Shall we first discuss the biggest revelation of season three, Alicia’s new bangs? No. Of course, having recapped this show for a season, I know that your dirty, dirty minds (and mine) are all fixated on that one scene, shot in close-up, of Alicia and Will experiencing possibly the hottest sex ever shown on network TV, without a single bit of flesh exposed. Perhaps that’s overstatement, but that one moment at least beats anything on shows whose goal is to be overtly sexy, like, say, The Playboy Club or Charlie’s Angels. But we shall tarry a moment. As Alicia might instruct us, “Slow. Slow. Hold on. Don’t move.”
At the end of last season, we saw Will and Alicia heading up to the $7,800-a-night presidential suite of a Chicago hotel after a triumphant victory in court. She had just kicked Peter out of the house. Will had decided not to fight for Tammy to stay in Chicago. For the first time in the fifteen years since their attraction started simmering at Georgetown, Alicia and Will found themselves relatively free agents at the same time. “We’ve always had bad timing,” said Will, inching his hand closer to hers. “What if we were to suddenly have good timing? Just for an hour. What would that look like?” “I think that would look like an exceptional moment,” Alicia replied. And it was on, up an elevator that stopped at every floor, the tension and desire increasing with every opening of the doors until they were pressed together against the elevator walls. They reached the suite and Will’s key card failed again and again. Red light. Red light. “Dear God, it’s all I want,” he said, plopping his head on the door frame, defeated. Then Alicia gave him a knowing smile, and gently took the card from his hand. Green light. They walked inside and closed the door.
That it was Alicia who ultimately took control and made that night happen — who gave the symbolic green light — is of huge importance. Her newfound confidence and agency appear to be running themes of season three. This first episode opens with her walking into the office to the strains of Chris Isaak’s “She Did a Bad Bad Thing,” happy, satisfied, glowing. The sex must have been good.
If timing is everything, nothing about the timing of this opening scene makes sense. We as the audience know that the actors and writers took a couple of months off before diving in again, but for the characters, season three begins the day after Will and Alicia’s epic, grin-inducing, nightlong romp at the end of season two. Or at least that’s what the evidence points to: Will walks into Alicia’s office and tells her, “We need to talk” (that phrase should be their theme song by now) and she replies, “About last night?” We’re supposed to believe that after a night of ecstasy fifteen years in the making, Alicia not only got home in time to clean up nicely, but that she also managed to squeeze in getting a haircut and moving into a new office at Lockhart Gardner.
Also managing to get a new haircut from the barbershop that opens at 5 a.m. or something is Cary, though his is far less successful. Dude seriously needs to rethink whatever greasy gel product he’s using in that first close-up. In the one day since Peter took over the SA’s office, Cary has become his boss’s main confidante and most trusted aide. He is, of course, the lead ASA facing Alicia in the latest of-the-moment but incredibly confusing case of the week about a Jewish-Arab squabble on a college campus that turns into a murder investigation about a Jewish student murdered in an apparent hate crime.
Did the case make no sense or merely almost no sense? It’s hard to tell when one’s mind is so preoccupied with getting back to the office to see Alicia and Will interact. But patience. Patience.
A very rich man named Wasim Al-Said (played by the incredibly handsome Omar Metwall) comes to Diane asking her to take on the case of Jimal Mifsud, a Palestinian kid who’s been arrested on battery charges at an Interfaith Rally involving twenty Palestinian and Jewish youths. Identified by the Jewish students as the one who threw the first punch (bringing up the interesting issue of the inaccuracy of cross-racial identification), Jimal is the only one of the twenty students there who got arrested. Al-Said believes Jimal is being charged because the night of the rally, a Jewish student named Simon Greenberg was viciously murdered and the SA’s office has no suspect, so they’re scapegoating Jimal in the meantime. Al-Said wants Lockhart Gardner to get the case dismissed and wants to enlist Eli Gold (who has just joined Lockhart Gardner as head of a crisis management department) to come up with a $10 million campaign to fight anti-Muslim bigotry. It’s a pretty good PR move: having a prominent Jew running a pro-Muslim campaign. But as it later turns out, Eli’s being Jewish is exactly why he won’t end up doing said campaign. He ends up throwing over Al-Said for Michael Kahane (played by Peter Jackson, a.k.a. Taub from House), who’s in charge of a $20 million Jewish League Fund to fight intolerance. Taub 2.0 is so upset with Eli for trying to go against his people with this pro-Muslim campaign that he ends up handing over his business to him. The plotline felt incredibly convoluted, but it seems like it’s going to be important in the future, and it gives Taub 2.0 screen time, which is a lovely bonus, even though I’d prefer more of hot Omar Metwall.
