So we come to the end of our troubled season three. Do we feel enlightened? No. I’m mad. All I wanted was some payoff, a badass resolution of tension on the level of Will and Alicia’s red light, red light, green light, go elevator ride to ecstasy. Now, that was a way to end a season.
This was so inconclusive that my friend who was watching with me couldn’t even believe it was a finale. I don’t blame her. Instead, we have to settle for one amazing and two pretty intriguing cliff-hangers, and the second-best elevator scene ever on a show in which the elevator is like some magical chamber pumped with truth gas, where all the best confrontations and confessions must take place.
That image of Kalinda cocking her gun and defiantly sitting in wait for the terrifying man darkening her doorstep is enough to make me excited for season four. But I’m bothered that almost all of the 22 episodes this season felt like a flawed and aimless run-up to what will essentially be a reboot of the stuff that actually worked way back in seasons one and two. Was this season really as confused as memory serves? Well, dear readers, I have endured the considerable pain that is reading back through my old recaps, to try to break down the good and the bad. But we’ll get to that much later. Let’s start with what went mostly right in this slightly lackluster season finale.
Kalinda, Kalinda, Kalinda. So many interpretations could have been made of Archie Panjabi’s masterful scene with Jill Flint (Lana Delaney) last week. Did she go there to, um, stimulate her into submission? To kill her, as one friend of mine feared she might? Because she was actually afraid? When she rested her forehead against Lana’s, was she thinking of what Cary said about her bulldozing over people and using sex to get her way? Does she want to change? I think she’s just tired of having to be tough.
She’s certainly been humbled over the last year. Losing Alicia may have been the greatest heartbreak of her life, and she’s earned back her trust in the most sincere and loving of ways: by rescuing Grace and never asking for recognition. It was thrilling to see Kalinda and Alicia back at a bar again, taking tequila shots. The friendship is still tenuous; Kalinda made a point to tell Alicia she’d only come to the bar because Cary asked her. But they have some cute moments, like when Alicia drunkenly refers to the IRA when she means the IRS, and when Kalinda out of the blue answers Alicia’s “Are you gay?” question from two years ago. She says she’s not. She’s “flexible.” Good to know.
But why did she feel the need to bring it up? Was she trying to explain why things with Lana Delaney got so out of control? Or was she trying to prove to Alicia that she’s finally being forthcoming? Or was that just the Kings’ way of preparing us for the revelation about a dangerous man from her past that comes later in the episode?
Said man surfaces when Alicia starts looking into an un-cashed check for $21,000 to Kalinda from F&E Construction in Toronto. It was issued in 2007, which must be right around the time Kalinda fled, and Alicia helpfully thinks she can get it reissued so Kalinda can pay off her tax penalty. Watching her call the number on that check is like watching the college girl in a horror movie go into the basement during a power outage. DON’T DO IT! AND JESUS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING CALLING THAT NUMBER FROM YOUR CELL PHONE? Although, I guess the cell phone prolongs the mystery, since if the guy called Alicia back and got the Lockhart Garner receptionist, this would all be over pretty quickly.
You know something’s immediately shady when the guy keeps asking, “Who is this?” and creepily tells Alicia he hasn’t heard her voice before. Like the Terminator, he uses the cutting-edge technology of caller ID to call Alicia back, but later calls her at home and identifies her by name. (Which is much, much creepier.)
Kalinda immediately knows what’s up and knows she has to get the fuck out of Chicago. The scene where she marches into Home Depot and buys a sledgehammer is some of the finest determined strutting I’ve ever seen, ranking right up there with Will’s new hallway saunter. (Hey, when it comes to getting turned on by the way actors walk on this show, I’m “flexible,” too.) “That might be too big for you,” a sales clerk foolishly warns her and tries to direct her to girlier hammers. Oh, silly man.
She goes straight home, pulls a mirror off the wall, and starts going to town on the drywall, opening up a hole big enough to grab the stash of guns and cash she has stored in there. You’d think that if she had the forethought to seal that stuff inside her wall, she’d have the forethought to already own a sledgehammer. Pesky details. Also, can we please talk about how she has absolutely nothing in that apartment besides her clothes? In character or not? And why isn’t she packing sexy boots? How can she continue to be Sexy Boots without them?
Anyway, she seems ready to flee, but first she needs a tender moment with Will at the bar so she can hit him up for more money. He doesn’t have much sway over her, but when Alicia tells her that the man has found her, Kalinda changes her mind about leaving. She goes home and dumps out her Go Bag, pulls a pristine white leather chair in front of her door, loads and cocks a gun, and sits waiting for a knock she’s been dreading for five years.
