Entering the second half of The Good Wife’s excellent second season, we’re wrestling with at least a dozen unresolved plot questions, most of which, in typical fashion, were barely touched upon as the Lockhart Gardner gang plunged into yet another all-consuming case. Few shows that are not strictly about a particular workplace (Bones, House, etc.) have the balls to let one-off cases get so thoroughly in the way of ongoing story lines; Peter’s campaign is all but forgotten, and if we don’t see Eli soon, we’ll forget how good Alan Cumming is at reacting to stuff. Then again, the stuff in between major moments has always been what made this show great. This week, in between a soap-operatic case involving two in-love college kids who may have killed a pharmacist, we have Will’s revelation of Diane’s betrayal (admittedly pretty soap operatic itself), Jackie and Owen bonding (!!!), and a continuation of the show’s nuanced exploration of moral relativism.
Let’s start first with the scene that made us happier than all the Christmas and Hanukkah presents in the world combined. It was marvelous enough to have Alicia’s delightfully pithy brother Owen back from Botswana, bearing funny headdresses and throwing Alicia into panic by answering her work phone and lounging around her office chatting with Will. He’s broken up with his boyfriend, whom he says cheated on him, though, since this is Owen, it was, of course, the other way around. And he will be staying on Alicia’s couch for the indefinite future.
And this is how we get — delight of delights — Jackie and Owen stuck in the apartment together, drinking wine and, as Owen says, “sharing deep truths.” Owen wants to know why so many old people read Reader’s Digest (Jackie: “The big type”). Jackie wants to know how Owen knew he was gay. Owen: “You mean before or after I fellated my first guy?” Jackie: “I don’t like that word.” Owen: “I’m sorry. Before or after I fellated my first man?” Ha. Love it. Owen insists that being gay is a matter of biology. Jackie takes the view that it’s a matter of choice, and that since we as a country are being asked to believe that it’s a perfectly valid, good choice, gay people should stop acting as if they had no choice in the matter. It’s a surprisingly liberal statement, quickly undercut by us learning that Jackie’s freaked-out expression when she found Grace praying last episode had nothing to do with religion and a lot to do with Grace holding hands with Shannon in her room after a sleepover. The delight continues when Alicia comes home to find Jackie wearing the headdress Owen brought back from Botswana. “I’ve had a drink, but I’m fine. I’m doing laundry,” says Jackie, stumbling away from the door and obviously not doing fine. Then Alicia and Owen get in a sibling slapping fight. We hope he lives on her couch forever.
But mostly this episode is about serious things, like murder and life in prison and skirting the line between right and wrong. We’ve touched on gray areas of the law all season. In the first episode, Alicia sealed a favorable deal for her conspiracy-theorist client just minutes before the prosecution got word of a murder weapon with his prints on it. We’ve seen Eli deleting Will’s Voice Mail of Love before Alicia could listen to it and destroy both her marriage and Peter’s campaign bid; Zach creating a fake Facebook profile for Glenn Childs Jr. in the name of helping his dad; Cary enlisting a friend in the military to get around double jeopardy to retry a man he was sure had just gotten away with killing his wife; and Will ordering Blake to do breaking and entering or steal files in order to bring down evil drug companies or get an innocent man off death row.
This episode, Cary is once again leading the charge against his former bosses. (We chuckled aloud when he asked him, “Are there any other ASAs in the state’s attorney’s office or are you the only one?”) His target this time: A couple of lovebird college kids caught in possession of prescription drugs. The young man involved just happens to be John Murphy, son of the Murphy of Murphy-Gomez, that oft-mentioned but never explained case that is single-handedly keeping Lockhart Gardner alive through its many billable hours. Cary leads Alicia to believe that he’ll let her clients off if they can I.D. their drug dealer, who is suspected of killing a pharmacist on the night the kids made their score. But it turns out that the kids are the murder suspects, and that Cary is using a photo array filled with dead guys in order to get the kids talking and stepping over themselves by lying about what they saw and where they were at the time of the murder. Will later begrudgingly commends Cary’s sleight of hand. Says Cary: “Well, I learned from the best.”