Back at the State’s Attorney’s office, Peter has made everyone swear that they won’t do any plea bargains for the next two months. He’s trying to run a clean office, but he also doesn’t want to appear weak and he needs defense attorneys to realize they can’t mess with him. Expect this to be a running theme and an increasing source of tension between the SA’s office and Lockhart Gardner. Cary one-ups the no-plea edict and manages, with the help of new SA’s investigator Sophia Russo (Kelli Giddish), to transmute Jimal’s battery charges into charges for the murder of Simon Greenberg.
How that goes down is indicative of how a lot of things are going to be going down this season. One minute Cary is staring at Sophia’s mile-long legs in a staff meeting (she’s draped over a chair in irreverent, beguiling fashion; will she and Cary have a thing later on?) and the next minute she’s marching into his office, handing him an envelope to hand to Kalinda. Cary goes to meet Kalinda at a bar, who sees the sweet color of manila and practically salivates, as if she were an addict with a hit of meth in view but just out of reach. In that envelope is a red light violation picturing Jimal’s car. Alicia gets Jimal to admit to the court that during the rally he was not at the library (his real alibi, but a weak one) but driving his car. Cary drops the battery charges, then drops the news that eyewitnesses spotted Jimal’s car fleeing the scene of Simon Greenberg’s murder.
The Kalinda-Cary tension continues later on when she pulls her usual trick of going into Cary’s office while he’s not there to snoop around his desk and manages to steal the crime scene photos. When it happens, Cary is both annoyed with himself and impressed, as always, with Kalinda’s guile. This kind of thing has happened so many times, you’d think he’d have come up with a better filing system by now. Sophia, whom we last saw in bed with Kalinda in the season two finale, notices something about the Kalinda-Cary interaction and accuses Kalinda of blowing her off for Cary. Do you smell a love triangle coming?
Eventually, Alicia manages to get Jimal off, though not without a full hour of complications. He swears to his lawyers that it wasn’t him in the car, even though he swore under oath that it was — he leaves his keys in the dorm room for his two roommates to borrow. One roommate, Amir, a hard-line Muslim, claims it couldn’t have been him because he was praying in his living room at the time; only the Prophet Mohammed saw him there, but he hardly seems like the type to miss a prayer session. The other, Tariq, says he was at the interfaith rally. Kalinda is so distracted by Sophia and her legs and her excellent flirting that she forgets for the entire episode to see if that alibi holds up. It doesn’t.
What follows is a very nuanced and convoluted play on how all white people confuse brown people for other brown people. A blowhard professor claims that Jimal seemed exceptionally interested in his anti-Israel, anti-Zionism lecture. It turns out Jimal wasn’t even there; Tariq signed him in so he could skip class. Cary then calls to the stand the creator of a multi-player computer game called Battle M.E.: Gaza Strip, in which Jimal’s avatar straps on a suicide bomber vest and destroys a school filled with Israeli school children. This time, that was Jimal playing the game, but it’s just a video game. Alicia then demonstrates that Amir also plays the game and that he had gotten in trouble for fighting online with another player: Simon Greenberg. But, in yet another unnecessary twist, it turns out that Amir had let Tariq use his screen name. “These roommates share everything,” Alicia mutters to Kalinda, annoyed and baffled. Eventually we figure out that Tariq met Greenberg online, they went to gay bars together, and fell in love. Tariq killed Greenberg in a fit of passion after finding out Greenberg was with someone else and then stabbed him 45 times and drew a swastika on his forehead in blood (backwards, because he didn’t actually know how to draw it right) in order to make it look like a hate crime. It’s a nice adjunct to the show’s exploration of how mindless emotion always trumps politics, but it went on WAY too long.
