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Starting Over At Retirement Age

Starting Over At Retirement Age
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BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

Isn’t starting at the bottom and working your way up what you do at 25, not 55-plus? Not when you’re on the cusp of divorce, broke, and ousted from the firm you’d founded.

“Diane Lockhart” is back, and although I couldn’t be happier, she could be. The one-time force to be reckoned with—along with her statement necklaces—must begin anew.

When last we saw the effortlessly sophisticated character made famous by Christine Baranski on The Good Wife, she was slapping Alicia Florrick across the face. In order to save her ex-husband, the one-time sympathetic politician’s spouse had it revealed in open court that Diane’s husband Kurt cheated on her.

The Good Fight, the first original scripted series produced for CBS’s streaming service CBS All Access, picks up one year after the aforementioned events transpired.

In the new series, a Madoff-worthy financial scam has wiped out Diane’s retirement savings. Not only can she kiss goodbye the house in Provence she hoped to buy, but her current Chicago apartment, which she can no longer afford to live in.

After signing the exit agreement, she returns to what’s now Lockhart, Decker, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert-Lurie, Kagan, Tannebaum, & Associates (say that three times fast), and wants her job back. They say no; as do all the prestigious firms that had spent years courting her. No one wants to be associated with her stench of scandal. Diane is not seen as a victim, as she was a long-time friend of the “Bernie” character and brought many people, including charities, into the fund. Grudge-holding is a spectator sport.

Luckier than most in her position, Diane does find a new job—and pretty quickly at that—but as a non-name partner, with an office the size of a shoebox, at a predominantly African American law firm. This is supposed to demonstrate visually that although she’s back in the game, Diane is still on the outs.

“You’ll be our diversity hire,” jokes Delroy Lindo’s “Adrian Boseman” who is large and in charge, as well as welcoming. (His real agenda for bringing in this social pariah has yet to be revealed.) His partner Barbara, though, albeit not combative, has made it clear, in her own passive/aggressive way, that their new hire is persona non grata. Diane will be walking on eggshells for quite a while.

This is the part where I might fold up into the fetal position on the sofa and pull a blanket over my head.

Anyone who’s ever had to take a job beneath their education and experience will feel like they’re looking in the mirror as they watch Baranski’s character try to hold on to her dignity, especially when so many are gleeful about rubbing her nose in her unenviable situation. (I’m talking to you “David Lee”.)

In the first two episodes, Diane allowed herself to cry and indulge in the, “What did I do to deserve this?” wallow; put on the back burner her swagger, cultivated over years of being the queen bee; and learned to smile and keep her voice on an even keel to prove to herself and others that her head is not going to blow off at any moment.

As with Alicia, who we met at the lowest point in her life, we will spend future episodes, perhaps even seasons, watching Diane go through the many phases of a comeback.

Barbara’s on her back for her buy-in money. If she doesn’t come up with it in a timely manner, will they drop her farther down the ladder to senior associate? Maybe she’ll be able to acquire the dough from selling her possessions on Craigslist when she begins downsizing. Will she find—better yet, ever trust—another man? And how long will she be able to keep a stiff upper lip while being talked down to, undermined, and scoffed at on the job?

Time will tell. I already feel badly for those who underestimated her resolve, and worse for those who kicked her when she was down. Diane will be back—and with a vengeance. I look forward to watching her show us how it’s done.

 

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.