What'll it be, The Good Wife? Will your emotions cloud your judgment? Or, perhaps, will they clarify it?
The Good WifeAirtime: Sundays, 9pm
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Subtitle: Season 7, Episode 15 - "Targets"
Air date: 2016-02-21
"What’s wrong with emotion?"
"It clouds judgment."
"Sometimes, it clarifies it."
Well, now isn’t that a fine line? Leave it up to a panel of military officers and lawyers to offer up such dialogue as Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) looks on. This seventh season's 15th episode, "Targets", gets its legalese on via a situation involving Massoud Tahan (Jeff O’Donnell), a supposed recruiter for ISIS. The conundrum is that he’s never killed anyone himself, so would these United States of America be justified, legally, in taking him down? The panel has a mere two days to figure it out, even though it sort of/kind of appears as though the leaders of this group are sort of/kind of hoping to get the green light on killing the guy.
Of course (spoiler alert), by the end of the hour, Tahan, who is actually an American, goes down at the hands of a drone attack. Yet even for the impressively heart-racing dialogue that's exchanged before the opening credits even role, the tale is ancillary to what drives this week’s narrative (and, for that matter, what appears will drive the rest of the series): the investigation surrounding Peter Florrick (Chris Noth).
Interestingly, this mess allows the NSA back into the narrative. Turns out, those guys can listen in on everything Alicia does at all times because of her iPhone (honestly, man: smartphones are the worst). But because the one official who Alicia appeared to actually like on this panel is dismissed after day one due to a security breach, we are now left to decipher if that security breach actually happened to him, or if it was due to Alicia’s tapped phone. Naturally, this leads to The NSA Guy Who Wasn't on Ugly Betty being, presumably, dismissed from his duties, and a cryptic (if not overtly overwrought) parting image of a watershed moment. Or a glacier crashing. Or an avalanche. Or … whatever.
The episode's other moving parts are, in a word, disappointing. Because … wow, Cary (Matt Czuchry) and Diane (Christine Baranski) really are going to be marginalized as paranoid elitists from here on out, now aren’t they? We learn this because Lockhart, Agos & Lee stage a photo shoot in their offices and because the shoot eventually focuses on only the firm’s women, David Lee (Zach Grenier) and Cary begin to suspect that Diane wants to run an all-female business. They want Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to investigate Diane, which then leads to a cadre of (somewhat entertaining) voicemails left on Alicia's (never-private) phone. Lucca (Cush Jumbo), in 40-plus minutes of television, is reduced to a lunch date.
And then, of course, there’s that pesky investigation. I confronted it wholly last week, so I won’t stick on it too much this time around, but it’s worth noting that it ends up being the facilitator behind bringing one of the 10 best The Good Wife characters ever back into play: Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston). Eli (Alan Cumming) needs to find a lawyer to talk to about getting a lawyer, and she fits the bill. She eventually has to remove herself from the case, but not after her ex-husband(!) Mike (Will Patton) is introduced. Mike ends up being perfect in all the right ways (more on this below), and he also steps in, in Elsbeth’s absence, to help find out which of her clients is the one that causes a conflict of interest.
Oh, and Alicia and Jason have sex. That’s a thing, too.
What we ultimately get is a series of events that leads me to simply say … well, I’ve no idea what the hell could happen next week. You know my prediction for how it ends, but there’s been at least two or three times this season that I’ve felt as though an episode served no other purpose than to tread water. This is another one of those instances. The FBI’s still investigating. The NSA's still poking around. Jason and Alicia are still falling for each other. Diane and Cary and David are still paranoid, most prominently about each other. Eli is still trying to get to the bottom of everything. And Lucca is still wondering where and how she fits in.
What bugs me the most -- and still, 15 episodes in, I can't explain this fully -- is Alicia. She’s. Just. So. Bratty. She appears to have no interaction with her kids whatsoever (what's Grace [Mackenzie Vega] up to while Alicia sits in her office, boinking the investigator at a time so late, the janitors turn off all the lights?). The drinking thing with Jason was oddly alarming, the way she genuinely wanted that bottle. The final exchange between them was even more plastic, with Jason, of all people, being the one to essentially say, "What are we?"
She seems, still, to be driven by emotion. And not healthy emotion, either. The drinking. The petulance. The trouble with authority (I’m talking about Diane, not the male-centric panel on which she served this week). Like, honestly: can you blame Jason for snapping back after he brings up the fact that she has a husband, and all he receives in return is, "It’s not your problem". Actually, it is his problem, too, Mrs. Florrick. You, of all people, should know that actions have consequences. Let’s dial the contempt back a bit.
