Julianna Margulies as Alicia and Cush Jumbo as Lucca.
As The Good Wife chugs toward an uncertain future, the seventh season continues to scrutinize the consequences of Eli’s voice-mail revelation. Alicia’s still preoccupied with it, understandably so, and we spend most of “Judged” examining the emotional devastation it has caused.
Don’t get me wrong: We’re not as deep into Alicia’s interior as we were during the sixth-season episode that focused exclusively on her inner monologue, but we’re further behind her careful façade than Alicia and the show typically permit us to go. We see her distracted in court, hear the less-than-sedate music in her head (a far cry from the classical score that usually backs The Good Wife), and watch her lackadaisical attempts to eat a bowl of cereal. Or possibly SpaghettiOs.
The show’s attempt at showing us Alicia’s off-kilter feelings is a little heavy-handed — actually filming scenes at off-kilter angles is a shade too far — but in some ways, it’s a relief to see her disorientation and grief explored in such depth. The Good Wife has a bad habit of dropping story lines at inopportune times, so I’m glad it share my conviction that Will and Alicia are too pivotal to the story to be set aside, even if Will can’t physically be there to give Alicia closure. And it makes me wonder, for the millionth time, what the show had in mind for Will and Alicia before Josh Charles decided to leave.
We also see Alicia in Eli’s office, sitting in his desk chair, when she demands that he tell her exactly what Will said in the voice mail. Eli hesitates, but Alicia won’t tolerate it. If he’s really been regretting it every day since, as he’d claimed, he ought to be able to give her a pretty comprehensive summary of what Will said. He tries his best, but Alicia leaves his office still upset. By the end of the episode, after Eli tearfully shows up at her apartment again, Alicia tells him he’s forgiven, but it’s unclear whether she really means it or she’s taking Marissa’s advice from last episode and simply telling Eli she forgives him so he’ll stop sniveling.
Real talk, though: Eli seems to be getting worse at apologies. This time, he basically leads with the suggestion that Alicia should realize how hard it was for him to fess up, since he never confesses to anything.
Amid all the interpersonal drama, there’s law to be practiced, too: Diane is representing the editor of a college newspaper that lost its funding as a result of an editorial. Christine Baranski, as ever, does her best with what she’s given — and the story line is buoyed by the return of Richard Masur, reprising his role as an inordinately chill arbiter from the episode about predatory student loans earlier this season. Unfortunately, even their best efforts don’t make the story feel any less tangential to what’s happening in the rest of “Judged.” Now that Peter’s campaign isn’t a convenient excuse to keep Alicia busy, it’s really clear how the antipathy between her and Diane limits the show. It’s time for them to make up.
Oh, and Jason’s back. He brings Alicia pot holders that say “I took a byte out of Silicon Valley,” and they’re both sort of dippy to each other until she finally kisses him in the elevator, and I am HERE FOR IT.
Reprising his role as Key Season Seven Plot Device, Judge Schakowsky is also back this week. After reconnecting with one of her firest bond court clients, Alicia sues for the violation of that client’s civil rights. The client, whose name is Clayton, has been in jail ever since he first met Alicia — more than eight months ago — even though the charge against him was minor and the bail was low. Lucca and Alicia know Schakowsky’s dealings are shady at best, and another judge agrees to actually hear the case. When all of that falls apart, however, it all bounces back to Alicia, who finds herself the target of a $1.5 million malpractice suit from Clayton. It’s bad news, and it becomes “devastating” when she and Lucca remember they’re only insured up to $300,000.
During that conversation with Lucca, Alicia finally and fully collapses. We’ve never really seen her come apart like this in front of another person. (Feel free to yell at me about emotional breakdowns from, say, season two that I’ve completely forgotten.) Alicia walks out on their professional conversation and just starts doing laundry. Lucca follows her, throwing some well-deserved “What in the world do you think you’re doing?” looks her way. Alicia starts explaining the voice mail, but takes her explanation beyond what she said to Ruth or to Eli. She’s sick of everything now: the law, the fact that things get dirty, even simply standing there.
“I’m not built to be an unhappy person! I like laughing,” she says. (These are both fascinating claims, since I’m not sure how often we’ve seen Alicia legitimately laugh over seven seasons?) She goes on: She hates being alone in the apartment. She’s not even sure she likes Zach and Grace. And it builds to the episode’s gut punch: “I was loved. And it’s over. So why am I doing this?” Clearly, “this” translates to “anything.” It’s a pitch-perfect bit of writing and performance.
Lucca, to her credit, doesn’t tell Alicia that everything will be okay. The only reassurance she really offers is that she doesn’t usually like people, but she likes Alicia. “I don’t even think I like my brother,” she says. “He bothers me.” It’s a small touch, but I really like the realistic and responsible moment when Lucca asks Alicia whether she kept a gun in the house, since Alicia’s “I want it to end!” rhetoric is delivered so sincerely. Lucca does more than just offer a hug and a really heartfelt promise of friendship, too: She gets Cary to represent Alicia in her malpractice suit, which will be going to trial.
And so, “Judged” ends almost exactly the way the episode before it did: with a job offer from Cary. The firm isn’t prepared to bring her back as a full partner, and she balks when Cary mentions the mass exodus of associates, but he assures her there’s a place at Lockhart/Agos for her as a junior partner. (I’m assuming an offer for Lucca is still in play, too.) The crazy music in Alicia’s head kicks back in, and Alicia laughs and laughs.
Is it fair to end two episodes with identical cliff-hangers? Is it kosher? Or even good storytelling? I land somewhere along the “probably not” spectrum. But this is The Good Wife, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, this is probably the beginning of the end, so all bets are off.