It would have been hard to top last week’s feast of revelations and returning characters, so it seems that The Good Wife figured, “Why try?” In some ways it was nice to have a breather from all that excitement and go back to the Law & Order: Chicago format we’ve been getting about every other episode this season (a bit too often, IMHO). It offered a chance to sit back and take stock of season three so far.
When I first started writing recaps at the beginning of season two, the show seemed to be clearly divided into three sections: legal, political, and personal. Legal contained the case of the week and whatever happened in the Lockhart Gardner offices, political was Peter’s campaign, and personal was the Florrick family home life and whatever problems Alicia and Kalinda were cryptically referring to each other over tequila shots. Then, after about three recaps, it became clear the show was far too complex to section off. Personal bled into political and political into legal. Those entanglements made it incredibly exciting and difficult to write about. This season, the difficulty is just mustering the enthusiasm to write about it at all.
First, the political element is all but gone. Peter is back in the SA’s office. Eli is now in the Lockhart Gardner office. And even if Eli does work on political projects time to time, there’s no season-long story arc to run parallel to the LG story arc. It’s like losing a limb but still having the phantom memory of how nice it was to have an arm. Second, the tension of a marriage going off the tracks, finding its footing, and going off the tracks again is gone now that Peter and Alicia are amicably separated. The Will affair went nowhere and now it seems like she’s resigned herself to being celibate — which would be okay if Kalinda were actually getting some instead of having this annoying flirting-only tease with Dana, who is just not sexy enough to carry out her end of the tension.
The case this week took up a full three quarters of the episode, which would have been okay if it didn’t wind up being a bunch of technicalities over jury misconduct. A police officer was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting her husband in the head for insurance money. We’re supposed to believe she’s innocent and the verdict is unjust, though we don’t learn enough about her situation or her life to form our own opinions or care. There’s a capricious Judge Dunaway (an excellent Kurt Fuller), whose distaste for interruptions in the courtroom sends Cary and Legal Aid dude sheepishly back to their seats and forces Dana to raise her hand begging to be called upon, like a less-efficient Tracy Flick. And then there’s the race for the defense to find some grounds for a mistrial, against Cary and Dana, furiously trying to stop them at every turn. Like last week’s kidnapping, we knew it wouldn’t result in much of consequence, but the excitement was well played, from Kalinda’s hasty courtroom sketch of sympathetic jurors to her and Alicia running through the parking lot, questioning jurors and photographing their license plates before Cary and Dana smell what they’re up to. Props, too, to the costume department for bringing back Sexy Boots. Kalinda looked great.
But from there, it gets very Dick Wolf, as Kalinda questions a jury foreman who can’t be bothered to stop fixing phone lines long enough to talk about having put a woman away for life, or going to visit a juror at home who can’t stop showing off her antique buttons. (Kalinda proves why she’s the greatest investigator of all-time by successfully feigning interest in said buttons three times.) Eventually, they find out that Judge Dunaway unknowingly accepted a friend request from the button-obsessed juror, breaking a law that disallows judges from having contact with jury members outside of the courtroom. Case dismissed, along with 44 minutes of our time.
Much better, though, were the non-case moments. We open with a blessedly un-retouched close-up of Alicia’s face, wrinkles and all. She’s distracted, likely thanks to having just gone through what she thought was her daughter being kidnapped and the end of her affair with Will. While in court she gets a call from Capstone, the prep school she wants Zach and Grace to go to now that she’s convinced it’s no longer safe for them in public school. Capstone has closed admissions for the year, and it’s a treat watching Alicia and Peter bond over their joint machinations to get their kids in. Whatever happens to the kids seems less important than Peter and Alicia finally interacting again. The incident with Grace has brought a significant thaw. At the door, passing the kids off to their dad, Alicia is affectionate; the trust she lost over the Kalinda affair seems to have come back after seeing Peter’s fierce protectiveness when Grace went missing. She also admires his charming of the Capstone principal. Owen asks her why she hasn’t gotten divorced, but she and Peter both seem to recognize the advantages of staying married. At Capstone, the “my husband is the State’s Attorney” card gets her far. If he’s going to run for office in the next couple of years, he needs to keep his Jackie O. And new Alicia also seems like she would have been pretty turned on if she could have witnessed Peter’s “I am the State’s Attorney. You don’t say no to me” speech/threat.
That speech represents a couple of things. One, that just because Peter is trying to run a clean office doesn’t mean he’s entirely above board. Two, he hasn’t given up on this marriage. Yes, he’s fighting on behalf of his kids in this instance, but he’s still in love with his wife, and I get a strong sense that she’s still in love with him. Three, he must REALLY hate having Grace and Zach in public school, because he seems to be quite willing to ignore the part in that speech/threat where Capstone teachers all have felony DUIs, drug busts, and check-kitting scandals. Will his kids really be better off there?
