Julianna Margulies as Alicia, and Chris Noth as Peter.
When I look back at these last days of The Good Wife, I’ll be quite grateful for a panel presentation that the show’s cast and creators gave at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend. When asked whether viewers should expect closure of the show’s many story arcs before the last episode airs in May, co-creator Robert King answered, “The best finales […] are novelistic. And novels, there is sometimes a level of ambiguity, which is fun. Fun is the wrong word. Resonant, perhaps. You want a last episode that resonates.”
It’s a simple revelation, but it helped me understand what to expect as the show winds down. I went into “Landing” with expectations firmly managed … and then the show delivered an episode so well executed, so rife with everything that made old-school Good Wife compelling, so fun to watch, that I managed to completely overlook the fact that the show was revisiting the stupid NSA story lines. Once again, my expectations for the rest of the series are sky high. Oh, Good Wife. Loving you is complicated.
The episode doesn’t pick up at the previous episode’s cliffhanger, in an odd departure from the show’s typical form. We learn after the fact that Alicia still wants a divorce, but that she’s sticking by Peter until his case is over. I’m a little surprised that the latter is true — my Good Wife brain trust (a.k.a. my parents) were certain she wouldn’t stand by him — but Alicia and Peter’s relationship has always been a murky thing. Nothing should surprise me anymore.
Even though Peter is a total garbage person, and even though Alicia has deserved better for decades, there’s something weirdly moving about the way she stands by his side. I’m not sure if it’s wrong for me to look at what’s happening between them that way — or unhealthy for Alicia to be behaving in the way that she is — but I got emotional when Bearded Matthew Morrison stormed into her apartment, ready to arrest Peter. Alicia bolts into the guest room, scares up a blazer to cover up the cuffs on Peter’s wrists, and then ties a tie around his neck. She hisses at Bearded Michael Morrison, “You will not embarrass my husband,” then walks to the police car with Peter, in images that are transposed to the familiar black-and-white of the show’s opening credits. Later, she goes on TV, announcing that she’ll support Peter because he’s innocent. Full circle, indeed.
None of that changes the fact that the case against Peter is strong, and his options are dwindling. To top it all off, he seems legitimately heartbroken that Alicia still wants to go through with the divorce. He’s offered a plea bargain, but when he says “three years,” it’s not probation, as Alicia assumes. It’s jail time. I make a lot of jokes about Alicia’s lack of facial expression, but the actual shock in her face packs one hell of a punch in this scene. “We’re right back where we started,” Peter says. It’s on the nose, but it’s not inaccurate.
Peter’s not the only one in trouble, either. Alicia gets a frantic phone call from fugitive whistle-blower Jeff Dellinger (the perfect Zach Woods). Jeff is on the cusp of trying to reenter America to go to his mother’s funeral, when he gets spooked at the border crossing and declines to present his passport. The U.S. Border Patrol and the infinitely more polite Canadian police end up in an actual, physical tug of war over him, so Jeff calls Alicia, who gets on the first plane to Toronto with Lucca to help him out. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for The Good Wife when it’s warranted, but even I don’t believe Jeff would just up and decide to casually come back to the States.
The tug of war doesn’t stop there, although it gets a lot less literal. The Canadian judge (who’s referred to as “your worship,” which is just wonderfully odd) is quick to act snooty about the superiority of the Canadian legal system to America’s “guns and gangs.” It immediately gets complicated, and there are the requisite collection of Good Wife twists and turns. At one point, one of the agents who has monitored Alicia for years turns up, and — wait, are NSA agents allowed to so gleefully reveal the depths of their spying? I know (or at least I think I know — Lord, I won’t miss trying to keep seven seasons of story mentally straight) that this particular agent is a bit doltish, but it’s still breathtakingly unprofessional. It all leads to Alicia finally learning the extent to which the NSA has listened in on her, and, somehow, that leads to Jeff getting Canadian asylum … presumably to work for the Canadian version of the NSA. Hooray?
Meanwhile, Gary Cole is back as Diane’s husband, Kurt. (I continue to have a fantasy in my head where Kurt is just an extension of Cole’s character on Veep, and it holds up if you’re willing to squint.) He terrifies Diane by announcing, “Let’s talk,” but it’s good news. Kurt wants to sell his business so that he and Diane can spend a portion of their marriage actually, you know, living together. She’s thrilled, and it’s a rare unguarded moment for Diane. I really, really love it. Kurt asks Diane to oversee the sale of his business to PGT Ballistics, which turns out to be owned by Megan Hilty in a tight-fitted dress, oddly cloying and strangely sexualized. It’s a Glee/Smash reunion, which is to say both Hilty and Matthew Morrison appear on this episode and don’t interact at all. Diane, beautifully, tells her to go fuck herself (insofar as a person can actually say that on network TV). I have not really loved anything David Lee has ever done, but watching him slink out of the room after Diane drops that bomb is pretty amazing.
Later, Diane accuses Kurt of being too easily swayed by pretty, young, blonde Republicans. FAIR POINT. She later walks it back, but Kurt says he’ll find another buyer anyway. Tearfully, Diane responds, “You make me happy.” I so wish we’d been able to see their relationship actually develop over the years. Diane deserves far more than just a happy marriage, but I’m thrilled she has it anyway.
Jason spends most of “Landing” working on Peter’s case (what could possibly go wrong?) and avoiding Alicia after she breaks the news of the divorce, even though she emphasizes the “I’m not getting divorced for you” angle. But at the end of the episode, in Alicia’s apartment, he asks why she’s getting divorced. He wants to know what she wants. Alicia begs off a few times before finally, simply giving him an answer: “You.” We don’t hear Jason’s response, but it doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger. This time, it seems like a complete sentence.