We know by now that Alicia, Will, and Cary are the three people in this world that Kalinda would probably give her life for, but I’m not sure that she’s staying to protect Alicia as much as she’s sick of running. She knows that as soon as he’s figured out Alicia’s name, he will have found Kalinda (or shall we say, Leela) out. All right, Kings, I will watch your season premiere. We have a whole summer for casting, so this husband better be hot enough to be a match for Kalinda and also completely terrifying. Start your speculations now. My vote is Idris Elba, even though he won’t sound anything like the guy on the phone.
The Elevator of Awkward Encounters. Um, yeah, so that scene was priceless. The last time Will and Peter had a face-to-face confrontation, I believe, Peter was accusing Will of sleeping with his wife, just before the attempted indictment. Tempers were calmer during this awkward elevator ride, mainly because neither of them really won the girl (though Peter maybe won her a little bit more). We learn many things. For one, it’s taken a subpoena to get Peter to visit Alicia’s office. Is that because he was too busy? Because he didn’t want to run into Will? Because she never asked him? Because they barely had any time actually being a couple, between Peter being in the slammer and them getting separated? Also a good lesson: Never make a convict joke in front of a convict. Will, regarding his suspension almost being over: “I think convicts call it ‘short time.’” Peter: “Really? I never did.”
If that wasn’t awkward enough, the doors open to Alicia standing there. She was waiting for Peter, but he jokes about her maybe waiting for Will instead. So bad. Then poor Eli wanders by to find Alicia standing between the guy he’s trying to get elected governor and the guy who has the potential to derail everything. Ahhh! Then Cary comes by, carrying a box of his things, which he nearly drops in his eagerness to shake the hand of the guy who just fired him, whom he gets along with far better than the guy also standing there who was basically strong-armed into hiring him. Then as they’re all milling around, one of Patti Nyholm’s (Martha Plimpton’s) kids breaks through the crowd in her little wheel-y cart. “One of our new associates,” Will says, awesomely.
Bonus: Kalinda showing up next in the elevator. Eli: “Kalinda, it’s a surprise party for you!” If the past car-crashing into the past is what season four is all about, then I am onboard.
The Elevator of Awesome Revelations. It was brief, but the peyote was pumped into the elevator yet again at the end of the episode, allowing for one beautiful moment of clarity between Will and Alicia. They’re talking about the weird encounter with Peter earlier in the day and Will asks her, barely audibly, “Do you think it was a mistake?” It’s not just what she says (“No”), but the tenderness and confidence with which she says it that gives hope that these crazy kids will somehow find a way. Onward to season four! Out of our way, Callie the Cokehead!
The Louis Canning–Patti Nyholm Dream Team. Okay, I know this was the backbone of the episode, but I found it far less compelling than the bigger arcs. Yes, Michael J. Fox and Martha Plimpton do make a good three-headed-dog nemesis (the third head, of course, belonging to Patti Nyholm’s daughter and her wheel-y seat of destruction). But they’re basically just there to set us up for how broke the firm is going to be heading into the next season. Here’s what happens: L&G wins yet another class action against the evil pharmaceutical companies that the Canning-Nyholm Cerberus represent, this time because the drug made a man irreversibly sterile. Judge Wynter, who happens to be one of Will’s basketball buddies mentioned in the grand jury indictment, gives them a $25 million judgment, which is $7 million above their ask of $18 million. So Cerberus sues L&G for $50 million for wrongfully pursuing cases that have no merit, and for judicial bribery.
We get lots of good Patti barbs, like when she’s changing her baby’s diapers in the L&G reception area and shouts out to a disgusted lawyer passing by: “Oh it’s just poop. You shovel this stuff all day, buddy.” There are also endless jokes about her forgetting that Will can no longer practice law. Canning epically fails at trying to form a brotherhood-in-disability with a wheelchair-bound judge. And their case hinges upon Mommie Dearest conspiring with Daddy Detective, who’s (legally) leaking information about his grand jury testimony. Kalinda finds them colluding in a playground, and they manage to make even the rolling of strollers seem menacing. But Daddy Detective is too good a person to be a good spy, so that’s a wash.
And on and on. What we discover is that L&G is floating a balloon payment on their office. If that comes due now, while they’re fighting this lawsuit and waiting for other payments, they’ll be screwed. Things are so bad that Will and Diane consider dropping the class action to make this lawsuit go away. Luckily, their consciences get to stay clean. As Cerberus turns them down, saying, “We’re getting paid a lot of money to make you go bankrupt,” the lights flicker on and off. It’s unclear if that’s because they can’t pay the electric bill or because of the spell of darkness Patti the Punisher has cast upon them.
