Expectation and disappointment are at the heart of The Good Wife's spotty, if not overtly head-scratching, midseason finale.
The Good WifeAirtime: Sundays, 9 pm
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Vanessa Williams, Cush Jumbo
Subtitle: Season 7, Episode 10 - "KSR"
Air date: 2015-12-13
"Alicia (Julianna Margulies): It’s odd, that someone can be so good yet think things so bad.
Lucca (Cush Jumbo): It’s people. They’re all scum.
Alicia: Damaged much?
Lucca: No. Observant. Don’t expect anything of anybody and you’ll never be disappointed".
Ahhhh, expectation and disappointment. Those two things were all over this seventh season’s 10th episode (and midseason finale), "KSR". Lockhart, Agos & Lee expected their very bro-ish, very male, and very white junior associates to step up for a case brought to them by Peter Gallagher’s Ethan Carver. The disappointment comes when they all decide to bolt for Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox). Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) expected to have a long, fruitful romantic relationship with Courtney Paige (Vanessa Williams), but she’s heading out west. Who knows what Alicia truly expected from Jason Crouse (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but either way, that dude’s following Eli’s muse out to California for a higher paycheck. And then, of course, there’s the episode’s earth-shattering(?) reveal, that we’ll discuss ad nauseam in a minute, that takes expectation and disappointment to new The Good Wife levels.
So, yes, Lucca. People are scum. This is unavoidable.
Speaking of scum, this week’s case features a doctor, Joseph Portnow (played both creepily and heartwarmingly by Josh Stamberg, who decided to pop in from The Affair for reasons that cannot be logically explained -- the Showtime series’ second season has been A-plus television each week, while this run of The Good Wife has been … let’s go with spotty at best). The guy’s into some freaky shit. Via a website that caters to these kinds of things, The Good Doctor wants to “kidnap, sedate, and rape” a woman (hey there, KSR!) in order to quench his fetish-laden thirst, which, considering how many sexual fetishes this series tends to confront, really makes me wonder about the personal life of the husband/wife tandem that is Robert and Michelle King. But that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, Alicia and Lucca are defending Portnow in court.
Long story short, the jury convicts him, but the judge -- Don Schakowsky, played by Christopher McDonald, who is also visiting the premises, somehow rushing over from lowly bond court to sit in on what is probably a fairly high-profile case -- overturns the judgment and Portnow walks (all the way back to Helen Solloway in Brooklyn; hey yo!). This is probably because Alicia called the judge out on The Bribery Incident from earlier this season, but as we find out near the end of the episode, we may never know for sure.
That, then, leads us the actual end of the episode, where Eli, God bless him, confesses to Alicia that six years ago (season two, episode one), he erased a voicemail from Will Gardner (we miss you, Josh Charles!) that said the dearly departed lawyer loved her and he would do anything for her. Boom goes the dynamite. Alicia takes Eli’s drink (led by absolutely superb acting from Julianna Margulies -- those eyes, man). She then tells him to get out. And to black, we fade.
Here’s what I don’t get: Alicia and Will ultimately shacked up for a bit after that deleted voicemail, didn’t they? In fact, the way season two ended was my least favorite season-ending yet. Why? Because it featured Will and Alicia getting a hotel room and finally, mercifully, exploring all that juicy sexual tension that kept building for years. So … why does this voicemail matter now? They inevitably ended up in the same place anyway - gettin' it on all the time, seeing where things might go if they decided to be together forever and ever and ever (amen). That elongated rendezvous ended not because she never knew Will wanted to be with her; it ended because Alicia wanted to focus on her children. Honestly. That happened. Check the tape. It only took half a season for them to get there.
So, again, then: why does this voicemail matter now?
The other problem here is that if Alicia truly hates Eli for this, then where the hell does Eli go from here? He’s been boxed out of the Peter Florrick campaign (honestly, The Good Wife? You’re going to land Margo Martindale and use her for a single scene and it’s your midseason finale?). His only ticket to relevancy was Alicia. She could have him fired at the drop of a dime. I get it that you’re heartbroken over Courtney, but think, Eli! Think!
