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The Good Wife Season Premiere Recap: The New Will and Diane

Put on your most powerful suit and stripiest tie, we’re back with season five of The Good Wife. We’ll be recapping the show each week with a rundown of the ten most important things we learned from Lockhart, Gardner and Associates. So get out your legal pads, because here we go with last night’s episode, “Everything Is Ending.”

Congratulations, Mrs. First Lady: The episode opened right where last season left off, with Cary Agos and Alicia Florrick staging a coup in her apartment. It doesn’t matter whether these two are working together or at odds with one another, Matt Czuchry and Julianna Margulies have always had amazing chemistry. And whether they pull this new endeavor off or not, I just like watching them plot. Speaking of plot, this scene ends with one of my favorite moments and a great indication of how far the show has come in its five seasons. When Cary congratulates Alicia on becoming First Lady of Illinois, she chuckles “Oh, I forgot.” Contrary to what many think, this isn’t just a show about a politician’s wife who is sometimes a lawyer. It’s a show about a lawyer who is sometimes a politician’s wife.

Cary 2.0: Every show needs a bad guy to feed the dramatic conflict, and though, with the coup in motion, it looks like we’ll soon be locked in a battle of Good Guy vs. Good Guy, for now we have Cary 2.0 (Ben Rappaport) to kick the hornet’s nest. I loved that Alicia referred to the parking garage meeting of the fourth year associates as West Side Story, but the whole thing felt much more Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink to me, with Cary 2.0 playing the role of the popped-collar bad guy. Cobra Kai in a windsor knot. Because sorry, kid, we will not tolerate those snarky insinuations about Will and Alicia. Even if they happen to be true.

Let’s Crown a New Bimbo: Meanwhile, in the governor’s office, we met Marilyn “Mitch” Garbanza, head of the Ethics Committee. Those of you familiar with Melissa George’s work on Alias will remember that the more evil her character got, the thicker her eyeliner became. There was a clear and undeniable Kohl Correlation. You might have observed last night that the eyeliner situation was at DEFCON Bimbo (to borrow a word from Eli). But despite the fact that Marilyn was all plunging necklines and smoky eye, Peter was right in that she was doing her job well. That little factoid she dropped about four of the last eight Illinois governors winding up in prison? That’s true. She’s just trying to prevent Peter from following in the felonious footsteps of Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Dan Walker, and Otto Kerner. Silly Mitch, haven’t you watched this show? There’s no way Peter’s going back to prison. At any rate, Eli felt the “optics” weren’t right and convinced Peter to “promote” Ms. Garbanza to the Transportation Department. She left with a threat, though, so I’m sure Melissa George and her Maybelline will be back.

Did He Find on Chumhum?: I’m not quite sure where we’re going with this Grace Florrick, Hot Politician’s Daughter plotline, but finding something for Grace and Zach to do has always been the flimsiest aspect of this show. We can, at the very least, appreciate that the slightly bizarro Illinois that the Florrick kids live, eat, and serenely study their Bibles in has a kicky new website. Turbochap, one can assume, is an online lad mag and joins in the fine Good Wife tradition of fake websites (e.g., FactSwim, FaceBranch, VidTrope, and, of course, Chumhum). Am I the only one who was deeply upset by how long/with what intensity young Zach Florrick studied his sister’s glamour shot? I don’t know what direction they gave Graham Phillips, but I suspect it was meant to be more “unnerved and upset” and less, well, Flowers in the Attic.

Well He’s No Judge Reinhold: And while The Good Wife might have a reputation for its fake website names, the show is undeniably more famous for its amazing guest stars. Though familiar faces crop up everywhere from the campaign trail to the witness stand, it’s the quirky judges we’ve come to love the most. So like Ana Gasteyer, Stephen Root, and Denis O’Hare before him, Jeffrey Tambor shimmied into some judicial robes in order to throw some obstacles in Alicia and Will’s path. Actually, Tambor’s Judge Kluger was less quirky than most, likely because, as in last year’s DOMA episode, this case of a potentially wrongly convicted man facing a death row sentence stood in for a larger examination of the eighth amendment. You know, the cruel and unusual punishment one.

“I Like Watching Will and Diane Work”: It was so smart for the series to hit the ground running. We’ll have plenty of time for Peter’s new term in office and Cary and Alicia’s intrigue, but nothing could have sucked us in faster than watching Will and Diane fight against a ticking clock. The episode was shot almost like a heist film, with the moving parts never slowing and stylized zooms and a jaunty, repeating score keeping us swept up in the action. It was like watching Lockhart’s 11 or The Legal Aid-Team, and you know we love it when a plan comes together. Say what you will about elevator encounters or steamy hotel rendezvous, this show is at its sexiest when Will and Diane are repeatedly diving through every legal loophole they can find. Between hair tests and snitch-sneeking, rolling veins and obscure postal codes, the Good Guys did everything they could to keep Eddie alive. I wonder how the politics of this case played with those of a less liberal persuasion. This show never attempts to hide or even temper its left-wing bias. The Newsroom team has nothing on Diane Lockhart.

Rizzoli & Isles, Eat Your Heart Out: Few shows cry out for a spinoff the same way The Good Wife does. Possibly because it’s never content to be a boilerplate legal procedural. Rather, it combines all the best elements of buddy cop show, political intrigue, family matters, workplace comedy, and, yes, big issue soap-boxing disguised as courtroom drama. All that’s to say that if CBS ever wanted to give us The Continuing Adventures of Batman Kalinda and Robyn, I’d be more than okay with it. I don’t know how long the showrunners knew they were heading for a Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos schism, but planting the seeds for there to be two investigators as early as they did last year feels beautifully organic. As much as I love watching Weixler’s Robyn and Panjabi’s Kalinda work together, it’s going to be much more fun watching them go head-to-head across the aisle.

“Anal Is What We Need Right Now”: If they don’t actually make that the state motto of Illinois, I’ll be sorely disappointed. I want it inscribed on a seal and hanging on Peter’s wall by the end of the day. In a neat twist of the plot, Eli becomes Peter’s chief-of-staff. That’s a handy way to keep him in play in an off-election year. It’ll also make him an easier target for Melissa George, as soon as she’s done licking her wounds. The smartest thing this show ever did was promote Alan Cumming to series regular.

Everything Is Ending: And let’s take a moment, before we’re done, to address the very human face on the political issue. We had to care about and root for Malik Yoba’s Eddie right from the start. His restrained emotion and quiet, weary desperation worked perfectly. It wasn’t overwrought; it was ideal. The only reason The Good Wife gets away with their political agenda cases week in and week out is because they never forget the personal, human element at the center of it.

The New Will and Diane: So what’s going to happen this season? I have no idea. I think the show could work beautifully with any of the possible outcomes. Will Cary and Alicia leave together? Will Alicia’s second thoughts and feelings for Will keep her at the firm? Or is it her feelings for Will that end up driving her out the door? Either way, if David Lee has anything to say about it, things are about to get very nasty between the partners and the fourth years. Are Peter and Alicia going to survive the oncoming Melissa George storm? Will Cary 2.0 get what’s coming to him? Will Grace Florrick abandon Bible study for a life in the Turbochap spotlight? Will Monica ever figure out how to drive her robot? Who’s to say? The only thing we know for certain is that throughout it all, Alicia’s hair will continue to shine.

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