I went into last night's episode of The Good Wife primed to love (or at least like) it. I was excited we'd finally gotten to Cary's trial, and even though The Good Wife isn't as enamored with the idea of the mid-season finale (when I was your age, shows had ONE finale at the END of the year, and that was it) as some other shows were, I was looking forward to one last episode before the show takes a break until January. The first four-and-a-half minutes were golden – a Neil Diamond joke! A plea bargain already on the table! Sexy Finn Polmar eye contact!
And then Jackie called from Grace's school, and everything got shot to hell.
The "stabbing threat" story line was well executed, and the way Alicia's staff dealt with the ramifications seemed reasonable enough. But I couldn't get past the premise. I just couldn't believe that Alicia (even the pre-Elfman and Eli Alicia from a few months back) would know enough about Darkness at Noon to quote it, and choosing a violent line to quote out of context doesn't seem all that funny or memorable — although I'll make a plausibility exception here, since there's a slim chance it’s a mother/daughter inside joke.
But even assuming she did know the show well, I couldn't believe she has the time these days to sit down and handwrite an elaborate joke for her daughter (alongside an actual excuse note, presumably). I couldn't understand why Grace would bring the note to school in the first place, or why she wouldn't realize that showing a teacher a note with a threat in it was a bad idea. She's a very smart girl, and one who's been around politics her entire life. I could understand the reaction of the school — that's not to say that I, like Eli Gold, trust assassins over teachers, but I've a pretty good sense of what makes school administrators panic. But I can't reconcile most of it, and it distracted me throughout the entire episode.
But, yes, of course the press is going to have a field day once they learn that a State's Attorney candidate sent a note to a Chicago school that threatened to dismember a gym teacher, and Eli and Elfman's desperate brainstorming of spin was dead on. "She wrote it as an example of what NOT to … something." It's all accelerated when Prady stumbles into a question about the note and uses it to take an anti-school-violence stance. To retaliate, Elfman and Eli out Prady. I was going to say that I didn't think the media would get more excited about someone's sexual preference than a school-violence incident, but then I thought about it for 30 seconds. America! Peter eventually smooths things over by offering roles on an advisory council to one of Grace's teachers and her principal, who in turn sing her praises as a mom and a non-stabber. Yay? But on to Cary's trial …
We've seen dozens (hundreds now, maybe?) of court cases on The Good Wife, but Cary's trial highlighted what each participant in the trial carried into the courtroom and how that impacted his shot at justice. Judge Cuesta's irritable in general, of course, but he rushes proceedings because he's trying to score Neil Diamond tickets. ASA Geneva Pine is having an affair with the narcotics detective testifying in the case and is duly distracted. Since this is (I think?) the first time we're getting any real backstory on Geneva, I'm wondering whether the affair can somehow be used against the prosecution as evidence of a mistrial. After she dumps the detective, he insinuates she's doing so because she no longer "needs him," which seems like another potential bit of mistrial fodder.
But the juror with the auditory-processing disorder was the most interesting (and, frankly, most frightening) example of the damage one individual could have on the outcome of a trial. I loved the slow introduction of Juror No. 11's inability to pick up every word of the trial and his interactions with the lawyers and Judge Cuesta — I just wish there'd been space in the episode to develop it more. At any rate, his dismissal hurts because he was Cary's juror — his best shot at swaying the jury toward a non-guilty verdict — so Kalinda turns to Bishop for help. She shows him surveillance photos of drug dealers leaving his home and says they're enough to get his son taken away by child protective services. Bishop still doesn't kill her, but he yells, and it is the scariest he's ever been. Mike Colter's really done a bang-up job with Bishop this season, but you don't see how contained and subtle the performance has been until Bishop finally snaps.
Kalinda leaves with what she thinks she wants: Dante, the last of the three men who were in the room when the evidence against Cary was recorded. Diane meets with Dante and puts him on the stand, where he immediately lies and says Cary DID tell him and his buddies how to move drugs. Bishop, suddenly in court behind Kalinda, tells her never, ever to threaten him again. Cary realizes he's sunk, and it's a nice, silent bit of acting from Matt Czuchry, who continues to be having a hell of a season.
Finally, back at the firm's offices, Geneva offers Cary four years (two with good behavior) in exchange for a guilty plea, or time served with six months' probation if he testifies against Bishop. Cary cries a little, then goes out for a walk where (of course) he comes across Bishop and his ever-present SUV. Bishop offers to permanently move Cary out of the country to an apartment in Barcelona. Cary declines, saying the firm would lose the $1.3 million they put up for his bond, and even though Alicia tells him he has to fight, Cary knows it's over. She reminds him that if he pleads guilty, there's no shot at an appeal, and he responds, "I have watched you long enough with clients to know when you have a case and when you don't." He makes her promise to come and see him in prison, something I'm sure Eli will be THRILLED about. The next morning, Cary pleads guilty to conspiracy, and just like that, he's a felon.
I've had a lot of different feelings about the "Agos is the New Black" story line as it's unfolded, but as a contained, ten-episode story arc, it's really very satisfying. To go from a wrongful accusation to a false-guilty plea in such a short span of television, all while painstakingly showing the work in between is a pretty impressive feat — especially considering the fact that The Good Wife was juggling other story lines at the same time. That said, I'm interested to see how the show goes about undoing what it's done over the past couple of months — a mistrial? A time jump? I truly don't think Cary is going to be in prison for the rest of the season (or the rest of the series) unless The Good Wife is really and truly gearing up to be a different sort of show than it's ever been. Alicia's run for State's Attorney — and the show's ability to change and adapt — mean that in 2015, anything's possible, and man, you don't get to say that about a six-year-old TV show every day. See you then, Good Wife.