If you’ve spent any time on the internet, particularly reading news stories or looking at comment threads on Facebook, you’ve more than likely encountered what is commonly referred to as a “troll,” someone who expresses an opposing view to the subject at hand, usually in the most outrageous and/or offensive tone possible, and almost always hiding behind an alias to preserve their anonymity. It’s easy for people to say things while anonymously online than they would ever say in public or, perhaps, even in the company of their friends.
This episode of The Good Fight picks up where the previous episode ended, with Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad’s new client Neil Gross, who wants the firm to come up with a new Terms of Service for his social media sites to combat the trolls that post horribly offensive things and are driving his advertisers away. But there is something suspicious about Gross in the way that he keeps over-emphasizing his love for the “all African-American law firm” while addressing all of his comments directly to Diane, the only Caucasian partner in the room. For all of his anti-racist rants, he really seems to be over-compensating by mentioning in every breath his new African-American law firm. Does anyone else not think this is a bit odd?
But Diane and the rest take up their task of trying to come up with some language that can prevent this brand of online terrorism that puts Gross’ sites at risk. Dividing pile of comments into categories, from political to misogynistic, and then determining which comments are actual threats or just a lot of hot air puts the firm to a test — how do you restrict free speech and what constitutes an actual threat? The episode puts a clever spin on the concept of trolling by giving actual faces to the sentiments expressed in the comments, giving viewers a little shock of what it’s like to actually hear the words being spoken rather than just reading them. Listening to men make violent threats against women is chilling either way.
The solution to the problem seems to be to flag certain words and limit the number of times those words can be used before a user is blocked, giving them a chance to enter into arbitration to have their account restored. The first person blocked is an internet personality by the name of Felix Staples, a thinly veiled characterization of the infamous Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay, conservative shit-stirrer who was recently fired from his job at Breitbart.com for being too outrageously alt-right even for them. Staples, brilliantly played by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), brings his case before the partners, most of whom already look upon this representative of the alt-right with a level of disdain that is thinly veiled, to support his claims that he was really just responding to other commenters in ways that he knew would hurt them, but he wasn’t directing those comments to a general audience.
Now, this whole set-up is a bit odd. I don’t really know how an arbitration like this would work, but would a defendant actually be brought into the law firm that wrote the TOS to face down a panel consisting of every senior partner in the firm? Aren’t there litigators whose job is specifically to do just that? Do the partners have nothing else to do but hear these cases? It seems a bit unrealistic and designed just to give Mitchell a chance to spar — wonderfully — with Christine Baranski. The two do have some great dialog together, but the whole scenario seems just too manufactured to get a point across.
The resolution to the case also seems bizarre as Diane realizes, after everyone finds out that someone leaked the guidelines of the TOS, that the firm is being played. Of course, all eyes turn toward the firm’s one “conservative” partner, Julius Cain, who found himself in some hot water when it was revealed he voted for Trump (although we still don’t have a handle on his political views). That stigma has not waned and he takes great offense when he realizes of what he is being accused — backstabbing his firm. Of course it wasn’t Julius, who is now about to walk out the door, but Neil Gross who floated the TOS. The question is why? And is the firm willing to keep Gross as a client knowing he may undermine their efforts to help him? It was a mixed bag of an episode, well-written, giving Mitchell a great spotlight in which to shine, but it falls apart when trying to take down the alt-right and racism, especially by giving Diane the last word on the subjects. It seems like it was a storyline rushed into production while Yiannapolous was the alt-right darling who suddenly became persona non grata before they could get the episode out there.
What did work well in driving the plot forward was the continuation of the Rindell scandal. Maia’s father, freshly out of prison thanks to Mike Kresteva, is very anxious to have a chat with his daughter, a bit over-anxious for Maia’s taste. Consulting Elsbeth (and not her own lawyer for some reason), the suggestion is that he may be wearing a wire and attempting to set her (and RB&K) up. Elsbeth suggests that Maia feed him a false story about the firm accepting a bribe from a non-existent client, and secretly record their conversation. Maia can’t fathom that her father really could do something like this to her, and after putting him off a couple of times (he really, really wants to talk to her, raising all kinds of red flags), she finally agrees to pay him a visit.
When she gets to the house, though, there is a party going on, making her feel that perhaps all of her suspicions were for naught. The two do manage to get a little “alone time” (although party guests are clearly visible in the room with them) to chat but her dad’s questions still raise doubts, so she quickly turns the voice recorder on her phone on. Later, Lucca gets a visit from her “boyfriend” Colin (it’s complicated, and while she tells him she won’t let him play games with her emotions, she goes and does just that with his) who warns her to not consider any potential advancement with RB&K because … the firm may have accepted a bribe. Lucca is aware of the charade, however, but does not let Colin in on what’s happening. Elsbeth was right about the wire, and Henry Rindell has made some deal with Kresteva and the feds.
It was kind of a bleak episode with Staples actually being un-barred from commenting, basically deflating his ego, Julius potentially joining a rival firm and becoming an enemy to RB&K, and Maia now not even being able to trust her own family. It was uneven, but it’s still compelling and I’m looking forward to see how the season ends.