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Christine Baranski’s unforgettable final performance as Diane Lockhart on ‘The Good Fight’ cannot be overlooked – GoldDerby

Christine Baranski’s unforgettable final performance as Diane Lockhart on ‘The Good Fight’ cannot be overlooked – GoldDerby

Déjà vécu, fake hand grenades, experimental ketamine treatments, singing Sondheim to a sunflower, levitating, a dalliance with a doctor and a flirtation with Buddhism, depression, the end of a marriage, teargas, a white supremacist terrorist attack — is there anything Diane Lockhart didn’t experience in the final season of “The Good Fight”? Perhaps, but you wouldn’t know it watching star Christine Baranski, whose performance contained multitudes and over the course of 10 episodes displayed her virtuosic range.

This breadth of material certainly made for a fitting farewell to a character the veteran actress has played for 13 seasons on “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight.” She, of course, earned six consecutive Emmy nominations for the first six seasons of the former series. But as impressive as that tally sounds, Baranski has not yet been recognized for her best years as Diane throughout the six-season run of the Paramount+ series. Since its debut in 2017, the character has struggled to find her footing in a country that has embraced Donald Trump, flagrantly disregarded the law and now overturned Roe v. Wade. This final season affords Emmy voters the perfect opportunity and reason to revisit and recognize a character they will find incredibly changed if they haven’t check in on her since “The Good Wife.”

WATCH Our exclusive video interview with Christine Baranski, ‘The Good Fight’ season 6

The final episodes begin with Diane experiencing an existential crisis. Uncharacteristically dispassionate about practicing the law after the reversal of abortion rights, the slow rolling back of voting rights, the return of Cold War aggressions and yet another Trump presidential campaign looming, Diane wants off the “crazy carnival ride” that has been the last six-plus years. Baranski makes Diane’s malaise feel all too relatable, but the way she finds unexpected beats within her monologues by Robert King and Michelle King makes these familiar emotions much more raw and cutting.

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One episode later, though, those ketamine treatments transform Diane and allow Baranski to unleash her pro comedic sensibilities that have been lurking under this dramatic character all along. Colors and flowers thrill her and send her into uncontrollable giggles, even when crossing heavily armed police barricades trying to stem the growing civil unrest in the streets of Chicago. There are few things as joyous as a full-throated Baranski laugh, and yet she makes it unsettling too, an act of privileged defiance in the face of increasingly bad circumstances. Every rose has its thorns, though, and with therapy comes clarity, like a realization that Diane’s mother died at the same age as she is now, or that her ideological differences with her Republican husband Kurt (Gary Cole) have become increasingly untenable. Few actresses could navigate these extreme, rapid shifts in tone as effortlessly.

SEE ‘The Good Fight’ series finale: From WGA nominee to Emmy contender?

Baranski has never had a scene as devastating to play as the one in which that marriage finally unravels — except perhaps when processing the death Will Gardner (Josh Charles) eight years ago. Their ride home in the dark after the funeral of the head of the Democratic National Committee is understated but emotionally frank, inflected by the rapport between two actors who have worked closely since the very first episodes of “The Good Wife.” “I don’t think I’ve ever felt that much pain playing Diane,” Baranski told Gold Derby. “I don’t think I ever invested more in a scene, cared more about the playing of the truth of that scene.” She calls the episode, titled “The End of Democracy,” her favorite from the series “dramatically,” and for this scene and for her delicious raging against contemporary politics, it would make for an ideal Emmy episode submission.

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Though the series finale finds her reunited with Kurt after surviving a terrorist attack on the historically Black law firm where she works, the power of the episode comes from realizing just how much Diane and Baranski’s portrayal of her has evolved over the course of 216 episodes. “The Good Fight” daringly allowed Diane to unravel after seven seasons of playing an unflappable leader. From starting over at a Black firm to microdosing psilocybin, joining an underground resistance group, confronting corruption at the Department of Justice, resorting to some unsavory tactics to retain her named partner position before realizing her missteps and struggling with that unfortunate sense of déjá vu, this version of Diane has been anything but predictable. Utterly committed to every twist and turn, Baranski played it all bravely, both grounded and with a coy touch of the surreal that elevated her supporting character on “The Good Wife” to a lead character for the ages in “The Good Fight.”

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  • June 25, 2023