It’s like those top-secret, super-important government officials said: emotion can both cloud judgment and clarify it. What appears to be wrong with Alicia is she refuses to acknowledge the former while believing wholeheartedly in the latter. That’s dangerous. Because emotions are complex, they are singular, they are hard, and they are profoundly influential. There’s an element of recklessness with which our heroine holds herself these days, and when you combine that with what will inevitably be a combustable FBI investigation, the results may be fatal.
Even though there are only a mere seven episodes left, the last thing we want to see is Alicia go out clouded by her life's complications. She deserves clarity. We, as viewers, deserve some, too. Coming down the final stretch, it’s impossible to tell if either us -- or her -- will receive it. Sometimes, that can make for great TV; other times, it can tarnish a legacy.
So, what’s it going to be, The Good Wife: confusion or clarification?
Approaching The Bench
I was really, really, really, really, really, really, really hoping that the last time we would see Elsbeth would have something to do with actually seeing her in court, winning a case, being all wacky and wonderful. But … well, the fact that I saw her at all makes me happy, and I should just leave it at that. The saddest part of this all? We won’t get to dive into whatever her life was before we met her. Introducing ex-husband Mike was a thrill, and they hit on all the correct notes, right down to that dog. Sign me up now for a spinoff featuring those two: Better Call The Tascionis. No, but seriously: Carrie Preston deserves all of the credit for taking that character and making it not just unforgettable, but a joy to be around. It got her the Guest Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for the 2012-2013 season (beating out, interestingly enough, Margo Martindale for her work on The Americans), and it’s one of the most singular characters to ever appear in a series filled to the brim with memorable personalities. Something would have felt tragically empty had she not showed up one more time before the curtain is closed for good, so kudos to creators Robert and Michelle King for quenching our Elsbeth thirst, and kudos to Preston for providing such a wildly fun character. You will be missed, Ms. Tascioni.
That said, here's my updated list of characters I’m going to keep a running tab on between now and the final episode to see if they make one final appearance (because if they don't, I’m writing a nasty letter to CBS): Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox). Zach Florrick (Graham Phillips). Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode). Jackie Florrick (Mary Beth Piel). Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter). Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver). Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole). Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker). Wendy Scott-Car (Anika Noni Rose). Natalie Flores (America Ferrera). Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce). Judge George Fluger. Derrick Bond (Michael Ealy). Robyn Burdine (Jess Weixler). Clarke Hayden (Nathan Lane). Nancy Crozier (Mamie Gummer). Reese Dipple (Oliver Platt). Again. I’ll be keeping track.
I said this before, but I’m going to go in on this again: The first eight or nine minutes of this episode were fabulous. That roundtable discussion between Alicia and the rest of those Super Important People addressed ISIS and some of its surrounding complexities in such an intelligent and worthwhile way. I’ve always loved those "Special Committee" meetings Alicia tends to find herself in, and this, for my money, was one of the best.
So … why did Diane want to talk?
Boy, I’ll tell you what: That NSA stuff takes my disdain for smartphones to a new level. Because you know that’s what happens in real life, right? Everybody’s listening to everything. Yikes.
I keep reading about how Alicia being "a good wife" is in doubt and by the end of the series, she won’t be "a good wife" because she won’t be "married". Much of this is fueled by Ruth's (Margo Martindale) comment last week, it appears, but I disagree with it. As I noted in my piece last week, I think we end where we began, and we began with Alicia Florrick as Peter Florrick's wife. Something about this, for some reason, makes me feel like there’s no way we end this series without her being married. I understand the temptation and I understand the argument and I understand the conclusion, but I just don’t agree with it. The Kings, I would bet, are tuned into the idea that the show is called The Good Wife and they would never compromise that. Ever. I mean, I’m not saying … but I’m just saying.
And here I was, thinking for a split second that perhaps that Lucca/Cary romance might blossom over lunch. Boo.
I’m still having a hard time figuring out why Marissa (Sarah Steele) is so prominent in this final run. I could understand that initial twist with her and the investigator, but they've since kept giving her airtime each week, and it’s hard to think there isn’t more to it. Not that I’m complaining -- I love the character and I love the actress with each bit of my heart -- but you have to wonder why, for instance, she keeps popping up, but Grace hasn’t been heard from for weeks.
Can we just get back into court, once? Please? Pretty please? Last week, I felt, was such a strong indicator that the classic The Good Wife formula might be utilized throughout this final run, but that didn’t happen this week. So … maybe on March 6? Please? Pretty please?
Crazy Prediction of the Week: Lucca and Jason are husband and wife. They have three kids. They are the main informants for the FBI investigation into the Florricks.