Oh, how our brains have missed The Good Wife, with its power games and sexual tension and seriously smart people screwing each other over in seriously smart, manipulative ways. Last night’s season-two opener was all about perspective. Is it wrong to construct a bailout of your law firm mostly to get your Bulls season tickets back? Was it murder if the weapon is found too late to be introduced into evidence? If a husband sleeps with a prostitute is it somehow okay because it’s sex, not love? Is not answering a meaningful voice mail, in effect, an answer to that voice mail, or a sign of technological difficulties? Who says, “I love you” on a voice mail, anyway?
The cliffhanger at the end of season one left us wondering if Will Gardner (Josh Charles) might convince Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies) to leave that disgraced, philandering, Spitzer-like husband of hers, Peter (Chris Noth), even as said husband was announcing his candidacy to reclaim his position as Illinois state’s attorney. For Alicia and Will, it’s always been bad timing, not just back at Georgetown Law School when they may or may not have spent a night together, but also more recently on that night after a particularly trying case when they kissed and Alicia ran off, only to come back looking for Will just as he’d left the office looking for her. And now here he was, making his intentions clear, just at the moment she had agreed to go back onstage as the supportive good wife standing by Peter’s side. At least for the cameras.
“Show me the plan,” she tells Will. “I get the romance. I need a plan.” Did he forget that she’s a subordinate at his law firm? Or that she has two teenage kids? Or that she’s married to a guy who was just on trial for corruption and murder and is now holding a freaking press conference of which she is a crucial part? The press and the opposition are just lying in wait for the whiff of another scandal, and this would be a big one. “I need a plan,” does that mean she’s willing to go for it as long as the logistics work out? They need her onstage. But that’s Will calling back. And that’s Peter’s no-prisoners campaign manager, Eli Gold (Alan Cumming, so deliciously slimy), taking her phone for safekeeping. DON’T GIVE HIM YOUR PHONE, ALICIA!
Will gets voice mail. “Let’s just drop it,” he says. Idiot. Then he calls again. Voice mail again. “No, you know what? I’m not just dropping this. You wanna know what my plan is? My plan is I love you. I’ve probably loved you ever since Georgetown.” Hallelujah! But who the hell leaves that kind of message on voice mail? And what’s this? “If none of this makes sense to you, just ignore it. No embarrassment. We’ll just go back to where things stood.” Double idiot. And of course there is slimy Eli, deleting the second VM. Just like that we're back to square one, totally and completely hooked.
Back at the Lockhart-Gardner law offices, the show’s casting department has gone crazy with the extras. There must be 25 new people in the conference room. Surely we don’t have to learn who all of them are. But we recognize the handsomest one. Be still, our hearts, it’s Michael Ealy, he of blue eyes and Beyoncé’s “Halo” video and Showtime’s awesome Sleeper Cell. At the end of last season, Lockhart-Gardner handed out pink slips (including one to Alicia’s main rival, Cary, played by Matt Czuchry, a.k.a. Logan from Gilmore Girls). This man, Derek Bond, is their lifeline, the elusive third partner they needed for their bailout. He was running a boutique law firm in D.C. and he’s got a newfangled way of thinking: eliminating window offices and turning them into communal space, a partner mentorship program, iPads for everyone so the office can go paperless. Hell, the reason he’s here is because Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) met him in Louisiana recruiting fishermen for a class-action lawsuit. Will tells Diane he’s going to “play this as disgruntled, the excluded partner,” but at the end of the day, he’s inviting Derek to join his regular basketball game with that judge friend of his. Is he going to pull some boys' club bullshit and push Diane and Alicia out?
Alicia, at least, is proving her worth, kicking ass on the seemingly unwinnable defense of a whack job who says he didn’t murder his business partner at a Wikileaks-like website because, actually, the Pentagon did. She only has to win over one conspiracy-theorist juror to make this a deadlock, and she’s so good in one face-off with the judge that a turned-on Peter tries to rip off her clothes in the bathroom. Does she rebuff him because she still has Will on her mind?
Derek lets Alicia use the firm’s awesome in-house investigator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) to chase down an “amateur paranoid” named Anya who leaked the video to the site. Kalinda tracks down Anya’s last-known address, only to find her gone and the landlord bringing out the last load of trash. But hold up. Isn’t that landlord Jason Street from Friday Night Lights? Jason Street (a.k.a. Scott Porter) doesn’t just show up all handsome and non-wheelchair-bound in some dinky guest part as a random witness’s landlord. And we’re right. He’s Derek’s in-house investigator and he got to the apartment before Kalinda. They start what looks to be a season’s worth of competitive flirting and investigation one-upping. It’s pretty hot. Then, without warning, Jason Street drops a bomb: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s your backyard, Leela.” Whoa. You can tell from Kalinda’s reaction that he’s tapped into a deep secret of hers. How long ago did she change her name? And what is she running from?
The most interesting moment comes when the police discover the murder weapon just as Cary, who’s now working for the state’s attorney, is questioning Anya. Alicia acts fast and rests her case, forcing Cary to start his closing arguments. By the time Cary gets word that they have the weapon and it has whack job’s fingerprints all over it, it’s too late to introduce new evidence. The very obviously guilty whack job gets five years in a settlement, and Alicia has embodied what could be the motto of this show: Do your job, don’t think about your morals, and live another day.
In a nifty mirror of the series pilot, the episode starts off not only with Peter’s press conference, but also with footage from a press conference as seen on television. Only this time, what we see on TV some poor sap in Colorado who’s resigning for having disappointed his family with some other dastardly deed. The new scandal should be taking the heat off Alicia, but it’s just making things worse. The new girls in the office stop talking when she walks by; they’d been arguing over whether they’d rather have their husbands cheat with a mistress or a prostitute. (Prostitute, because it’s just about sex.) And on Good Morning America, they’re analyzing what one can read into the positioning of the feet of each scored politician’s wife. Alicia had one foot pointed toward Peter and one foot pointed away, signaling ambivalence. She shuts her laptop in disgust. But it’s totally true.
Now with Peter running for office again, everyone is a potential enemy. Eli comes by to warn Alicia of “trackers,” unpaid political operatives working for the opposition. They’re usually college kids with a flip phone (sorry, writers, no one uses flip phones anymore) who will ambush her with an inappropriate question and then use the video of the awkward response as free viral negative campaigning. That’s how “macaca” happened. But Alicia doesn’t think to warn her daughter Grace, who starts talking to some cute boy who starts asking her if her parents still sleep in separate beds while his “filmmaker” friend tapes the whole thing. A thousand bucks says that’s all over the Internet next episode.
That deleted voice mail looks like it’s going to be the elephant in the room for the rest of Will and Alicia’s non-communicative middle-school amateur-hour romance. Who tells a woman he loves her over voice mail, and then tells her to ignore that whole “I love you” thing if she doesn’t feel the same way? And who gets a call from a guy she’s probably loved for fifteen years asking her to run away with him, and never follows up? They just exchange a lot of questioning glances, neither willing to step up and clear the air. Then suddenly Derek shows up in Alicia’s office and tells her that he’s her new mentor. Is Will trying to separate his professional and personal lives so he can make his next move, or is he pushing Alicia aside because he feels scorned? We’re guessing the latter, and we kind of hate him for it.