Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

DVDs
cover art

The Good Wife: The Third Season

Cast: Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, Archie Panjabi, Christine Baranski

(CBS; US DVD: 4 Sep 2012)

The elevator doors open and Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) enters the corridors of the Lockhart/Gardner office. We detect something has changed after we last saw her on the season two finalé. It’s not due to that slight change actors undergo from season to season, neither is it the suspiciousness added by Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Thing” which plays in the background. It’s something that might remain almost unperceivable to the casual viewer; Alicia’s hair has changed. The length is still the same, but the styling has gone from straight and severe to something slightly more playful, post-coital even. And then we gasp. We know what she’s been up to.


During the second season finalé of CBS’ The Good Wife, we saw Alicia and Will (Josh Charles) finally finding the right timing to consummate the sexual relation they’d been craving since the first episode of the series (or since their college years if you’re being a purist) and in a show that has become so brilliant in the art of the subtle cliffhanger, it came as quite a slight shock to have them start the third season not with a resolution, but with something that seemed to be an avoidance. Did they or didn’t they?


Almost instantly we understand where the show is going as it ignores our frustrations and throws us back into the fierceness of the legal battles it has specialized in. Soon, Saint Alicia (as she’s been dubbed by her fans) finds herself defending a Muslim student accused of murdering his Jewish co-worker (the textbook-challenge feel of the cases only gets more complex episode after episode) and we get it: we’ll have to wait to find out what happened.


Before soon we learn that yes, Alicia and Will finally hooked up, but we’ve become so entangled by the show’s multiple storylines and by the sensationalist nature of the legal battles, that we have no time to “care” about such menial issues. The truth is, that unlike other legal shows The Good Wife has always been able to preserve a fine balance between the standalone nature of its episodes and the larger arc covered season after season. It has also made clear, that it’s devoted to Alicia and the show becomes an organic representation of who she is. Take, for example, episode 10, in which Alicia finds herself at her most maternal. She’s coaching junior associate Caitlin D’arcy (a superb Anna Camp) whom she first thought of as competition and then she finds herself in the midst of a personal crisis as her daughter (Makenzie Vega) goes missing.


Yet despite the fact that the show centers on Alicia, season three made it obvious that creators Michelle King and Robert King wanted to make the most out of what might be TV’s finest acting ensemble by providing each character with their own chance to shine. We see how Alicia’s estranged husband/State Attorney Peter (Chris Noth at his slimiest) goes from trying to fix his marriage, into a purely destructive mode as he threatens to have Will disbarred out of jealousy. “I’m the State Attorney, you don’t say no to me” hisses Peter as we see how power has started to corrupt him. Despite the soap opera tones uncovered by this love triangle, we wonder if real life power dynamics shift so carelessly at the whim of their perpetrators.


Will, who despite being handsome and picture perfect has never been very interesting, finally reveals his true colors and we learn he is perhaps too much of a commitment phobic and fears Alicia’s love. Watching Charles and Margulies together feels like a cross between a Merchant Ivory movie and a John Grisham novel. We see how Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart goes from being a severe boss to almost motherly in her protectiveness of Alicia, as we grasp how the show is deeply feminist in how it understands that women should stick together as they traverse this male-centric world.


Alan Cumming’s scheming Eli Gold and Archie Panjabi’s enigmatic Kalinda are still the greatest assets in the show and on season three they finally get to work together. Eli is now officially a part of Lockhart/Gardner and after a failed attempt to find a new job and hide her shame, Kalinda still remains the firm’s investigator. Upon their meeting sparks seem to fly and that gleeful sound you hear is the collective joy of fans going “finally”. “You’re good” says Eli as Kalinda does her usual “tell me something I didn’t know” look.


Episode after episode, The Good Wife features an astounding guest cast (one episode features guest turns from Anika Noni Rose, Carrie Preston, Amy Sedaris, Bob Balaban and Parker Posey!) and since most of these become recurrent characters we get to see their many layers, but usually the show’s dynamic comes down to how these characters play off against Alicia and season three finally makes sense of the show’s servil title. Margulies might not come off looking as the most gifted of actors because she always seem to be away somewhere, but then we get it, her gift is precisely her ability to listen, to observe, to vanish into situations and prepare for battle. By season’s end, when Alicia confronts her mother-in-law Jackie (Mary Beth Peil) she threatens her by saying “I am a lawyer”. Not only is Alicia disturbingly becoming like her husband, she’s revealing colors that make us crave for the fourth season to begin.


CBS has done a superb job with this DVD set. Episodes are presented in 16x9 with sharp audio options (the inclusion of Spanish, Portuguese and English subtitles is also more than welcome) but unlike most TV-on-DVD sets, the bonus materials included are actually quite great. Each of the six discs contains deleted scenes from the episodes and four discs include extra supplements. Among the most significant are The Good Wife: A New Beginning which recaps the first two seasons making it easy for newbies to catch up. A Bi-Coastal Affair in which we see cast and crew divided between Los Angeles and New York working together, Research and Development, a particularly insightful featurette in which writers reveal how they’re inspired by the daily news to come up with cases for the show and Alicia Florrick at Crossroads, a Douglas Sirk-ian titled short documentary in which the actors talk about their characters’ evolution.


The most curious featurette is the inclusion of the Sexual Harrassment Video from episode seven, a ‘90s-style corporate video that achieves a strange poignancy in the show, but can’t help but look hilarious as a standalone. Apparently people behind The Good Wife have a great sense of humor, too!

Rating:

Extras rating:

Jose Solís wanted to be a spy since he was a child, which is why by day he works as a content editor and by night he writes and dreams of film. Although he doesn’t travel the world fighting villains, his mission is to trek the planet from screen to screen. He has been writing about film since 2003 and regularly contributes to The Film Experience and PopMatters. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.


Media
discussion by

Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.