Finally, Cerberus subpoena Peter (see: the Elevator of Awkward Encounters), saying he met with Judge Wynter three times in the week leading up to the trial in order to influence his decision. Peter did meet with Wynter, but it was to get support for his campaign. He couldn’t have talked to him about the suit on Alicia’s behalf because — wait for it —“my wife and I are separated.” For Peter to say that in the public record is huge. It stops the lawsuit, but it’s possible political suicide. However, it’s also the most selfless way for Peter to show Alicia that he loves her and that her happiness comes first before his political career. My guess is that the campaign fallout starts in next season’s premiere.
Peter sacrificed his career for nothing, though, since Cerberus didn’t want to win the suit anyway. They just wanted it to be a distraction while they snatched L&G’s top client, Patrick Edelstein, who represents 20 percent of their quarter. Completely blindsided, the only response Will can muster is, “Oops.” Sounds about right.
Movie references are big this episode, and it’s significant that Alicia is watching the apocalyptic drama Take Shelter with her kids. Kalinda’s crazy husband has her number and name, and she thinks she’s vulnerable for a layoff since she just got a raise. Also vulnerable: Cary, the last one in, with what seems like it was a very large salary. Is this setting us up for another Cary-Alicia showdown to see whom the firm will keep on with their now-limited resources? (Sidebar on Take Shelter: Watch it. Highly recommended. Michael Shannon was robbed of an Oscar nomination.)
The return of Cary. He doesn’t get to do much, but it’s oh-so-good to see him back in the L&G mix where he belongs. Will told him he’d start with a clean slate, but actions speak louder than words. First he gets Howard babysitting duties. Now he’s seated at a communal table outside Alicia’s gargantuan office while they wait a couple of weeks (!) to clean out another office for him. That’s got to sting. Alicia says she’ll be moving out of the office as soon as she’s no longer liaison to Eli Gold, but I doubt that will be the case. I do look forward to Cary and Kalinda getting back on track. That is, if her husband or Lamond Bishop doesn’t kill her first.
The obligatory Howard joke. Regarding Canning: “If the law taught me anything, it’s never, ever trust a man with a limp.” Please, please promise us he’ll stay on after Will’s suspension is lifted. No one else wants the office next to the bathroom.
The House of Sadness. Jackie paid 10 percent cash for her down payment, which means it’s more expedient for Peter to move in, fix the place up, and flip it than to get Jackie to give it up. Peter promises this is just for practicality, not to, as Alicia says, “colonize our past.” But things seem to be moving swiftly toward the whole family getting back together.
I want this evil house to go away. It’s the reason Jackie is in the hospital. Yes, she’s a vampire, but it’s sad to see her wasting away, pretty much abandoned by her son (he barely blinks when Alicia tells him she’s worried about Jackie’s increasing senility). For visitors, first she gets Eli, who yells at her for turning Alicia against Peter and possibly ruining the campaign. (When she moans to Eli, “I don’t want to die,” he backs away and calls for a nurse.) Then she gets Alicia, who tells Jackie she’s going to sue her for taking money out of Zach and Grace’s trust for the down payment.
And yet somehow it still feels like Jackie is winning. How does she do that? And how does she have access to Grace and Zach’s trust, particularly if Alicia set it up?
(Bonus points to anyone who can identify the black-and-white gangster movies Jackie’s been watching at the hospital. They fit her guns-ablazing attitude. But what does it mean when the TV goes black? Has she lost her fight?)
Mostly, though, I hate the house for being a vortex sucking Alicia back into a life she’s not sure she wants anymore. It’s certainly not where we saw our fair Alicia heading, with her newfound confidence at work and her new knowledge of just how hot sex can be. She deserves a chance to start over, without having to consider Peter’s needs and the kids’ above her own. I get that Peter is working hard to win her back (when he talks about how the old owners tried to flip the house, “but they didn’t put the work into it, so nobody wanted it,” he might as well have been talking about himself), but does he deserve her repeat business?
The kids aren’t helping, either. Zach asks her to spend the night and have pizza with them: “No one will think it means anything.” Yeah, right. And Grace suggests they all live under the same roof again, “not like you’re married, like a commune.” Of course Alicia is considering reuniting her family just as the public is about to find out she and Peter have been separated all along. The last shot shows Alicia standing on the welcome mat, wavering between heading to her car or turning around for a slice of penance pie. I’m once again reminded of the girl in the horror movie headed down the dark basement steps. DON’T GO IN THERE! DON’T TURN BACK! THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! But I think she does.
