The Good Wife Recap: Gumming Up the Works

Alicia clashes with the bond court judge when she agrees to support a client's plea of innocence in a shoplifting case. Also, Diane is coerced by her client's counsel, Ethan Carver (Peter Gallagher), to argue against her own beliefs in a case about physician-assisted suicide. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS
The Good Wife
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Last night’s episode of The Good Wife was a reminder that when the show is good, it’s among the best in the business. Seriously, there aren’t many (any) network-TV series that both (1) want to write an hour of television about euthanasia and racial profiling and small-scale courtroom corruption, and (2) actually pull it off when they try.

The big case of the week is an assisted-suicide story — Louis Canning is defending the doctors who gave a young woman with terminal brain cancer, Alexa, the drugs that she needed to commit suicide. She went to Oregon to end her life but was prescribed the drugs by Illinois doctors, whom her parents are now suing for failing to inform Alexa of a Duke cancer study that could’ve offered her a longer life.

Diane had originally been tasked with helping Reese Dipple (the wealthy GOP think-tank client she connected with last fall, played by a disappointingly absent Oliver Platt) by observing the euthanasia case and making notes about potential arguments for the prosecution. Then Peter Gallagher shows up — I missed the character’s name because The Good Wife gets mumbly sometimes, but I’m assuming he was playing a character and not playing himself (although I like the idea of Peter Gallagher taking his eyebrows for long walks up and down the corridors of Chicago municipal buildings). Peter Gallagher informs Diane that Dipple wants her to take over the case. Diane is appalled — she’s pro–assisted suicide — but Peter Gallagher asks, “Who knows the advocate’s case better than the devil?”

Incidentally, Gallagher will be recurring this season, which would be very exciting news, only this is The Good Wife, and the show’s track record of effectively using its guest staff is wildly erratic. Seriously, remember when Taye Diggs was a Florrick/Agos/Lockhart partner and then disappeared completely? Still, I hope Gallagher sticks around — his (platonic) chemistry with Diane while they were planning out the euthanasia case reminded me of Diane’s interactions with Will. It’s less a reminder of how much I miss Will and more a rejuvenating of an energy that’s been gone since he left. That’s good progress. And it’s lovely to watch Peter Gallagher grin in court watching Diane cross-examine, like he’s watching Roger Federer win Wimbledon.

The nuances of the case are fascinating, even if it’s a bit frustrating to see it disintegrate after Louis Canning found an internet post of Alexa’s that proves she had knowledge of the Duke study before committing suicide. The Good Wife has become just a touch too liberal with “FOILED BY THE INTERNET!” as a means of resolving plots. But aside from that, it’s a well-built, balanced look at the issue that doesn’t demonize either side … even when it turns out that the case is a Trojan horse designed by Dipple to make malpractice insurance rates astronomically high.

Eli uses the surfacing of the euthanasia issue to (try to) inject a little bit of chaos into Ruth Eastman’s life — he sends Veronica AND Grace AND Jackie to try to hector Peter about his stance on assisted suicide. (Incidentally, I like to think Zach walks around his college campus trying to pretend that he doesn’t even have a family.) I’d forgotten how good Chris Noth is at playing the straight man, and the bit worked nicely as a way to add a bit of levity to the story without making light of the subject matter. It did not, however, create enough chaos for Ruth — by the end of the episode, she and the Florrick ladies (minus Alicia) are all but weaving one another best-friend necklaces, and she tells Eli that if he really wants to wreak havoc on her life, he’ll have to bring his A game.

This week’s bond court starts out with Judge Schakowsky in a jovial mood — “Think of this like the sorting hat from Harry Potter!” And the lawyers are in high spirits, too, as it’s the annual competition wherein whoever’s clients weigh the most wins — perps by the pound! (Alicia claims she’s not playing, but she’s already in second place.) Alicia meets a young woman named Maia in bond court who’s accused of shoplifting an expensive sweater; she maintains that the sweater was a gift from her mother, and she was only trying to return it. (If Maia looks familiar, it’s because she’s played by the excellent Marsha Stephanie Blake, who was most recently Officer Berdie in the last season of Orange Is the New Black.) Maia’s being pressured to plead guilty and take probation to keep the wheels of bond court turning. In bond court, fast trumps fair.

In the course of Alicia’s defense, we get to spend a little more time with Investigator Jason, and he is absolutely a by-the-numbers Jeffrey Dean Morgan character. He has a troubled past! He fights for what he believes in! He looks dolefully at you while you express concern about his well-being! He leans on stuff! But there’s a reason Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays roles like this all the time — he crushes it, and I’m eagerly anticipating his season-long awkward sexual chemistry with Alicia. His investigation leads him to encourage Alicia to prove Maia’s innocence based on the store’s racial-profiling practices.

In their reviewing of the security footage, he and Alicia realize that, yes, the store does racially profile shoppers — but also that Maia’s mother stole the sweater Maia then tried to return. To protect her mom, Maia accepts the probation. But in the process, Alicia completely squanders any of the good will she’d built up with the other bond court attorneys, and with Schakowsky. Schakowsky’s refusal to cut Alicia and her client any slack is surprising, given what she did to save him from the FBI sting operation in last week’s episode. But his reluctance to have the works gummed up is very telling, very scary, and very sad.

The episode ends in a familiar place — post-court, two drinks in, with someone (Lucca) telling Alicia that, darn it all, she just cares too much about their work. “Wanna do it together?” Alicia asks, effectively inviting Lucca to become a partner in her firm. (My inclination to put firm in quotes was probably mean, and definitely the sort of snobbery I learned from Lockhart/Gardner.) I’m completely down for the partnership in theory, except where’s Lucca supposed to work? They’re going to have to get bunk desks or something.