If there’s one thing I’ll miss about The Good Wife, it’s the show’s ability to create such exquisite cliffhangers that appear at precisely the moments when you’re desperate for more. “Unmanned” is no exception … but we’ll get to that.
It’s worth pointing out, maybe, that the last two shows I watched play out in real time were Glee and Parks and Recreation. Both approached final seasons as giant victory laps — massive events for each character, closure of major story arcs, and Very Special multi-part finales. These past few episodes of The Good Wife, in contrast, have seemed just like any other season. We get the rinse-and-repeat formula of Alicia’s personal life, plus Peter and Eli, plus firm drama, plus a case of the week. Maybe that’s the difference between a show that wants to give its characters a big finish (lord knows Glee couldn’t end anything without a production number) and a show that’s more focused on bringing everything full circle, as The Good Wife clearly is. We’ll get to that, too.
“Unmanned” opens on Alicia and Jason lying in bed, with Jason’s decidedly unsexy, post-coital feet really close to Alicia’s head. She grills him about his Greek Orthodox faith and they debate the merits of going at it a third time, before she’s called away for court. She asks him to stay in bed all day, eating bon-bons and watching bad daytime TV, and though it’s not clear how serious she is, he’s still there when Peter comes “home” and finds him drinking coffee in his boxers. Peter smacks the mug out of Jason’s hand, and then as he collects his things to leave, Peter says, “I ought to kick your ass.” Jason replies, “You could try.” Oh, heavy-handed Good Wife dialogue. I think I’ll miss you most of all. Also, on the basis of this very short scene alone, I’d love to see Chris Noth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan work together again someday. That mutual glower is impressive.
It feels awfully convenient to establish that Jason’s religion would make him feel guilty about his affair with Alicia, and then have Peter show up to twist the knife even further, but regardless, Jason’s scared off for a bit. When he finally admits to Alicia that Peter showed up, Alicia cajoles him into coming back that night using lines like, “I want your body.” The trouble with scenes in which Alicia is supposed to talk dirty or be overtly sexual is that she almost always comes across as someone who’s tried to learn to do so by, like, reading half an article in Cosmopolitan in a dentist’s waiting room. Over the past couple of episodes, her awkwardness with Jason has even led me to think, “Wait, this is why she wants to leave Peter?”
But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter why she wants to leave Peter. If she wants to leave Peter because she wants to have more sex with Jason, great. If she wants to leave Peter because she’s been used in the service of her career, great. If she wants to leave Peter BECAUSE SHE FEELS LIKE IT, that’s also great.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to parse Alicia’s motivations across the span of this series, and I’m prepared to accept “wanting to” as a plausible motivation from here on out. But when she turns up in Peter’s office and says, point-blank, “I want a divorce,” it visibly deflates him; I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Peter look as exhausted as he does afterward, sinking into the couch in Eli’s office after Alicia walks out. He comes back swinging, of course, showing up at the apartment at the end of the episode to tell Alicia that this indictment is no joke — and to ask her to stand by him one last time. It’s clear, then, that we’re right back where we started. And honestly, if what Peter did is so bad that even Eli doesn’t know the full of it, he’s going back to jail. The episode closes on Alicia’s intake of breath after Peter asks her to stay, so we don’t know what she’ll decide. But the question of what makes a “good wife” is back at the forefront of the show, and it’s clear it’s here to stay for the next four (!) episodes. Full circle, indeed.
Meanwhile, Bearded Matt Morrison continues his quest to take Peter down, this time by going through Eli’s daughter, Marisa, which is not cool IN THE SLIGHTEST. It’s a brilliant tactic, though, since Marisa and Alicia seem to be Eli’s only soft spots. It comes down to Eli being told, “Help me take down Peter Florrick, or your daughter helps me take you down.” So Eli lawyers up — why, oh why, were we never lucky enough to get a full year of Diane representing him? — and offers his willingness to testify against Peter. The whole thing makes Eli look, and presumably feel, so sad and tired. I don’t care what happens to Peter and I know that by rights, Eli doesn’t deserve a happy and jail-free future. But I want it for him anyway.
There is also a case about drones, notable for a few reasons. First, Leslie Odom Jr. appears as a drone and aerospace expert, which seems like way too small of a part for him until you remember that no matter how well Hamilton is doing, a stage actor’s retirement funds can always use a TV boost. It should go without saying that he looks great. Second, Anna Camp returns as Caitlin D’Arcy, a lawyer who worked alongside Alicia years ago. It’s a lovely throwback to the show’s early days. Third, let’s stop to celebrate the wonderfully weird fact that The Good Wife, in its final lap as network TV’s prestige darling, chose to devote a whole 12 minutes to DRONE ETHICS.
And then there’s the game of musical chairs that is Lockhart, Agos, and Lee, something The Good Wife writers seem to care about more than I’ve ever cared about anything. It’s all the same inside baseball: Howard Lyman needs to move offices so Alicia can do the same, David Lee is going after Lucca, and Cary … well, Cary just seems weird — maybe high, even — throughout. He sits at his desk, looking longingly at a desktop photo of a beach (and it’s not even a very nice beach, Agos, so maybe raise your standards), reminiscing with Alicia, listening to reggae music. By the end of the episode, he’s told Alicia two things: He’s been subpoenaed. And he quits. He closes his laptop and walks off down the hall. Seriously, if the only thing we get out of this series is Cary’s transition from straight-laced lawyer to semi-felon to TRUSTAFARIAN, we all will have gotten our money’s worth.