A warning for fans of The Good Fight: The sixth and final season feels different. The Paramount+ original returns after its stellar fifth season—which included COVID hallucinations and Hal Wackner’s copy-house court—with a more muted, realistic vibe. There are no Epstein-scale conspiracies or fictionalized political figures popping up in scenes, and even Jonathan Coulton’s beloved Schoolhouse Rock-style explainers are missing. It’s very much The Good Fight stripped down to its basic, surrealist trademarks, as the show wraps up with an examination of our present, more pessimistic cultural climate.
Part of season six’s muting comes from Diane (Christine Baranski), who takes more of a back seat this time around. After her white-feminist ideals were challenged throughout season five, which finished with her agreeing to step down as partner, the intrepid attorney returns from vacation to a new office on the associates’ floor. The regression of progress, both in her career and our world after the end of Roe v. Wade, has Diane feeling that she’s stuck in a loop of deja vu. So she turns to Dr. Lyle Bettencourt (John Slattery) and a somehow-legal prescription hallucinogen called PT108. While the chemistry between Baranski and Slattery is obvious, the extended time with High Diane is this subplot’s strong point, with callbacks to previous seasons where she took the edge off through micro-dosing and weed gummies.
Meanwhile, the struggle over control of the firm falls on Liz (Audra McDonald) and the new name partner, Ri’Chard Lane (Andre Braugher). Lane operates through ostentatiousness and prayer, shaking up the office from the moment he walks out of the elevator and commands the biggest office on the partners’ floor, gathering associates and moving artwork while Liz is out at court. The duo’s conflict continues the partner power struggles that have been a common go-to throughout both The Good Fight and its predecessor The Good Wife. And while it feels like a rehash at the start, luckily any hint of a rut melts away as Liz (and the audience) begins to see through the brash show Ri’Chard wears as armor.
Amid the lawyers’ day-to-days, there’s a war going on. Season six has the two series’ most meta (and maybe their most ambitious) arc, with constant protests that become more sinister (flash bombs, tear gas) and unambiguous episode by episode.
Each of the Reddick/Boseman/Lockhart/Ri’Chard (it barely matters whose name is on the marquee at this point) lawyers have different responses to this omnipresent tension. Carmen keeps moving forward, taking on more criminal clients and immersing herself in a danger she can control. In a callback to season three’s Melania Trump storyline, Liz tries to find common, apolitical ground with a prominent conservative. Meanwhile, Marissa and Jay slowly switch their focus from court battles to the streets, with different reactions to the violence. There’s always been a hint of existential doom floating through The Good Fight, but now the threat of death gets right into the characters’ faces.
This final season is a love letter to both The Good Wife and The Good Fight, delighting in several throwback nods even before fan-favorite characters like Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) and Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) pop up. Such tributes can sometimes make a series’ final season feel like an assignment for diehard fans, but these, especially Eli and Marissa’s multi-episode father-daughter plot, keep the show exciting, as does the addition of Braugher. Whether it’s through an appearance or a mention, several major characters get their moment, with more to hopefully come in the back half of the season—and, yes, that includes Alicia Florrick. (We watched five episodes for this review.)
Within the weekly cases and the familiar faces and dynamics, The Good Fight seems to be ending in a way that honors six seasons of excellent TV and also acknowledges that constantly fighting the good fight can be exhausting. As always, it encapsulates the national mood, which currently includes a good amount of burnout and dejection. It’s comfortable with being bleak, though, because joy still shines through, letting us laugh at the absurdity from time to time. And that awareness of the beauty within the bullshit is why this final season, like the ones that came before it, is a must-watch.