Creators Robert and Michelle King had a real knack for creating characters viewers loved to hate on “The Good Wife” — and bolstered it with genius: Casting beloved actors, often from Broadway or known for lovably iconic roles elsewhere, and then completely transforming them into the most dastardly villains.
Mike Kresteva (Matthew Perry) is one of these — perhaps the greatest of them, from the seven seasons of “The Good Wife.” There, Kresteva ran against Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) in the 2012 gubernatorial election, after serving with Alicia (Julianna Margulies) on a blue ribbon panel investigating a police shooting. During the course of the campaign, Kresteva falsely reported on Alicia’s handling of the panel — and was also not above using his cancer-stricken son as a political prop.
He’s a real peach — and Perry made him so smarmy and underhanded, so smart and mean-eyed, that you wanted to smack Kresteva every time he was on screen. (And cheered for Peter — even Peter — when he eventually laid him out during a gala bathroom break.) Thankfully, nothing’s changed on “The Good Fight.” Welcome to the party, Perry. We’re ever so glad you’re here.
In the world of “The Good Fight,” Kresteva is now Special Counsel for “the Department of Justice ‘Police Accountability in the 21st Century’ Task Force,” abbreviated “BrainDead”-ishly enough to “D.O.J.P.A.T.C.T.F.” Gotta love bureaucracy! He’s tasked with lowering the number of police brutality cases, which any person with a soul would think means examining law enforcement training and weapons, accountability, easy measures like body cams, and so forth…
But no, not our Kresteva. He’s going after the top law firm that takes on police brutality defendants — because if they sue less, the number of police brutality cases go down. Gotta love statistics! And hate-motivated heartlessness, of course.
When AUSA Morrello (Justin Bartha) hears this from Lucca (Cush Jumbo), he tries to appeal to his boss about how Kresteva is not only going about this the wrong way, but targeting an African-American law firm, which is of course terrible PR. The kicker is that the DOJ boss not only sees the merit in lowering the number of cases by any means possible, but he’s intrigued by Kresteva’s other motives — going after a bigger fish at Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad.
The boss has completely hedged his bets, telling Kresteva he’ll have to drop it if the optics become too negative — but adopting for now the wait-and-see approach…
And wouldn’t you know it, Kresteva’s “bigger fish” appears to be Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), and ties into her father’s Madoff-lite scandal. The episode doesn’t reveal his full hand, but does drop hints of a much larger play in the works, which is a very smart way to go. While Maya’s investigation itself is clearly a slow burn for the season, connecting it to other storylines is a task best performed subtly, and bringing in a single-minded shark like Kresteva makes a lot of sense: His hatred of Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) seemed just as personal, and just as elastically useful for the plot.
Kresteva would be a fun addition in a one-off appearance where he gets to be his usual a-hole self, do a little mustache-twirling and be on his merry way — but it’s much more satisfying to see the Kings using Perry in a bigger way. It’s especially gratifying that a storyline of Maia’s fake Twitter bot and fake news stories actually tied into something — until Kresteva gets his hands on that information, it feels like a loose thread.
Kresteva is a terrific foil, second only to Michael J. Fox’s Louis Canning, and he’s being put to good use. Plus, it’s great to see something that at first glance presents as a case of the week problem turn into something with bigger implications in the “Good Fight” universe… Not to mention the fact that Kresteva’s appearance paves the way for Carrie Preston’s Elsbeth Tascioni to return, another great “Good Fight” get.
While “Henceforth Known as Property” is not necessarily the strongest “Good Fight” episode so far, it sets up a second act storyline that should be pretty great: Turning over new rocks in the Rindell situation, of course, but on a larger scale doing the work, in different ways, of continuing to evolve and worry at Maia’s relationships with every single one of the women in her life — Lucca, Diane (Christine Baranski) and Amy (Heléne Yorke) — who make up the other gravitational centers of the show she’s on.
“The Good Fight” drops Saturday nights at midnight PST on CBS All Access. The ten-hour first season’s midpoint falls next week (Mar. 12).