The Good Wife has been such a consistently great show, I’m still going back on forth on whether season five has unequivocally been the highpoint of the show, thus far. What I will say is that it’s been the season which has reached for the greatest heights with individual episodes. The entire season has been about turning things on their head, tearing things down to build them up again and in that sense of the heightened stakes – the finale, “A Weird Year” was just the sort of ending this season needed.
The circuitousness was immediate. The case of the Lockhart/Gardner abortion with the unsuccessful adoption case which sees the litigants suing for six million dollars returns to cap off the season putting both firms in danger. Since “Hitting the Fan” the way the show has stressed the theme that nothing ever truly fades away. And this case is a fine example. No matter how much Florrick/Agos aims to distance themselves from their parent firm, there are too many connecting threads. But the boomerangs of this episode ran deeper than just the adoption case. The episode’s crux was not to be found in the lone legal case of the evening but in something almost surreal. In a moment that hinged on coincidence, after a teleconferencing call between three firms the Lockhart/Gardner team leave their cameras on. Carey (not Cary) finds out and watches the machinations of David Lee and Louis Canning, amused. Newly minted lawyer, Clark Hayden is disgusted by his lack of ethics, but before the spying (a clear parallel to the previous NSA struggles) can be shut down the Florrick/Agos team hears that Lee and Canning plan to gut their firm, and the battle for supremacy is on.
The happenstance which the teleconferencing gaffe depends on might strain credulity had the show not carved such an intriguing path between those watching and those being watched with the NSA arc at the beginning of the season (but tracing back all the way to season 2's “On Tap”). The device itself may be incidental, but everything emanating from that device garnered is real and authentic. As usual for the Kings, though, the surveillance becomes not just a deus ex machina to find a single bit of vital information but a tool to make festering issues explode. The last third of this season has seen Cary’s “relationship” with Kalinda function as a tool for work purposes. In the episode’s strongest isolated moment Cary (along with the rest of Florrick/Agos) overhears the way that relationship is considered and it’s a classic example of the Kings eking nail biting tension out of moments that are almost mundane. But what Cary overhears about Kalinda is negligible next to what he overhears about the rumblings to merge Lockhart/Gardner and Canning and Florrick/Agos. And it leads the episode’s strongest arc – Cary vs Alicia.
Last week’s episode “The 1 Percent” was a great reminder of Alicia’s relationship with privilege. For a show like The Good Wife which often examines the debilitating nature of patriarchy in the work place in a Cary / Alicia face-off (especially with Alicia as our protagonist) the obvious choice for “right” seems Alicia, not just a woman but an older woman. But the way privilege works is gnarly and intriguing like any episode of The Good Wife and the way hurt Cary trying to defend his claim (at any cost) makes his way to Canning to stop the merger at whatever price exists it’s a moment that seems more villainous than it does in context. It’s the same behind-the-back way that Diane and Alicia initially discussed the merger – without their own colleagues input – expect Canning and Cary’s meeting is borne not out of easy rapport but deliberate destruction. Canning's motives might be Machiavellian (although his if I don't work I die, is interesting) but Cary's are interesting in the way it highlights that people are most volatile when they feel alone and cornered.
It’s that thing about circuitousness I was talking about. In a light moment Cary quips, “I guess I am the new Will” and the way Alicia and Cary move from friendly to foe-like at the drop of a hat recalls the season 2 arguments Will and Diane would have when Derek Bond threatened to come between them. Of course, I'm being deliberately flippant when I title this essay “The New Cary”. This isn't an essentially new aspect to his character, Cary's moral code has always fascinated me because even when he was being set-up as an adversary to Alicia in season 1 he prided himself on fairness. It's why he stepped down from his senior position at the State's Attorney's office. It's also why he went off with Alicia. The two's partnership has depended on them being on an even keel. What now? It’s an element of the The Good Wife’s love for keeping continuity that makes those mirror-moments work so well. And, it's also why I’ll always frown when fans people suggest “Hitting the Fan” as an acceptable entry point to the show. You’re losing essential information which this show depends on if you do that. With The Good Wife context is everything.)
Archie Panjabi and Kalinda have been the season’s biggest victims (she has gone all year without an arc) but Czuchry’s Cary has consistently been the character the show has most fundamentally ignored and so his prominence in an episode to end the season of shake-ups feels satisfying. The show is Alicia’s but it’s not just telling one story. The promise of what Diane’s move to Florrick/Agos spells for Cary, surely still bitter at Diane and now probably Alicia will be interesting to watch. Ostensibly we cheer at Diane escaping the increasingly odious environment at her old firm but when Cary and Alicia have been so friendly ever since she paved the way for him to return to Lockhart/Gardner in season 3 this episode feels as if things have been irrevocably damaged between them. They’re at different points in their lives. Cary is younger and thirsting to build something of his own from the ground up, Alicia is older and tired personally, and professionally, with a family to take care of. The realisation makes me realise that their firm was not built on the sturdiest foundations and now with a new (doubtlessly) name partner to add to the mix how will the house built upon the sand survive?
- And such an expert episode this was I didn't even have to consider the closing scene. It's more on the circuitousness, though. The season opened with Alicia pondering a change, and it opens with her pondering another.
- I hope Graham Phillips returns in some capacity next year even though Zach is at college.
- I'm curious to see Diane at Florrick/Agos, but the thought of Kalinda working for a new state's attorney would have been an A+ arc.
- I could write a thousand words on Jackie in this episode, and with so many months until season 6 I just might. (Mary Beth Peil continues to enchant.)
- Will Julius Cain move to Florrick/Agos, too?
Episode: “A Weird Year”, A (MVP: Czuchry)
Season Standouts: “Hitting the Fan”, “A Weird Year”, “All Tapped Out”