THE GOOD FIGHT doubles down this week on its aggressive confrontation of hot topics. This week’s focal point is free speech and censorship on the internet.
Neil Gross is excited to begin working with Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad. He even has t-shirts made up—although he misspells Barbara’s last name—a fact she frustratedly notes to Adrian. Neil’s issue du jour is “alt-right” users of his Facebook and Reddit-like services—ChummyFriends and Scabbit—writing racist and misogynist posts. These posts are hurting his business, and he wants RB&K to come up with a new Terms of Service agreement that will weed out and block unwanted users.
The RB&K teams gets to work, deliberating what constitutes a violation. Julius, our resident conservative and Trump voter, defends the right of all users to free speech. Adrian notes that legally speaking, unless a user directly threatens another user, posting that he “wants” something bad to happen to the other user isn’t the same as saying he is actually going to perpetrate the bad act. After much heated debate about “intimidation coming from the right” and “censorship coming from the left,” Lucca suggests an appeals process for flagged users.
This appeals process brings Felix Staples to the offices of RB&K. Felix is a gay, Jewish, “alt-right” leader (and stand-in for Milo Yiannopoulos). He contends that he is simply the “Ferris Bueller” of the internet and that the lawyers are Ferris’ parents. He claims that everything he posts is in jest. He wants to hurt other users emotionally, not physically. He just wants to get under liberals’ skin, and he’s very, very good at it. From his perspective, it is the lawyers and ChumHum who are the real problem for trying to censor him and his ilk.
As is the problem with arguing any provocateur, the conversations between Staples and the RB&K panel are frustratingly cyclical. Herein lies the issue with internet trolls of all stripes—they want to be heard. Responding to them and arguing with them only feeds their sense of self-importance and self-righteousness. There’s a reason why the phrase “don’t feed the trolls” is often cited on social media. These people want attention, and they will say absolutely anything to get it.
Eventually RB&K figures this out, drops the appeal, and reinstates Staples—but not before his followers circumvent the Terms of Service policy by using Neil Gross’ own name as a dog whistle for the N-word.
Also, during the appeals process, RB&K discovers that ChumHum leaked the panel’s deliberations transcripts to Staples on purpose. Gross wanted to use RB&K as a test case. If the censorship attempt failed, he could point to the firm, “a liberal, African American firm,” as the problem. When Diane points this out, we see a distinct and immediate shift in Gross’s loyalty. Up to now, he’s primarily been Diane’s client—a fact not lost on Barbara. Gross is most comfortable with Diane, not only because he knows her already, but because she is white. However, after she calls him out for leaking, he specifically requests to meet with Adrian and Barbara, leaving Diane sitting alone and forsaken in the conference room.
Meanwhile, Maia is dealing with the fallout of her father’s release on bail. Henry requests a face-to-face conversation with Maia. At first, she grudgingly agrees, but then her Uncle Jax shows up at the firm to warn her that Henry will be wearing a wire. Maia doesn’t trust Jax, but she smartly seeks out Elsbeth for advice. Elsbeth recommends that Maia feed her father false information and that she records the conversation on her phone. If the false information makes its way back to the firm, they will know that Henry is working against them.
This goes as you would expect . . . of course, the information makes it back to the firm . . . but it does so in the body of Colin Morrow, Lucca’s lover.
Lucca is a complicated woman. She obviously enjoys Colin’s company, but when he asks her on a real date, she refuses. Instead, she invites her good-looking personal trainer out for drinks where she knows Colin will see them. Later, she storms into Colin’s office claiming she doesn’t like to “play games.” Colin sees right through her self-sabotage, and their relationship reignites.
I don’t love this particular facet of Lucca’s character. While it’s clear she’s not a woman who lets people (men or women) into her life easily, there’s no apparent reason for her emotional walls. Lucca is a great lawyer, and we’ve seen her offer much-needed friendship to Alicia and Maia in the past. Why then, must she be the kind of woman who is so insecure that she sets up her current lover to be jealous of her past lover? This seems petty and childish—two traits I’ve never associated with Lucca as a character. It’s fine if she’s a grown woman who prefers a casual sexual relationship to a committed romantic relationship, but why not just have her say that? Why treat her as an insecure child who can’t accept love? For a show that is incredibly unapologetic in its feminism, this seems like a misstep.
One of the most fun storylines of this particular episode was Marissa’s. Bored, Marissa asks Jay to “teach [her]something.” She’s interested in becoming an investigator. Jay is annoyed by Marissa’s pestering at first—until he realizes she can be useful. Jay knows the “alt-right” guys won’t talk to him because he’s black, but they will happily speak to a pretty, young white girl. Watching Marissa spin a story to extract information is delightful. She’s got a lot of her father in her, and she is a master manipulator. Where Kalinda on The Good Wife often used her sex appeal and toughness to her advantage, Marissa plays into her youth and cuteness. She flirts and smiles and demures with expert precision. It is Marissa who helps Jay discover that ChumHum was the source of the leak.
Julius has officially quit the firm! After Julius realizes he was the only member of the panel investigated on suspicion of leaking, he quits. His conservatism has undercut the firm’s trust in him. Julius argues that Barbara and Adrian have just lost their most loyal partner. After storming out, Julius immediately calls Andrew Hart . . . we haven’t seen the end of this.
It’s incredibly difficult to unpack the intricacies of free speech in a single episode of television, but the Kings do an excellent job of presenting both sides of the argument. Both the liberals and the conservatives come out looking like hypocrites, and perhaps that’s the point. In our divided country, rage has overtaken us all. Thoughtful, courteous debate has been lost to anonymous internet vitriol. The more we fight each other, the more we become entrenched in our own beliefs, dividing us even further.
Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
The Good Fight streams Sundays on CBS All Access
A.R. Wasserman | Contributor