As for someone who actually did think this week, hats off to Cary (Matt Czuchry) for putting those utterly detestable junior associates in their place. Also, hats off to the writers for making that whole young vs. old story matter in some type of way. That narrative was dead in the water for as long as it progressed, but the minute I saw Cary walk into that empty conference room with those cellphones lined up, I was finally able to say, "Ohh, so that’s what all of that ageism nonsense was about, and it does deal with the entitlement and laziness of a generation. OK. I can live with that". If nothing else, it established hope that Cary might actually be used in the second half of this season, as opposed to the first half of this season, where he was used somewhere between “never” and “almost never”.
But what will the second half of this seventh season hold? Jason and Courtney are gone … or are they? Alicia is mad as hell at Eli, but when hasn’t she been mad as hell at Eli this season? Plus, again: why does this voicemail matter now; what did I miss? Schakowsky has effectively paid Alicia back for Eli’s good-doings, so what will his deal be? Is there a presidential campaign still going on? And what about that Lucca/Cary romance that we all hoped to see after they danced? When are Howard (Jerry Adler) and Jackie (Mary Beth Piel) getting married?
Those are a lot of questions with no answers. There have been high spots. There have been low spots. Overall, if this halfway finale was tasked with wrapping up a few things while leaving us hopeful that The Good Wife universe might return to its natural order in the season’s second half (calling upon Will’s memory might reignite some stories that have been sorely missed this year, because for the love of God, why is it so hard to find Cary and Diane [Christine Baranski] something useful to do?), then it kind of/sort of achieved that goal.
But then again, perhaps the most lasting example of expectation and disappointment will be thrusted upon us as viewers -- as long as we don’t expect much from the series’ return next year, we can’t be let down. Here’s hoping for a more stimulating 2016.
Approaching The Bench
I read this somewhere else, so I’m not going to take credit for it, but … what happened to the judges? Part of the show’s charm for years was the rotation of whacky, distinguishable, fun, interesting judges and this year, they have so far been replaced by a single corrupt bond court hard-ass who has become annoyingly one-note as a character. Bring back Ana Gasteyer, Denis O’Hare, Kurt Fuller, Dominic Chianese, and, of course, Jeffrey Tambor. I mean, really, though.
Well, here’s something I didn’t know: the Kings have been working on selling a new series (maybe that’s why this season seems to be lacking something -- zing!). According to Deadline, it’s called Vatican City and Amazon picked it up. There’s no real point in mentioning this, other than to 1) note how this furthers the thought that season seven might be The Good Wife’s final run because the minds behind it are turning their attention elsewhere, and 2) wonder aloud if Vatican City will be any good. The admiration I have for the Kings knows no bounds, but the first 10 episodes of this season are maybe -- just maybe -- allowing a smidgen of doubt about their brilliance creep into my head.
“KSR” was billed as the “winter finale.” Winter doesn’t begin until December 22. Does this annoy anyone else?
So, what happened to that investigation Jason was conducting on Alicia? And what about those multi-gazillion-dollar clients Alicia and Lucca poached a few episodes ago? The NSA? Canning’s health? Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter)? There seems to be an unusual amount of open-ended stories floating through the air, even for a show as open-ended as The Good Wife.
"If we can be convicted for our fantasies …". Oh, Alicia.
I refuse to believe that this series brought Vanessa Williams on only to have it result in such a fruitless run. We barely saw her. This romance that supposedly crushed Eli? It was hardly even examined. We knew she had a lot of money. We knew Eli really liked her. And … that was about it. If he was going to be this crushed, it should have happened at the demise of his relationship with Natalie Flores (America Ferrera) years ago. At least we believed in that story. This, of course, leads me to …
Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Especially with that "investigation" looming over the story’s head, why not bring him back for the second part of this season? The way the producers framed this episode, it felt like neither Courtney or Jason were going to return. I’m just not so sure I believe that. The whole thing has a feeling of, "Courtney and Jason were in cahoots all along", if only because, hey -- look at that, they came into this story at about the same time and now they are both going away at the same time … to the same place. Too optimistic? Probably.
Speaking of returning, two characters yet to make their yearly appearance? Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) and Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker). We can assume they’ll eventually stop by, right?
If season seven, part two has one goal, that goal absolutely needs to center around making Cary and Diane involved more. There isn’t a single writer, fan, viewer, or recapper who doesn’t agree with that.
Crazy Prediction of the Week: Courtney and Jason are part of a conglomerate looking to take down the Florricks. Both were dispatched to Chicago from California and now they are returning to California from Chicago. Courtney runs for president. Courtney beats Peter. Jason, who we find out is Courtney’s husband, becomes the country’s first First Man.