“And the Firm Had Two Partners…” marks midseason for season five of The Good Fight. In typical fashion, it’s an ambitious chapter, returning to COVID-specific conflict that has intermittently popped up throughout the season and also bringing Diane and Kurt’s tension to a head. We take a break from the zany shenanigans of Judge Wackner’s court and dive into the season’s most morbid episode to date. There’s still humor here, well blended with the horror, but the episode is at its best in its most nightmarish moments.
The case of the week concerns Rivi (Tony Plana, an excellent fifth season addition to the show’s arsenal of guest stars), freshly out of prison and seeking vengeance for the death of his daughter, which he believes was caused by negligence and medical racism at the hospital where she was being treated for COVID-19 early on in the pandemic. It’s an ideal case of the week for The Good Fight in the sense that it’s strong and compelling on its own but also plays a larger role in the narrative by touching one of our main characters.
As for standing on its own, the case yields exciting deposition scenes and introducing new players, like Rivi’s wife Isabel (Stephanie Nogueras), who’s cunning and perhaps more dangerous than she initially seems, and Ricardo “Racehorse” Diaz. Racehorse, and yes he really does insist upon being referred to as such, is an ideal foil for our team, fitting in well with the slew of characters on this show who are one-note and yet oh so fun to watch. He’s a slick, arrogant prick. It’s satisfying, and somewhat shocking, to see Rivi beat him bloody at the end of the episode. Racehorse never sees it coming, and it’s also a sharp and sudden reminder that Rivi is a nefarious character. The Good Fight, and The Good Wife before it, love to complicate the characters who would usually just be generic bad guys on other law/crime shows, and Rivi’s love for his daughter and wife reminisces of The Good Wife’s kingpin Lemond Bishop always striving to be a good father. He’s a wife guy, but he’ll still beat a lawyer’s ass in broad daylight. He’s the only one who seems to see promise in the season’s new kid lawyer Carmen Moyo (Charmaine Bingwa), but he also will send menacing threats via Charles Lester when he thinks the FBI is using Kurt to get to him.
But the real reason this case of the week compels is in how it awakens something in Jay. I’ve been a little skeptical of Jay’s hallucinations this season. On the one hand, it’s simply too silly, a gimmick that doesn’t operate on enough levels to feel like anything more than, well, a gimmick. On the other hand, it does feel like something that belongs in this show’s universe. This show gleefully turns the mundane into the absurd. So, it tracks that instead of just portraying normal long haul COVID symptoms, we get these historical hallucinations. It’s the exact kind of heightening this show loves to employ. I think what ultimately does make this thread cinch into place is how it cracks open in this episode. Suddenly, these hallucinations aren’t just a goofy bit. They almost seem like a coping mechanism Jay’s own brain has developed to conceal the trauma beneath.
In the end, it looks like Rivi’s daughter wasn’t the victim of medical racism, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t medical racism happening at the hospital. In investigating the case, Jay gradually unlocks his own memories. There are some truly unsettling scenes that unfold, including one in the hospital, where Jay navigates a COVID ward and seems trapped in a nightmare, the show’s usual bouncy orchestral score traded in for something thumpier that sounds like it’s straight from the Annihilation score. Indeed, several of these scenes with Jay have such a specific nightmare aesthetic to them, The Good Fight not pulling any punches in terms of how it portrays the early pandemic hospital scene as a horrorscape.
Jay ended up in “the pit,” a ventilator-less hospital breakroom converted into essentially a holding cell for patients deemed too far gone to save. Most of the patients transported to the pit were Black and brown. In an aerial shot, we see the terror of the pit, an isolating, lonely place where no visitors are allowed, bodies writhing on hospital beds. Jay bonds with a man named Woody there, but Woody never makes it out. Jay does, because someone calls in a favor. Of all the disturbing parts of this storyline, it’s perhaps most devastating to watch him try to figure out who called in that favor. In two very uncomfortable conversations, he asks Liz and Diane if it was either of them, and they sort of stammer out an apology and insist they didn’t know how bad off he was. The Good Fight has shined a light on some dark truths about the pandemic, including the vastly different ways it impacted people. Liz and Diane are the kind of powerful folks who mostly dealt with COVID as an inconvenience. Meanwhile, Jay, someone they spend so much of their time with, nearly died.