Through the course of the trial, it becomes evident that Alicia has two major enemies in the SA’s office. The first is Cary, who argues with her so feverishly, he calls her “Alicia” in court instead of “Ms. Florrick.” The second, of course, is Peter, who comes up to her and drops this bomb: “I’d say things have been pretty easy for you up until now. In court these people don’t know how you think.” She’s also ready to take them on. This is the new Alicia, vocal and feisty in court and willing to pull unorthodox (heh) moves like asking the Jewish judge (played by Fred Melamed, last seen in the Coen brothers’ most Jewish-themed movie A Serious Man) to recuse himself because he’s given money to pro-Israeli causes. Cary shoots her efforts down by convincing the judge that she’s only pulled the move because the new judge will be chosen the next day, on Rosh Hashanah, when no Jewish judges will be in court. Never mind that this very Jewish judge has to be reminded by CARY of when this important Jewish holiday is taking place. Alicia also avoids silly judicial proceedings like calling rebuttal witnesses to the stand and just plain tells the court that Jimal didn’t sign himself in to class. Apparently we’re supposed to be suspending our disbelief about not just the timing of her Will liaison, but also our understanding of basic courtroom protocol.
Speaking of suspension of disbelief, the relationships between Kalinda and Sophia also makes zero sense. We know they like sleeping together and we know Kalinda needs a new partner in crime now that her relationship with Alicia is so icy. But why in the world is Sophia helping Kalinda find the real murder suspect when she’s working for an SA’s office that is hell-bent on proving Jimal did the crime? And why does she go so far as to go around with Kalinda to shake down Jimal’s roommates until one confesses to the murder?
Also in the mix of this season’s confusing relationships is Grace. She seems sad but accepting of the divorce, declaring her love for her dad while curling up with her mom as they joke about how Alicia never cooks. But she also seems friendless and like a little bit of an invisible presence at school — there’s a telling moment when a jock walks into her as if she weren’t even there. Alicia and Peter want to get her out of public school since there was recently a mugging there, so Alicia has set her up with a tutor, an odd duck named Jennifer. Not much tutoring goes on in their session, which takes place on a subway car that is obviously from New York but is somehow miraculously running on train tracks in Chicago. Jennifer wins Grace over by breaking out some bizarre Bollywood routine when a soccer team wearing orange jerseys just happens to get on the car with them, and Jennifer starts playing the boombox that she apparently always carries with her. Perhaps this season we’ll see Grace dropping her Jesus phase for rebellion by flash mob.
Okay, but now that the foreplay of a season’s worth of exposition is over, let’s get back to THE SCENE, shall we? Robert and Michelle King try to throw us off for a while. Alicia spots Will in his office but doesn’t go in to talk. Then he goes into her office to talk about “last night,” and we cut away from the conversation, only to cut back to him leaving, and Alicia looking sullen and despondent at her desk. In meetings with Diane, he blames Alicia for screwing up the Jimal case. Diane notices the tension. “I think you’re holding something against her,” says Diane. “Maybe it’s unconscious, maybe it’s not. You’re being hard on her.” Eli does, too. When talking to Peter about the governorship, he shares a nugget he’s picked up from observing Alicia around the office: “If you’re worried about Alicia and Will Gardner, I think that whatever was there is no longer there. They barely look at each other.”
Cut to Alicia’s face in ecstasy. Will is out of frame and when he comes into it from the bottom of the screen, we can only imagine what his head might have been doing down there. They’re standing pressed against the wall of Will’s apartment. He still has his jacket and tie on. Her dress is pulled down off her shoulders. The dialogue is too good not to reprint right here:
Alicia: Are we overdoing it?
Will: Diane thinks I’m going too hard on you. Am I? Going too hard? … All those late nights …
Alicia: No time off …
Will: Buried in work …
Alicia: Up to my knees.
Through the wall, they hear the neighbor’s kids. Is it a reference to Alicia’s own kids, unaware of what their mother is up to, and Alicia’s increasing willingness to pursue her own needs before theirs? Will suggests going to the bedroom and Alicia stops him. “No, don’t move. Don’t move.” He sticks his finger in her mouth and she bites down.
The next night, Will is out with Kalinda — they seem to be growing closer as her relationship with Alicia is dying and his is heating up. He tells Kalinda she needs a friend, or at least a dog: “Kalinda and pooch, not investigating.” And they have a brief but insightful conversation about how they’re not normal, and how neither of them feels emotion. “Sometimes I’m in the middle of an emotion and I just look at myself and realize, ‘I’m not feeling anything. I’m just acting like somebody who feels something.’” It’s a disturbing sentiment. Is this affair with Alicia the one thing that actually makes him feel normal emotions, or is he about to set her up for another world of hurt? Will cuts the drinks short. He has to be somewhere at 8:45 p.m. Back at Alicia’s apartment, she sends the kids off with Peter then goes to the mirror, where she applies lipstick, both excitement and apprehension palpable on her face. Just as the clock strikes 8:45 p.m., there is a knock on the door. Guess who it is.