The Good Wife
It’s odd watching The Good Wife in the wake of Robert and Michelle King’s confirmation that they’ll step down at the end of this season.
Earlier this week, I considered whether the show should end in the Kings’ absence or try to reboot with new showrunners. (With or without the Kings, CBS owns The Good Wife.) Now that I’ve had a few extra days to think it over, I firmly believe it’s time to say good-bye. There’s such a compelling argument to be made for letting people finish telling the stories they created, and an even more compelling one for simply letting things end. I’m guessing Matt Czuchry agrees with me: He surely remembers the not-quite-disastrous but not-quite-good final season of Gilmore Girls.
Before we get any further, though … couldn’t Alicia’s grumpy neighbor have simply put a Post-it note on her door saying that Alicia lived three floors up? It takes a staggering feat of passive-aggression to say, “You know what? I could write a short note and leave it here or in the elevator, but instead, I’m going to contact the Board, convene a meeting, hold a vote, and draw up eviction papers?” On the other hand: Alicia still can’t pony up for office space, even after all the clients Grace landed through cold calls? Grace successfully pleads their case to the eviction board, and Alicia responds by firing her. She basically admits that she forgot Grace was a child for, like, three months.
I found this episode’s case of the week to be particularly engaging. Unlike some of the season’s earlier cases involving things like artificial intelligence or private college loans, the entry point in “Tracks” is accessible. Viewers didn’t need 15 minutes of explanation to understand record deals or viral videos or pop music. That’s why the story can begin right away: Rowby (Matthew Lillard) is a musician, and his record company claims ownership of a birthday song he put up online. Lillard’s performance only sweetens the deal.
We’ve met Rowby once before, back when Alicia and Cary were still working together, and his insistence that they both represent him again makes sense. (And it’s adorable.) The case spirals from a simple cease-and-desist letter about one of Rowby’s songs, to a suit that claims Rowby’s second album was not releasable as he delivered it, which somehow winds up being partially settled by a balding expert witness in a piano-key necktie who explains how pop music works. (Fun game: Ask your musician friends how many gifts decorated with treble clefs and musical notes they’ve received as holiday gifts from well-intentioned relatives!)
The stakes are high for Rowby, but the story is fun in a way not much else has been this season — especially because Christine Lahti returns as the opposing counsel, shoehorning in asides about her adopted Chinese daughter while trying to ingratiate herself with the judge. She’s always so good. There’s also a certain romance to rock-and-roll, even when it’s rock-and-roll for small children, whether it’s the judge almost being won over by Rowby’s infectious tunes, or Rowby wheeling in a synthesizer and monitor to superscript notes onto sheet music as he plays. It doesn’t really matter that Rowby loses in the end … or that the judge sets a troubling precedent about “seconds of songs” sounding the same. After all, there’s a profoundly finite number of ways to arrange musical notes.
That said: I know we’re supposed to find Rowby’s impromptu love for Lucca charming. Same goes for his subsequent announcements about her beauty and his desire to write songs for her. However, I found his inability to pick up on her initial “Hey buddy, I’m working right now” vibe was a little icky. That’s why I had trouble getting onboard when she finally let him buy her a drink, then brought him home to listen to the song(s) he wrote … even though I loved getting another small glimpse into Lucca’s personal life. I think this gets us to five glimpses? And almost all of them involve her relationships with men. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, Eli’s moving back into his old office while Ruth Eastman packs up to work on congressional campaigns. As she explains, it’ll be more fun than working for Sanders would be. (Agreed.) She warns Eli that Peter is vulnerable now, since he’s coming back to Illinois as a governor who failed big-time, and warns him to watch out for friends and enemies. “And on that sinister note? Good-bye, Eli,” she says. Eli apologizes, saying he wishes he’d been better to her, but it’s not clear whether he’s being sincere or the situation with Alicia just made him a more contrite person. Regardless: Farewell, Margo Martindale! See you soon. Ideally on a show that makes better use of your many talents.
Then, things get a little weird. Eli sets a file box full of his things on his new (old) desk and takes out a framed photo of he and Alicia smiling, with their arms around one another. Did I miss a step somewhere in Alicia and Eli’s relationship? I remember the journey from adversaries to co-conspirators to colleagues to friends, but I don’t understand when or how Alicia became so essential to Eli. What happened between him scoffing, “Alicia would be a good State’s Attorney?” to last week’s scene on the campaign bus, in which he hissed at Ruth for neglecting Alicia’s je ne sais quoi? I don’t think we’re supposed to think Eli is in love with her — even though that seems like the only conclusion to draw from his behavior — but knowing what he is NOT feeling doesn’t really help. After Marissa turns up at Alicia’s house and announces that Alicia has to forgive Eli, the situation gets even more perplexing. (Though it’s great to see her again, and I want her to solve crimes with Grace in a spin-off.) Alicia says she doesn’t forgive him, and Marissa encourages her to simply pretend like she has … and then stay away from him awhile. Alicia, understandably and justifiably, says she’s too hurt.
And then, OF COURSE, Cary turns up on Alicia’s doorstep after an episode-long attempt by Lockhart/Agos/Lee to win back the clients Alicia and Lucca poached. Cary explains that the poached clients want Alicia and Lucca’s representation with the firm’s infrastructure and invites them to come back. Alicia asks if Diane wants her back. Cary tells her she doesn’t exactly want Alicia to come back, but she sees the sense of the plan. Without asking Lucca, Alicia turns him down. “If you change your mind … ” Cary says. “I won’t. Thank you. Bye,” Alicia responds.
Let’s be honest, though. She’s totally going back.