On Friday, the creators and stars of Paramount+ legal drama The Good Fight gathered for a virtual ATX panel, teasing what’s to come in Season 5.
As has always been the case, the show will be shaped, this go-round, by events playing out on the world stage. Some of the most influential, per co-creator, showrunner and EP Robert King, were the events that unfolded in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of this year. “I do think this season is influenced by January 6 more than anything,” he said, “the sense that the country is broken up a bit, and is there a way to bring it back together?”
The other events that shaped Season 5 in major ways were the murder last May of Minneapolis native George Floyd, and America’s subsequent reckoning with its history of systemic racism. Issues of race are explored this season after Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart’s loss of two top lawyers, including Adrian (Delroy Lindoy), leads to friction between Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald). At a pivotal moment for both their company and the country as a whole, they are both forced to question how appropriate it is for Diane to remain as one of the most powerful figures within a predominantly African-American law firm.
“Once Adrian leaves the firm…Liz is having to step into even more of a leadership position, and as the top Black lawyer at this firm, she has to step into this thorny issue. I think she very much likes the idea of the firm being led by women, but understands the optics of it being dominated by someone white,” said McDonald. “It’s a difficult dance she has to do, because she also very much respects Diane. They have a complicated but deep friendship and have been through a lot together, so it’s a very tricky spot.”
Robert King said during the panel, moderated by NPR’s Eric Deggans, that the show won’t look to present “easy answers,” as this storyline unfolds.
“I don’t know if we’ll have any resolution. I think the show speaks to how intelligent human beings are trying to find the language of reconciliation, and trying to figure it out,” added Baranski. “We’re living the questions. We don’t have answers; we’re walking question marks.”
Both Baranski and McDonald praised Robert King and co-creator/showrunner/EP Michelle King for their willingness to examine complex subjects with total authenticity. “What I always say about the Kings is they always step up to the line…and say, ‘This is what’s happening’ and shine a light on it,” said McDonald. “They’re not afraid to get messy, and that’s what happens this season: It gets messy.”
While Michelle King said the show’s examination of “Liz and Diane’s struggle with each other in their partnership” might not have come about, if not for the events of the past year, she’s wary to touch yet on their long-term impact on small-screen storytelling. “In terms of impact on the industry, that will be a great discussion to have in two years because I think it will [reveal] how much of this talk [of change] is real. Because three years ago, people were very interested in #MeToo and what that meant for women, and we don’t hear much of that talk anymore,” she said. “So, while we hope that conversation will be ongoing, it’s a little bit of ‘We’ll see.’”
Patinkin wasn’t inclined to spill the beans about his judge character, though he spoke at length about how much being part of the show has meant to him. “I’m learning about this guy [Wackner] every minute of every day,” he teased. “I think we’re all learning about him.”
Bingwa, in contrast, was willing to offer a more detailed description of her young attorney character. “Carmen is from a tough part of town. I feel like she didn’t have a direct route via Ivy League colleges to her career and grew up around people oppressed by the system, so early on, she made the decision to make the system work for her,” she said. “My favorite way of thinking about her is, she’s often playing chess while others are playing checkers. She’s unpredictable and definitely an underdog.”
ATX’s panel on The Good Fight came on the heels of a screening of the Season 5 opener, which was scripted as a standalone piece, much like the first episode of Season 4. In it, we see our lead characters wrestling with major events of the past year, including the murder of Floyd, and the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Michelle King said that the decision to open the season this way, following a season curtailed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, came down to the co-creators’ love of their characters. “We realized before we could start with any story, we had to know, what did they live through in this last year?” she said. “You know, this pandemic year was so difficult for everybody. What was it like for Liz and Diane and everyone else? We wanted to do that in one episode to catch us up.”
Co-created by Phil Alden Robinson, The Good Fight returns for its fifth season on June 24. The Good Wife spin-off also stars Sarah Steele, Michael Boatman, Nyambi Nyambi, Zach Grenier and more. The series is produced by CBS Studios in association with Scott Free Productions and King Size Productions. Its executive producers include the Kings, Ridley Scott, David W. Zucker, Brooke Kennedy, Liz Glotzer, William Finkelstein, Jonathan Tolins and Jacquelyn Reingold.