The way Cary sees it, these kids killed a “hardworking American citizen” (love how consistently he hits his justice-avenger talking points), and they should pay for it, no matter how rich John’s father is, or how little they look like the poor black guys who are normally brought in for this type of stuff. We’ve gotten used to rooting against Cary. He’s so Javert-ish in his pursuit of justice, no matter how little the situation calls for absolute punishment. But in this case, he seems to be on the right side. He offers the kids a deal: One of them gets Murder 1 in the execution of a robbery, with a 25-year sentence, and the other gets eight months for burglary, first offense. It’s harsh, but it’s fair; they killed a guy, but only one of them pulled the trigger.
And, frankly, it’s hard to be sympathetic toward these kids. They’re preternaturally calm about covering up for one another, only concerned about walking away with clean records so they can both go to law school. As the interrogation continues, their anguish comes not from guilt over having committed murder, but from the thought of having to turn one another in. The police find drugs in their dorm rooms that link them to the pharmacist, and even if that evidence is inadmissible owing to an illegal search, it pretty much proves their guilt. They made up their alibi about being in the library during the murder. And later they lie again to try to frame a poor black friend of theirs.
It’s equally hard to root for Lockhart Gardner to win this thing, given the shady way they handle the case. As Will says from the outset, “I think you know who we have to protect.” That would be John Murphy, son of a cash cow, not his girlfriend Alexis (Leelee Sobieski), whom they’re representing pro bono solely because as her lawyers, they have a better chance of making sure she doesn’t panic and turn on John.
Is it wrong for Lockhart Gardner to trick Alexis into thinking they’re on her side when they’re not, even if they manage to get her off the hook as well? Is it wrong for Cary to point Alexis’s mom in the direction of a different pro bono lawyer (Fred Weller, the prick who punched Will in the masseuse episode), who will more squarely have Alexis’s interests in mind, but whose presence destroys all hope of a dual acquittal? Is it wrong for Blake to shove a potential suspect to the ground when he thinks she's lying? (Ancillary question: Is it wrong that we think it’s kind of awesome Blake carries a retractable crowbar wherever he goes?) Is it wrong for Will to lie to John and try to convince him of Alexis’s infidelity so he’ll dump her and save himself? Is it wrong for Will and Alicia to stumble upon the murder weapon and not alert the police about it? Or to debate whether they could pick it up for “safekeeping” (they can’t)? Or to go up to a black kid in the neighborhood and tell him there’s a gun on the rocks, assuming he’ll take it for himself, instead of turn it into the police (which he does)? As Alicia asked Will: “Was that legal?” As Will ought to answer for pretty much everything he does in most episodes: “That was on the line.”
As we discover, Alexis shot the pharmacist when the pharmacist pulled a gun on John. Regardless of why she was there and why she did what she did, the pharmacist is dead and she pulled the trigger. It’s her mess, her crime. But she’s pregnant, and that little bit of news turns the grayness into black and white. John confesses. They were wrong. Will was wrong. Cary was right. Everyone — John, Alexis, Murphy, Lockhart Gardner, the dead pharmacist, and the unborn child — loses.
Back at the office, Diane is getting off the phone with Murphy. He’s taking his business elsewhere. “So he’s going with you?” Will calmly asks. Et tu, Brute?
All season, we’ve seen Diane’s paranoia grow. She’s had Will and Blake investigated and she knows they have a past. She’s become convinced that Will and Derrick Bond are trying to oust her. And she’s been making her moves to take charge of her exit from the firm before it’s thrust upon her.
Earlier in the episode, we’d seen Diane scoping out office spaces with Julian. Later she’d approached Alicia about coming with them. She couched the proposal in her great respect for Alicia as a lawyer, but really it’s because she wants Eli Gold’s business and Eli goes where the Florricks go. However much preparation she’d done, though, it seems clear that Diane was not prepared for Will to find out as soon as he did, or for him to act with such vitriol. Had Will been planning to oust Diane, he might have been able to step back and admire the shrewdness of her exit plan. Instead, he’s threatening to place guards in front of her door in the morning and gather the equity partners at first light to vote her out. Diane’s means of self-preservation have turned her into the architect of her own demise.
Perhaps even more devastating, though, is Alicia’s failure to go to Will upon being approached by Diane. Will now knows that Alicia knew about the coup and didn’t tell him. And Diane was only too ready to believe that Alicia had been the one to rat her out. Even if Diane is able to cobble together a firm in the aftermath of these unexpected events, is it somewhere Alicia would want to go? The only thing that seems clear is that she no longer has a place with Will, at his firm, as his friend, or as a woman he once thought he loved.