With the Sunday night scheduling precipitating some frustrating breaks in transmission it’s been a bit rough being a fan of The Good Wife lately. Case in point, tonight’s episode – only the fourth this year – came after a three week hiatus and it won’t be back until the week after next. This is an issue worth mentioning because in the world of television good drama is built on momentum, and then extraneous things like the show being oddly not one of the shows CBS touted during Super Bowl night make me worry that the show’s not gaining the reach it should. It makes me equal parts excited and disappointed, then, when the episode delivers an hour of peerless television and the machinations of Lockhart/Gardner never seem to titillate the internet like fellow dramas do. Is it timing? Is the show just not essential TV? And how does it even become one of those “elite” talked about shows if no one seems to be paying attention? So, after that break and following a slick (A-) episode a lot seemed to be riding on this episode of The Good Wife this week, and they sure did deliver.
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The tug and pull which makes the show work is that despite Alicia’s protagonist moniker the show is constantly allowing us to root for all the main characters – Will, Diane, Alicia, Cary even Peter have all had days where we’ve been firmly in their corner. It makes the volatility that much more pronounced, then, in an episode like this where we LIKE Diane and we understand how powerless she is with the equity partners but we like Alicia and Cary, too, and feel their indignation at the feeling of being betrayed. The Kings are not making this an easy case of X person being in the wrong, it’s all a multi-faceted game where allegiances are specious.
Generally, our lexicon suggests that a term like “game” suggests phoniness but the Kings (and company) have always been adept at showing how in every area of life – it’s strategy and gamesmanship which leads to success. The posturing from the associates, inviting clients out for cryptic lunches, is a key tactic in ruffling feathers. The partners cannot ignore it and their divide and conquer decision to offer the partnership to only a single associate reeks of playing games and points to the dog-eat-dog phenomenon which the show in its cynicism has been edging closer and closer to. It’s a hollow victory – Alicia has strong-armed the partners into getting their attention, but only inasmuch as she’s being used as a pawn in their game with the associates. I pondered, would Alicia take the promotion or would the show allow the easier thing to happen and have her refuse it? Remember that grey area I mentioned above? I could so easily see a lesser show having Alicia refuse the partnership only for it to go to one of the associates we’re less familiar with thereby reinforcing the dog-eat-dog concept but preventing any potential conflict with Alicia and Cary whilst saving Alicia’s character from further ambiguity but still retaining the drama. I emphatically say, though, having Alicia do the human thing and accept the partnership amidst her and Cary’s new formed alliance is the stronger option for the drama. Last week’s (well, three weeks ago) “The Seven Day Rule” ended with that shot of Diane observing Alicia with unease mixed with something else. Alicia is changing; she’s been changing since the show’s first episode and has continued to do so four years down the line. One of the fantastic things about the show is that it flips the notion of who is a character to root for. It’s easy to look at Alicia from the outside and resent her. Things have come easy to her, yes she is skilled but she succeeds not just because of her skill – her rise to success has been a weird mix of luck, happenstance, connections, golden opportunities AND skill. Remember when Alicia triumphed over Cary for the job in season 1? The moment this episode where she lets him know that she’s been offered partnership over the other associates, over him is a significant in its profundity. Alicia’s difficulty in telling him that is palpable, and Cary’s conflict in being – in a way – happy for his co-worker but resentful of her success is even more discernible.**
(This is generally why I try to avoid single episode write-ups for shows they end up turning into thousand word pieces.)
A few other fine points I couldn’t include in the main write-up.
- The Elsbeth/Eli (!!!) team-up splendidly endorses the personal relationships/work relationships kerfuffle. Would Eli be as hesitant to betray a client were it not Peter? Is he being imprudent in NOT looking for a way to defend himself? It’s why the reveal that the wire tap was a hoax works so well. We could very well see him feeling backed into a corner enough to change ranks and in his case we’re cheering on hoping that it’s the personal and not professional bone in him which succeeds. Then, there is the added significance that Elsbeth is unlikely to help Eli work against Peter when her first introduction to us was on Peter's behalf so the fake-out of him only betraying Jordan is such a plausible avenue.
* Let’s all pray to the writing gods that this is the last we hear of the firm’s financial troubles which is my favourite “oh, not again” plot point the show takes a weird pleasure in regurgitating.
** Margulies was typically on point this episode but how good was Matt Czuchry? I know I’m not the only fan who’s been hoping that Cary would get more to do this season but moving between righteous anger at his co-workers and the pain of losing to Alicia he had a great episode this week.
*** And layers upon layers. Remember last episode when the shaking hands with the partners was a necessary evil to accepting partnership, this episode finds Alicia there again but this time a more willing participant. But when she utters that "Thank you." so obsequiously I wonder has Alicia really forgiven and forgotten about the treacherous road she travelled to attain partnership? Changes, changes.
Episode Grade: A
How much was the tension getting to you this episode? Are you in agreement about the shades of grey, or do you know where your allegiances lie? Do we all love Elsbeth?