The Good Wife
The Good Wife’s penultimate episode is stuffed with great moments, but when I look back on it, I’ll most remember the scene in which Alicia and Peter rehearse his testimony. Playing the prosecuting attorney, Alicia takes Peter to task for every indiscretion and wrong move that happened throughout the duration of their marriage. Frustrated, Peter asks at what point she’s speaking to him as his wife, not his lawyer, then dredges up her affairs with Will and Jason. And that’s when Alicia, in calm, indignant, icy, perfect glory, replied, “I’m not on trial, buddy.”
Alicia and Will’s character chemistry was unparalleled, but because Chris Noth and Julianna Marguiles worked together less and less frequently as the years went by, I sometimes forgot what strong chemistry they have as actors. I try not to lapse into hyperbole when I’m talking about television — usually without success — but this is a truly great little scene, made perfect by the fact that it carries every scrap of history and emotion the show squirreled away over seven seasons.
“Verdict” centers around Peter’s trial (and a hole in the ceiling of the firm’s offices, but we’ll get to that), which has the odd effect of downplaying Alicia throughout. I didn’t sit and count the breakdown of lines, but Diane spoke more than she did, and whenever Alicia was the featured player in a scene, she was often just reacting to information that was being given to her, not necessarily driving the action herself.
I’m not complaining, especially because I’ve been clamoring for more from Diane for years — I loved the full range of what Christine Baranski was given to do here. But it’s a bit odd that in the second-to-last episode of a show called The Good Wife, the role of the good wife felt somewhat reduced. I wonder whether that was accidental, or an unfortunate side effect of cramming Peter’s trial into the episode, or an intentional statement that will make sense after next week’s finale. My money is on the second option, but regardless of the reason, it wasn’t a negative thing. Just interesting.
The trial itself is a truly crowded story line; I counted at least six witnesses. Lloyd Garber talks about Peter “promising” to help his son, the lead prosecutor on the Locke case accuses Peter of micromanaging it, and Diane talks Kurt into embellishing his opinion of the ballistics. This falls through when that meddlesome blonde Republican gives her own testimony and heavily implies that Kurt’s overselling the evidence to help Diane. Later, Diane crawls into her bed with Kurt in the dark, crying and asking for forgiveness, and when he tenderly kisses her hand, it’s as powerful a moment as we’ve ever seen from them.
Cary briefly testifies, too, inculpating Peter’s mishandling of the bullets. There’s a quick, tense scene between him and Alicia afterward, which seemed unremarkable until I realized it could be the very last time those two characters speak to one another. Still, Peter’s testimony is the most engaging aspect. He explains that he was a hard-ass micromanager of a state’s attorney because of the “bad conviction” that sent him to prison. He wanted to spare others that same experience. His walk-through with Alicia paid off, and the jurors finally seem to be warming to him.
Somewhere in the middle of this, Louis Canning comes to Alicia with affidavits from Geneva Pine’s co-workers, stating that she had an affair with Peter that lasted until a month prior, and that she was testifying to get revenge because he broke up with her. Peter adamantly denies this, calling it office gossip, which makes me even more suspicious. Wasn’t there an insinuation that Geneva was having another inappropriate affair, right around Cary’s trial in season six? There are scores of story threads left dangling, but I really hope this one gets tied off. The best part of the revelation is how flatly Alicia receives the news — when Louis acts surprised by that, she asks, “Were you wanting me to cry?” and then makes the most comically overstated cry-face. “God, I love you,” he responds. In that moment, so did I.
At that same time, Jason learns about the affair from one of Geneva’s former co-workers, but opts not to share it with Alicia. The two of them dance around each other throughout the episode — they both need time to figure things out. He doesn’t want to work for Peter anymore and, ultimately, he confesses to Lucca that he’s certain Alicia will stay with Peter if he goes to prison. Lucca tells him that he’s in love and needs to make sure Alicia knows it. I’m a little irked that Lucca spends more time as Alicia and Jason’s go-between than she does getting to be a badass lawyer; one of the true tragedies of The Good Wife’s departure is not having more time to see what Cush Jumbo can do.
I’ve never liked David Lee much — which is fine, because we’re not supposed to — but I’ve always wished the show would find a way to do better by Zach Grenier, who plays the character masterfully. It was unrealistic to hope the show would somehow magically fix his under-use; regardless, I’ll treasure the image of him flitting around the office, earbuds in, not giving a damn while he listens to The Mikado. It’s clear that his decision to let Diane and Alicia become the sole named partners isn’t sitting as well as he’d suggested, and after actively trying to sabotage Diane’s interviews with prospective new female attorneys, he takes a different tack and lobs a discrimination complaint Diane’s way.
That might not matter, as the firm is literally crumbling around his, Diane’s, and Alicia’s shoulders. A demolition crew mistakenly knocks out a conference-room wall, prompting Diane to suggest they take the floor above them and expand upward, adding a staircase. Not so fast: The accidental demolition made the firm’s current floor unsafe for habitation, so every lawyer in the place has to cram into the lowly offices of the 27th floor. Is it all very heavy-handed as far as visual metaphors go? Absolutely. But if you can’t be heavy-handed at the end of a series that’s run for seven years, when the hell can you?
At the end of the episode, while sitting in Alicia’s kitchen, Peter decides to take the deal he’s been offered: two years in prison. As Jason had predicted and feared, Alicia automatically agrees to visit him (so much for the trial being the “one last thing” she does for him), and Peter starts to rationalize the experience. He’ll survive for two years, get out, write a book, and figure out a way to start again. He always has. Just as he’s decided, Alicia picks up her phone and sees a message informing her that the jury has come back. It’s too late to accept the plea bargain. The episode — even though it was titled “Verdict” — ends right there. One last cliffhanger, eh, Good Wife? I didn’t think you had it in you.