The inevitable has finally come to fruition in so many ways, and now, we can resume our regularly scheduled The Good Wife programming.
The Good WifeAirtime: Sundays, 9 pm
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Alan Cumming, Cush Jumbo, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry
Subtitle: Season 7, Episode 13 - "Judged"
Air date: 2016-01-31
"Part of learning how to make decisions is learning how to live with poor decisions".
Leave it to a tangential character to utter the week’s most relevant phrase. Dean Randolph (John Billingsley), in an arbitration hearing regarding a university's desire to de-fund its student newspaper, says it with a strange mix of condescension and ignorance, yet it rings true for The Good Wife’s narrative as a whole. There isn’t a single character in this world who hasn’t made poor decisions. Living with them, though? That's what makes this show so great.
"Judged", the series’ 13th episode of its seventh (and most likely last) season, was a solid hour of television, one of the best, in fact, of this current run. Sure, we ostensibly get the same ending we received at the conclusion of "Tracks" -- will Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) head back to Lockhart/Whatever? -- but at least this time, she’s smiling. At least this time, she’s warm.
At least this time, it works.
Which, of course, is the true victory of this week’s episode. The inevitable appears to be here: Alicia can finally forgive Eli (Alan Cumming). Alicia is probably heading back to her professional home. Alicia kisses Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The Great Florrick/Quinn Experiment Of 2015/2016 is coming to a close. And finally -- finally! -- Eli tells Alicia precisely what I’ve been writing for weeks now on this very website: the voicemail revelation didn’t change the fact that Will (Josh Charles) and Alicia ultimately had their shot at making love work … and love, no matter how hard they tried, still didn’t work. For them, at least.
So, what have we learned through all this? Well, we’ve learned that The Good Wife works best when its main players are indeed its main players. The marginalization of both Cary (Matt Czuchry) and Diane (Christine Baranski) this season has been a point of contention for all of us The Good Wife devotees. That's why when we flash to a courtroom this week, and it’s a close-up of Cary explaining that he’s representing Alicia Florrick, there's an overwhelming feeling of relief that falls right through the television screen and into our collective consciousness.
The one true flaw, in truth, is that I, for one, was hoping for more from the Judge Schakowsky (Christopher McDonald) character. The overt villains in The Good Wife have been much more layered -- much more interesting -- in past seasons. Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver) was so damn slimy. Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) was so damn magnetic. Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) was so damn ruthless. Schakowsky, though? You mean to tell me he’s little more than just another grumpy guy who’s probably corrupt? Psst. Even that stupid thing they tried with Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) husband provided a more intriguing dynamic than what’s happened with this bond court judge so far (and yes, in case you were wondering, he’s going to get away with everything, including putting Alicia out of business).
But I digress.
What the majority of this season has done thus far is remind us that at its core, The Good Wife is a courtroom drama with exquisitely written main characters that lead lives almost as messy as our own. And that says something, considering how we live in an era during which most TV success is predicated on a real life’s fantasy (Breaking Bad’s the clearest example that leaps to mind) rather than a mere real life. Nobody has the balls to go from school teacher to drug lord. But everybody, like it or not, has had a love they wish they didn’t have to mourn (and, to take it further, I’d be willing to bet that most everybody has either cheated or been cheated on).
In this particular series, however, it’s clear that the alliances are worth just as much as their singular parts. The ambiguity of both these players and the games at hand have been the true stars. Yet when these players decide to betray the team, victories are harder to come by. It’s easier to root for Alicia’s love life when, in her spare time, she’s jockeying with Cary for professional position or working to impress Diane in a courtroom. The distractions made the ambiguity that much more present. For too long now, those same distractions have overtaken the veil of obscurity this series once perfected.
Such is why "Judged" feels like a win. Some of the more overwrought -- and occasionally lazily concocted -- distractions appear to be resolved now. If Alicia does indeed head back to her old stomping grounds, it will be much easier for us to focus on how she plans to juggle whatever the hell is going on between her and Jason with whatever the hell is going on between her and Peter (Chris Noth). There won’t be the constant money struggles. Or the threats of starting new businesses. Or the forced political ambitions. Or the happened-way-too-often attempts at poaching clients.
Instead, what we’ll get back to is a look into the life of someone still learning how to deal with decisions. Some that are poor. Some that are good. Some that are her own. Some that are those of others. Some, she could control. Some, she couldn’t. And that, friends, is what has always made The Good Wife impressive TV: the constant navigation of a process impossible to compromise, impossible to ever fully figure out.
So let this week's record show that if nothing else, here was an episode that provided the moment Alicia got her laugh back. And in true The Good Wife fashion, all it took was a heavy dose of defeat.
Approaching The Bench
First, this, from Julianna Margulies, as quoted on Vulture from a speech honoring creators Robert and Michelle King: "I surprised Robert and Michelle tonight. They didn’t know I was going to be here. They think I’m here for them, but I’m unemployed come April, and I think you haven’t seen me in a while, at least not in person, so I thought I should show up". So, there's that.
Of course the temptation is to center so much of this week’s reaction around Alicia's breakdown while doing laundry. But unlike … well … the whole Internet, that sequence didn’t work for me as much as it did others. The writing was impeccable. I mean, really. Absolutely impeccable. And that comment about how she doesn’t like her kids -- wow, that’s the perfect combination of weird, unpredictable and honest. But I had a tough time believing Margulies's performance and I can’t understand if that’s because she’s lost all my sympathy over the course of this season (she's just been so damn petulant) or if I simply can’t buy into her as an actor. The whole thing just reeked of "Give me my Emmy now!" and I can’t reconcile that in my own head. Am I alone on this one?
Speaking of which, 13 episodes in, and I’m genuinely bummed that we (probably) won’t get to flesh out Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) as a character anymore than this season will allow. She calls everyone on everything. And man, I like that. A lot. She saw through Jason and Alicia this week, but she’s also been on point with Canning and Cary and pretty much everyone else she’s had to deal with thus far. There’s a no-nonsense appeal to her, and I want to see that challenged at some point. It’s a shame she didn’t come around earlier.
The next episode’s name is "Monday". Yeah, what do you think that means?
I’m trying hard to figure out the purpose of Diane's case this week and it’s awfully hard to come by. Really: did her appearance this week not further anything at all whatsoever, or did I miss something? My only guess (hope) is that they wanted to reestablish her character here because now they can finally truly start to use her again, moving forward. Like, “Hey, don’t forget about Diane! She’s really great, remember, and we can now utilize her like we used to with Alicia going back to her law firm!” Or something.
"Even when I’m not fine, I’m really fine". Jason Crouse, ladies and gentlemen.
Here’s a question I’m seriously worried about: Do we ever see Eli again? No, but honestly. Do we? Peter has fallen off the earth since his botched run at a presidency, and that whole Alicia-needs-to-forgive-Eli thing appears to be done now. Don’t act like this isn’t possible (I say as a lump formulates in my throat).
So … no more classical music?
"I took a byte out of Silicon Valley" and oven mitts has to be an inside joke somewhere, for some of these people, in some way, on some level. Right? Right?!
Crazy Prediction Of The Week: Kalinda comes back. She's got a baby. It’s Peter's. Boom goes the dynamite.