Alicia and Peter on The Good Wife.
Photo: Paul Sarkis/CBS
Before we get down to the meat of The Good Wife’s season premiere, a word about its episode titles. For the first four seasons of the show, the number of words in the title corresponded to the current season of the show (two-word titles for season two, etc.). When season five began, the pattern reversed, and that season’s titles had three words, and then season six’s titles were each two words. There were a few exceptions throughout, but on the whole, the show has stuck with this 1-2-3-4-3-2 pattern — a pattern The Good Wife’s show runners have confirmed as an intentional choice.
And so while neither CBS nor Robert and Michelle King have confirmed that season seven will be The Good Wife’s last (at least as far as I can tell — feel free to yell at me in comments if I’m wrong), the single-word title of the season premiere seems like a strong indication that this season will bring the show full circle, and the season finale will air this spring. Time will tell! Now, on to the episode.
Because Alicia was “caught” falsifying election results that she did not, in fact, falsify, she’s stuck trying to pick up clients seeking release on bail in bond court, but she can barely score clients there. At least the show gets to reuse the set Cary and company spent so much time on last season! I seem to remember the DNC promising to help Alicia out in exchange for her not continuing to fight about the election results, and had semi-assumed that would include some sort of job — maybe that was a “someday” promise? And so Alicia’s left with the wining, dining, and conniving of Louis Canning, who’s still hoping they can work together as partners.
Stray observation: who knew bail/bond court was so much like speed dating?
Somehow — and I’m not quite sure how, but then I’m never as adept as I should be at reading Alicia’s poker face — this leads to Alicia calling Eli and telling him Peter should run for president, in order to be chosen as vice president. (Sidebar: since The Good Wife won’t be sharing Alan Cumming with Cabaret this season, I formally request that he have 10-42 minutes of screen time every episode.) Eli immediately decides they’ll need the help of Ruth Eastman, a political operative and campaign manager, and as soon as she meets with Eli, she tells him, “Hillary will choose a senator,” not a governor like Peter. I’m surprised that The Good Wife is actually using Hillary Clinton’s campaign, rather than creating a fictitious candidate…and a tiny bit surprised they’re treating her as the presumptive nominee, too.
Their quick meeting doesn’t go all that well, but Eli goes skipping back to the office anyway, drinking a green juice, only to find that Ruth’s agreed to come on board…to take Eli’s place. Even though (or maybe especially because) Eli is usually the show’s comic relief, it’s heartbreaking to watch his face as the news washes over him, and to see his rightful indignation as he insists that when Peter was at his lowest, Eli was the one set of footprints in the sand, carrying him. And it’s not just a dick move for Peter to push him aside — it’s also incredibly short-sighted. If there’s one thing you don’t want as you begin a political campaign, it’s a pissed-off Eli Gold opposing you. And as an aside: all of the above happens before the opening title card. This show doesn’t play.
Meanwhile, Alicia’s representing a client who’s trying to figure out to whom her newly deceased mother had intended to bequeath a valuable painting — via little notes, her mother designated the painting to go to someone, but the post-it notes she used fell from their spots in a Chicago heat wave. Diane and David are her opposing council, which Diane claims is no accident. To try to settle the matter, Diane brings in a GLUE SCIENTIST. Judge Jane Curtin is half-mystified, half-delighted that this is a real job, and I heartily concur. (I also continue to love The Good Wife’s commitment to letting character comedians hang out in comfortable judges’ chairs and lob out one-liners). The adhesive specialist is followed by an aerodynamics expert, and then a Roomba guru. But the whole thing is settled not by one of the many experts, but by Lucca Quinn, a lawyer Alicia met in bail/bond court, who covers for Alicia and pulls out a last-minute win. It’s clear she and Alicia will continue to work together. Maybe it’s just that Alicia has another whipsmart friend and colleague — and one she will actually appear in the same room with, no green screen required — but I didn’t find myself missing Kalinda much at all.
Cary’s not in on Diane and David’s case, and he’s just plain miserable back at the firm; while I’m sure his time in prison tricked him into romanticizing long evenings debating the finer points of cases, in practice, he’s surrounded by snoring old people and sycophantic associates. His exasperation is understandable enough, but I dearly hope Matt Czuchry gets more to do this season than mope.
Back on the campaign trail, Alicia shows up for an interview with Peter that Eli had initially arranged; seeing Ruth there, Alicia basically goes full “she doesn’t even GO here” on her. Alicia goes through with the interview, but handles it with marvelous passive-aggression, and after it’s over, she tells Peter he’s being an idiot. Ruth tries to mend fences later by picking Alicia up after court. She casually drops the bomb that Eli’s going to be her chief of staff. Ruth tells her that’s simply impossible and that she’ll hire a chief of staff for Alicia herself; Alicia’s response can only be described as LOL GOOD LUCK WITH THAT. Eli reveals his evil plan to stop Peter, Ruth, and the campaign, and only Alan Cumming can pull off a monologue that includes the words, “I plan to undercut you, and eventually destroy you.” I’m pumped for this story to continue unfolding.
I found last season of The Good Wife to be frequently infuriating, with flashes of occasional brilliance (last season’s mid-season finale was, I believe, one of only two occasions in my recapping career that I’ve given a episode five out of five stars). But I thoroughly enjoyed the season premiere, in part because I was able to check my expectations. So much of my season six frustration came from the fact that the show seemed determined to be anything but a courtroom drama, but maybe that’s ultimately okay. If this truly is the last season of the show, then by all means, let it be about Alicia. Let it be about wherever her career and her “marriage” and her (apologies in advance for the cheesy word) journey take her. And maybe along the way, we’ll finally get to see what “good” — or maybe just “good enough” — looks like on Alicia.