set in Brooklyn recently. “It was as though we were starting again as women, or we were swept back by something we weren’t anticipating. So it was Season 1, and the day after the inauguration, the women on the show got on buses to Washington [for the Women’s March], and I remember saying to my friend, ‘Can you believe we’re still marching? For reproductive rights?’”
That sense of incredulousness pervades the show, which quickly embraced the seeming ridiculousness of Trump’s win—and the installation to the White House of a man who openly derides women and has been accused of sexual assault by several—as a staple of its narrative tension. The Season 1 premiere found the lawyer reacting with shock and horror to footage of Trump’s inauguration. She is visibly devastated, unquestionably angry. But then, right after Trump’s solemn swearing-in, Diane shuts off her television. She drops the remote and walks offscreen, a small gesture of defiance. It’s a bold start for a pilot, but it’s also the kind of scene that neatly encapsulates The Good Fight’s approach to the absurdity of the current political climate: leaning way, way in. (Fittingly, the episode is titled “Inauguration.”)