Season end recap bonus … what worked and what didn’t across season three:
Big-picture bad: The Kings backtracking on their own showrunner philosophy. As Robert King said, they learned from shows with long story arcs that it's a mistake to "hold onto plot thinking, Won't this be cool when this happens or this happens?" since you could get canceled before ever getting to the good stuff. Yet they seem to have used this season as one big long arc leading up to … season four. They’ve basically admitted as much. What happened to writing as if cancellation were just around the corner? This schizophrenic season is what happens when you get too comfortable and don’t have a distinct idea of where you’re going.
Big-picture bad: The growing pains of trying to figure out what to do with Alicia when you’ve removed both the “good” and the “wife” parts of her character. Also, starting off a season in which half of the core cast is no longer interacting with the other half of the cast: Peter and Alicia, Peter and Eli, Kalinda and Alicia, Kalinda and Cary, and Peter and Alicia and Jackie.
Big-picture good: The formation of new relationships, particularly Will and Diane emerging as the show’s most functional and loving couple. See also: Kalinda and Eli, Peter and Cary, Kalinda and Will.
Dropped ball: Kalinda and Eli, what happened to those crazy kids? They were SO the couple to beat and then all of a sudden just stopped scheming together.
Horrible: Sunday nights. First football delays, then three weeks between new episodes, now the pileup with Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Make it stop.
Good: Will and Alicia’s hot-hot standing-up noontime trysts.
Bad: Alicia’s bangs.
Sad: The Will-Alicia breakup. But they’re being wimps about it, so until they can get their own punch back, I hope they table their affections.
Good: Getting to see Will’s guitar-playing, mopey, vulnerable side.
Bad: Nicole Beharie and Kelly Giddish departing after one episode when the Kings had planned long arcs for them as love interests for Cary and Kalinda.
Worse: Dana Lodge and her angry side ponytail of incompetence.
Good: Alicia’s feisty new attitude in court and at work. Finally standing up for herself with Peter, Jackie, Diane, etc.
Bad: All that progress, and yet her main life goal seems to be getting back to the House of Sadness.
Bad: Eli’s thumb-twiddling, time-wasting stint as crisis manager/comic relief.
Good: Amy Sedaris! Cheese! Go fish yourself! You forgot your sock. Oh right, that’s my sock.
Dropped ball: Diane as mentor. Spoken once and never seen again. Why? Why?
Good: The Nancy Crozier–Caitlin battle of the naïve-seeming blondes.
Bad: Caitlin quitting the law to start a family. Were the Kings trying to prove a point, or was this another case of the actor having another obligation?
Good: The amazing Anika Noni-Rose.
Bad: Wendy Scott-Carr’s inexplicable transformation from a ruthless and ambitious woman to a vindictive harpy hell-bent on taking down Peter, and failing that, ratting Will out to the bar association just because she can.
Dropped ball: The exciting potential of Grace’s lesbian affair with her face-painted YouTube dance sensation tutor. Baptism as a rebellion isn’t nearly that fun.
Great: Diane gets two hot love interests at once, because of course no one man is enough for a woman as badass as she. I even approve of her wine-fueled booty call to Curt McVeigh. She got results, didn’t she?
Bad: Dropped ball yet again! Diane’s love life disappeared for the latter part of the season.
Good: Julius, David Lee, and Eli as the three clowns of the court jostling for power they’ll never get.
Better: Diane’s deft manipulation of said clowns. And Howard. Don’t ever leave (or croak).
Great: Elsbeth Tscioni! Colin Sweeney! Vanessa Gold! Caitlin! Evil bastard Mike Kresteva.
Bad: Cuddy 2.0. Let’s forget that ever happened.
Worse: At least when she was around Alicia had a confidante to trade “whore stories” with.
Bad: Still can’t figure out who Alicia’s third-year buddies are since none of them have ever had airtime.
Good: But you know who got a lot more deserved airtime this season: David Lee. From being Alicia’s divorce attorney to that amazing Gilbert & Sullivan suit, he was a triumph.
Where have you been all my life: OWEN!!!!! Alicia desperately needs you as a sounding board. Also, bring your magical headdress and copious wine to the hospital stat and get Jackie back on her feet!
Anyway, can’t wait to read your highs and lows. On to a new season and new beginnings (or old beginnings dressed up as new ones).