“The Good Fight” and its predecessor firmly take place in the present-day United States, creating storylines around the current political climate and real politicians. Most of the time it works fairly well.

But in pursuit of that ripped-from-the-headlines goal, “Social Media and its Discontents” (March 19) shoved the most interesting plot of the week to the back burner in favor of a central plot that tried to say something important, and another side plot that’s getting a little exhausted.

RELATED: The jam-packed ‘Good Fight’ is worth the money — but frankly needs more room to breathe

The central focus of the episode is on Neil Gross’ (John Benjamin Hickey) sites Chummy Friends (aka Facebook) and Scabbit (Reddit), which have become breeding grounds for alt-right Internet trolls to make racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and threatening posts against what they call SJWs (social justice warriors).

Gross has assigned Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad to this problem so that either way, he has a liberal, African-American law firm to point to: If cracking down on the sockpuppets and monsters goes south, “free speech” being a much misunderstood beast and alt-right trolls legion… Or, if Gross doesn’t really care that much about the breeding ground he’s provided for the radicalization of white supremacists, this stunt will grant him public immunity from ignoring it in the future. The latter is actually a more realistic scenario, but not really explored.

It’s a confusing zig-zag that runs through the whole episode — a whole host of things are brought up, then left at the surface: Lip service is paid to exploring “free speech” versus threats, political speech versus harassment and threats, the motivations behind this activity, whether the social media site in question has any reason to care, but nothing is explored more than at a surface level. Hickey’s appearance last week felt like it might have some weight to it, but now feels more like a stunt than the other “Good Wife” guests so far.

To be fair, 50 minutes is not a lot of time to explore all those topics, even if this were the sole storyline. But that’s the task set for the episode, as well as cramming it in with two other plots, and the result feels jam-packed and short-changed.

RELATED: ‘The Good Fight’ is weaving a masterful first season

For example: The relationship between Lucca and Colin (Justin Bartha) is a little polarizing, but for better or worse, it’s a big part of Season 1. And that means that we need more than Lucca playing silly games and then having car sex with Colin on the way to his suburban-Chicago mansion. Lucca deserves better, and simply making him a sympathetic member of the opposition doesn’t lessen the impact of this romantic subplot weighing her down.

We’re halfway through the first season and we can’t quite figure out Lucca’s role in the story at all: Half the time she’s there to feel bad for Diane and/or Maia and then disappear, which is not great; and the other half of the time we’re reminded of how wonderful she is while stuck in a love story that has nothing to do with the show.

And if you add those two things together, you get essentially Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), who was “Good Wife’s” most magnetic force… Right up until her own distracting relationship story in Season 3, which permanently sunk the character. Let’s not repeat history here, please? omen of color are a lot more than just mysterious confidantes to the white lady — especially the ones on this show — and it’s weird to see Lucca sucked into all this familiar mess, after how deliberately she was written to resist those tropes with Alicia (Julianna Margulies).

RELATED: Matthew Perry is a welcome addition to ‘The Good Fight’

In more interesting news, Julius Cain (Michael Boatman) decides to leave the firm after partners Adrian and Barbara (Delroy Lindo & Erica Tazel) suspect him of leaking important information because of his political leanings, and we loved Diane’s takedown of villain-of-the-week Felix Staples (John Cameron Mitchell).

The Julius thing is interesting. The show clearly found the idea of having a minority character who supports Trump quite fun — and then, as Michelle & Robert King are adept at doing, turning that into a compelling storyline of its own, as the details leaked to his new firm: It’s had repercussions for him, and now will have repercussions for the firm as he jumps ship.

And Diane’s takedown was great writing, even if it couldn’t quite put a bow on the A-plot:

“You’re a clown. What’s worse is you’re a smart clown, who occasionally has a point, a point you destroyed by mixing it up with racism and misogyny you probably don’t even believe. When you were little someone rejected you, or made fun of you, and now you get to be one of the mean guys making fun of other people… You think this is some grand rebellion against progressives and Social Justice Warriors? It’s not. You’re just some kid in the corner pissing yourself, so have at it.

And in the season arc, and what turned out to be the most authentically interesting part of the hour: Confirming that Henry Rindell (Paul Guilfoyle) may not have daughter Maia’s (Rose Leslie) best interests at heart, as she meets with him and — under the advice of firm lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) — feeds him false information about illegal dealings at Reddick Boseman… Which he promptly turns in to Kresteva. And the DOJ, of course — Colin closes the circuit by bringing this to Lucca.

It’s no surprise that Henry isn’t on the up-and-up, and we would have liked to see more of this one playing out — but we’re excited to see where it goes next. As a premise-setting arc for the season, it’s done a lot of work up to now, and we’re feeling like we may well be reaching the apex of this particular rollercoaster track… Right before the plunge.

 

“The Good Fight” appears Sunday mornings on CBS All-Access. Four episodes remain of Season 1, the finale is Apr. 16, and another season has been ordered.

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."