At the 62nd Emmy Awards ceremony in 2010, Archie Panjabi pulled off a jaw-dropping upset in the Best Drama Supporting Actress category when she won for her role as mysterious investigator Kalinda Sharma for the first season of “The Good Wife.” Seven years later, “The Good Wife” has concluded its run and paved the way for a spinoff, “The Good Fight,” which has introduced its own eclectic investigator with the familiar character Marissa Gold, played on both series by Sarah Steele. While Marissa was often cited as a fan-favorite character on “The Good Wife,” she’s even more a standout on “The Good Fight,” which has allowed Steele a greater opportunity to create a uniquely funny, charming, and relatable character worthy of Emmy recognition.
“The Good Fight” centers on attorney Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), who has to put her plans for retirement on hold after she loses her life savings in a Ponzi scheme and must take a junior partnership position at a small, all-African American law firm. Steele’s character Marissa appears in the second episode of the series, “First Week,” delivering boxes to Diane from her old firm, where she’s still employed. When she hears that Diane hasn’t yet hired an assistant, Marissa asserts herself, telling Diane, “I don’t want to sound self-serving here, but I think it’s a smart move for you to hire me … I’m not that expensive.” Marissa soon proves herself indispensable by taking it upon herself to investigate a case she wasn’t assigned to, ultimately saving the day in the 11th hour with her findings. Not only does Marissa win over Diane, but she also establishes herself as one of the series’ most entertaining and unpredictable characters.
While Steele has had numerous standout moments through the first half of the season, the sixth episode “Social Media and its Discontents” features her best performance to date. Eager for a meaningful assignment, she approaches the firm’s official investigator Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) with the desire to learn from him. While he initially jokes off her request, she piques his interesting by asking about the “grisly” crime scene photo he’s studying and if he’s ever seen a dead body. Jay reports that he has seen six, but he’s taken aback to learn that Marissa has seen 12 after visiting the scene of a suicide bomb on a bus. After her quiet, sobering admission, Jay immediately takes Marissa more seriously, just as the audience does Steele’s performance.
In the same episode, Steele also delivers on the promise of the character’s quirky charm and quick-witted, sarcastic sense of humor that made her character so popular on “The Good Wife.” Whether flattering an alt-right blogger to get information for the firm or later going undercover with Jay as a loving couple apartment hunting to gain the confidence of the alt-right leader Felix’s (John Cameron Mitchell) real-estate agent boyfriend, Steele brings a chameleon-like quality to Marissa that’s extremely reminiscent of Panjabi’s Kalinda. Unlike Kalinda, though, Marissa seems much more approachable and relatable, which makes the character great at her job, and should make her portrayer Sarah Steele undeniable to Emmy voters.
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