His actual guardian angel was David Lee, who says he only did it as a business decision. The reveal is a little surprising, but it does more than play on expectations. In fact, this is the expected conclusion the storyline has been building to: Surviving the pandemic is often a matter of power, of privilege. One chance phone call saved Jay’s life, and while he’s relieved to be alive, he also knows he could have ended up just like Woody. The system is beyond flawed. It’s punitive. While Jay’s total recall of things he saw in the pit—including specific numbers—certainly strains believability, the emotional stakes as well as the indictment of medical racism and power structures in the hospital ground the story.
The Good Fight likes to play around with expectations and often throws conventional structure out the door. I mean, look no further than the fact that it’s impossible to predict when the theme song will hit (nearly fifteen minutes in for this episode). But when it comes to Diane and Kurt’s arc in this episode, everything feels like it has been done before, because everything has basically been done before! We’ve seen them go through this exact conflict with each other over and over. The reveal that Diane betrayed Kurt last episode, leading to him firing her as his lawyer, was an effective turn, but it’s short-lived. Diane has been suggesting all season that there was a sharpening of their political differences in the wake of the insurrection, yet have we actually seen that lead to real consequences? Sure, she might not be his lawyer anymore, but we’re still getting the same old dialogue about the tension between their professional and personal relationships. Julius asks if he’s supposed to talk to her as his client’s wife or as a colleague. Kurt and Diane are still clinging to the belief that their fundamental differences can be ignored or, at least, repeatedly band-aided over.
Diane does go around Kurt’s back to threaten a woman from his gun club into exonerating him, and in general, Diane gets a lot of delicious moments in the episode, especially when she tells of Madeline Starkey in the office. But this push and pull between Diane and Kurt still lands in the same place it always does—with them quite literally embracing, dancing off their problems. If the insurrection was Diane’s breaking point in their marriage, we’ve yet to see that play out in any meaningful way other than her handing one guy in and Kurt firing her as his lawyer. I do think there’s something interesting about Diane Lockhart representing the type of wealthy white liberal woman who seems to think white supremacy died with the Trump administration and who’s willing to overlook her own husband’s connections to wildly right wing folks, but it’s unclear how aware the show’s writers are of that ethos. Diane and Kurt’s constant conflict followed closely by reconciliation suggests rather overtly that the personal and the political are extricable, and it’s becoming an exhausting storyline, oversimplifying things and wrapping conflict up too neatly.
That said, there are still some solid scenes concerning the B-plot of Diane and Kurt. One of my favorite bits of all time on this show is the curious case of Madeline Starkey and dead birds. It hits, pun intended, every time. And the stakes keep getting raised. This time, Diane meets with Madeline outside her office, so we’re thought to be safe, but nope! Dead birds still fall out of the sky, piling up next to them. It’s such a perfect example of how The Good Fight intermingles humor and horror and mines the mundane for absurdity. As a whole, Kurt and Diane’s arc lacks true twists and plays things too straight, but there are still small moments like these that harness the show’s weirdo voice. The Good Fight thrives when it throws caution to the wind, and while the COVID-horror story lands, this marriage divided remains in safe, well trodden territory.
- I’ll be back with another recap of the season finale in a few weeks!
- I do think Jay’s hallucinations would have maybe worked better all season if he only saw Woody and couldn’t really figure out who he was until this episode instead of, you know, gabbing with Jesus and Karl Marx etc. But I do somewhat like the idea of this strange (and sometimes ineffective) humor as a shield between him and the pain of remembering the pit.
- Racehorse is a great addition, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him.
- Marissa seems increasingly frustrated that the firm keeps treating her as an on-hand investigator and doesn’t take her seriously as a lawyer yet, so when is she just going to fully leave and join Wackner?
- I can’t yet really parse out who Carmen is as a player. Is she going to betray Liz? People are constantly underestimating her. She’s hard to read! Charmaine Bingwa has been fun to watch.
- Even though there was already plenty enough going on, I did miss Wackner in this episode.