Peter’s resurgence in Alicia’s world just as she’s given up Will brings up the thought: What happens when the Will affair becomes truly public and the two men really have to confront each other? Are we supposed to assume that Peter knows-knows, rather than has strong suspicions? Has he done his part to punish Will by launching the investigation? Or is there real, physical wrath or other vengeance to come when/if Peter and Alicia get back together and the subject of those lost months comes up? Also haunting them is the idea that all this turmoil has, as Peter says, “screwed up the kids.” That’s in many ways what this season has been about, that Grace turning to Jesus and to her tutor-lover is her way of coping with her parents’ split. And perhaps that’s why so many people find her so annoying, because she represents the more boring directions this show could head. Grace’s inner turmoil this year is far less exciting to watch than her getting played by those campaign workers with Flip cams out to exploit her family’s public disgrace. And maybe, again, that’s where the show is losing me; the most exciting aspect of the first and second seasons was a disintegrating family trying to hold it together under a harsh public spotlight. Remove the spotlight and you have Parenthood. (Not that I don’t like that show.)
The public spotlight has instead dimmed and shifted to Will, whose only function these days seems to be brooding over Alicia and playing basketball in Under Armour–branded workout gear. Last week’s unfortunate tank top has been replaced by a much nicer sweatshirt, logo clearly visible. At least the product placement gods are dressing him better this episode.
During the breakup hug last week, Will was clearly the broken one. Now he’s all smiles and civility and professionalism, doing the “I don’t want things to be awkward” dance around Alicia and then shooting a sad game of hoops by himself. Alicia has a right to be puzzled by the clipped end to his affection, but can she blame him? During drinks with Owen, she says she never loved Will, that she loved the feeling of “it”: the affection and, as Owen points out, “the raw, animalistic sex.” She’ll be fine without him. She has Peter, as she always has. Will, though, for all his efforts toward civility, is likely to take some anger out on her sometime soon. It’s only natural.
Right now, though, he seems to be taking the road of good behavior. The Wendy Scott-Carr investigation has chased away all his basketball buddies, she’s now going after any judge who’s favorable to LG and asking them questions about bribes, and she ended the episode by offering to go easy on him if he helped her bring down Peter for his corruption in his first year as SA. Will takes the high road and refuses to talk, even if it means he’ll end up before a grand jury.
What the Alicia-Will split means for Alicia is that she officially has no friends, as we’ve been saying all season. It’s unnatural. Giving advice to her client this week, she actually utters this sentence about the jury: “They’re your peers. I’ve never understood my peers.” You can tell the Kings wrote this episode themselves because of the moment when lonely Alicia turns on her TV and happens upon medieval porn, or “The story of Joan of Arc, only as cable could tell it.” And we hear, amid grunting, a guy going on about “Burgundy and that insufferable peace treaty.”
She’s back to leaning on Owen, who tells her to find her old friends on Facebook, one of whom turns out to be modeling her life after some sex-crazed tribeswomen in China, prompting Alicia to wonder if she’s spent a decade making the wrong friends. Very humanly, Alicia lets her personal problems interfere with her job twice: once when she comes to court tipsy after hanging out with Owen, and once when she blows off work (when her client is about to lose her freedom and every second counts) to have the meeting with Capstone.
Alicia seems to be on the road to realizing that she did actually make some good friends, though. When she goes to visit Jimmy Patrick at his work, which is not in Chicago but in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at the KCDC Skateshop next to Beacon’s Closet, he tells her that it was Kalinda who brought Grace home. Alicia manifests her gratitude by practically threatening to kill Cary for not releasing her from jail — where she’s been thrown for harassing jurors in yet another twist to the ho-hum case. (At least the jail incident seems to be the end of her Dana flirtation; Kalinda must know by now that she’s more annoying than useful.) The moment Alicia and Kalinda share in the car after jail is incredibly real — not just for the fact that they both make a point to put on their seat belts, something The Good Wife always makes a point to do. Kalinda tells Alicia that she hasn’t changed. She’s still the same person, leaving it up to Alicia to decide if she wants this friendship back. Now that they both have demonstrated how much they care about each other, it’s only a matter of time.
In the meantime, we have Diane to fill the void. In order to get Alicia to focus on her job, Diane reveals that she and Stern, like Alicia and Will, were “very close” (ew, if you remember what Stern looked like), and that association with powerful men won’t get her as far as a powerful female ally. The word “partner” comes up. As does another round of Diane dispensing wisdom over scotch. As far as making the right friends goes, this one seems like perfection.