Finally, The Good Wife makes its final turn down the final road -- and finally, the sadness of it all coming to an end begins to set in.
The Good WifeAirtime: Sundays, 9 pm
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Subtitle: Season 7, Episode 18 - "Unmanned"
Air date: 2016-03-27
"I want a divorce."
Well, that sort of wrote itself, don’t you think?
It took six seasons and nearly 18 episodes to finally get here, but it’s not the outcome that matters in life (and especially in CBS prestige dramas); rather, it's the journey. And the journey that Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has endured in order to finally look her scumbag of a husband, Peter (Chris Noth), in the eye and say, "No, really. I’m done this time", has been one hell of a trek.
You had to wonder how it would play out, should Peter ever cross paths with Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). What was impossible to predict was precisely how contentious the encounter might feel. Yet after all this time -- Peter and Alicia not living together, Peter boinking the help, the general reality that we never see the husband and wife together anymore -- the Illinois governor still can’t help himself whenever he knows Alicia is stepping out with another man. The casualty this time was a coffee mug.
Actually (and as an aside), if your heart didn't pick up a beat or two as the confrontation between Peter and Jason unfolded … well, you ain't living. How quickly Peter can come back into The Good Wife world and immediately establish presence, immediately establish attention … it's a testament to both the character and the actor. Sure, the dialogue wasn't great ("I should kick your ass" and "You could try" has a bit too much "2:30 a.m. at a dive bar in a suburb of Pittsburgh" in it), but what did you expect them to do? Match wits over a cup of tea?
Anyway. I digress.
"Unmanned", this final run’s 18th episode, finally -- mercifully -- moved away from the vocal effects of grand jury testimony and instead, as I begged for last week, began cranking the levers on moving toward The End, upping the drama, and re-establishing The Good Wife as can’t-miss TV. It’s been a spotty seventh season, sure, but through it all, nobody can deny that when this series gets it right, this series really gets it right.
All the things that make up a great episode were present. A Brave New World case dissecting, of all things, drone ethics, that featured a Hip New York Stage Actor (Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton fame) in a bit role. A heavy dose of Alicia and Diane (Christine Baranski) arguing alongside one another in court. Eli (Alan Cumming) wrestling with Big Decisions. Peter/Alicia drama. Cary (Matt Czuchry) dropping a bomb. And, then, of course, the cliffhanger that concludes the hour.
There are now four episodes left (and a marathon break between now and the next time we see this crew on a screen: April 17), but … am I alone in thinking that it wasn’t until this week that the nostalgia and sadness began to truly creep in? Maybe it’s because of Cary's expectedly unexpected departure that reality has officially taken hold of the notion that The Good Wife is ending.
Or maybe it’s the amount of time spent on Diane and Alicia arguing in court this week, a trick that has been used only sparsely over these final 18 episodes. To sit opposite Caitlin D'arcy (Anna Camp), who was sublime in season three as a great lawyer who opted for a family life over a career (a family life, we find out this week, that didn't necessarily go as planned -- symmetry!), is like a cherry on top of an already-irresistible milkshake.
Better yet, though, is the conundrum Eli finds himself in ("better", as in "better television"; not necessarily for what we hope will happen to the Silver Stud). Connor Fox (the increasingly "why did they pick you to guest star?" Matthew Morrison) brews up one of the more devious turns The Good Wife has ever seen, when he explains this: "Help me take down Peter Florrick, or your daughter helps me take you down."
Turns out, the feds have a phone conversation that Eli shared with his daughter Marissa (Sarah Steele), and there’s not much anybody can really do about it. Eli approaches Diane to help him, and Diane presumably lays it out that it’s most likely in his best interest to finally turn heel (sorry, pro wrestling term) on Peter. And so they march into Fox’s office and kind of/sort of do just that. Or, well, in so many words, at least.
What this means is that the walls are finally and inevitably closing in on Peter Florrick. His common-law wife has had enough and is demanding a divorce. His closest confidant is now ready to sing like a canary (that whole Ruth Eastman [Margo Martindale] thing doesn't look look like such a great idea now, does it, Peter?). And while we still aren't entirely sure about what he did exactly, we know it wasn't good. Actually, it really, really wasn't good.
And so it goes: Peter, then, in a last-ditch effort to create -- what, a 38th? -- last-ditch effort, he pleads with Alicia to stand by him through the Grand Jury Investigation To End All Grand Jury Investigations. After that, he promises, she can go away for good, if such is her desire. In true The Good Wife form, right as Alicia takes in a breath, ready to respond, the show cuts to black, and, frankly, creates a much more interesting cliffhanger than the midseason finale ever hoped to provide earlier this year (still not buying into the importance of that voicemail).
Don’t get me wrong: Of course, she's going to say yes. There’ll be conditions and threats and posturing from both ends, I’m sure, but ultimately, what I predicted about 46 years ago now will come true (again, self-high-five!): Peter’s forced to resign as governor. Alicia’s standing up there with him, recreating the very first scene of the series for the very last scene of the series, except this time, she’s a completely new woman (or, as a friend pointed out to me, perhaps Peter stands up there alone, sans Alicia, and the same point is proven, but hey: logistics, schmologistics).
Either way, we can now, I would argue for the first time, feel as though The Good Wife is winding down for real, for real. It took more than seven years to hear Alicia finally say those four words -- I want a divorce -- but now that she has, the inevitable is that much closer to becoming a reality.
It's over. And, with a month's worth of episodes left, sadly, saying "it’s over" isn't only referencing Alicia Florrick's marriage anymore.
Approaching The Bench
The very first note I took: How many times are we going to start an episode with Alicia and Jason naked?
It was fabulous to see Caitlin D'arcy (Anna Camp) return to update us on her life, but … here’s my 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), and Reese Dipple (Oliver Platt). Again, I’ll be keeping track. So far, I’ve only removed one name from the list since I started tracking this, which leads me to …
If you’re taking this week’s case for Dipple, Diane, what’s so wrong with Oliver Platt making one final appearance? Come on, The Good Wife!
And now to Cary. That’s not the send-off I was hoping for when it came to him. Something about it felt unguided. When the writers gave him that soliloquy about how even though he likes being a lawyer, he hates dealing with the politics of everything, it didn’t seem as endearing as it should have. There was almost an entitlement in his voice, which might be consistent to the character on some level at least, but you're lying if you tell me you weren’t hoping for Alicia and Cary to find some peace with their relationship, and the anger in his voice -- misdirected or not -- as he explained his plan to quit seemed unbecoming. A little bratty. A little cold. My hope is that this isn’t the last we see of him: say what you want, but the relationship that those two had in the earlier seasons was every bit as compelling as most any other relationship we’ve seen Alicia have. They go from rivals, to hate, to respect, back to rivals, over to starting a law firm together, back to rivals, and then to him bringing her back to Lockhart/Whatever. If the period on that story ultimately comes as Ben Harper's "Burn One Down" echoes in the background … holy shit, someone fucked up.
So … Caitlin D'arcy is eventually going to work for Lockhart, Florrick, Lee & Quinn, right?
The Peter/Jason showdown was damn good, man. Damn, damn good. It was as arresting as anything this series has done all season. Plus, when Peter smashed that mug out of Jason’s hand, you could feel the tension meter go from eight to about 5924. The way Jason handled it was terrific, though. "That’s a question for Alicia" and "I'll get my things" were the two best moments. It’s interesting, though, that this comes only a week after we find Jason out as a Guy Who Is Probably Sleeping With All Of The Women.
Also: Was there a need to get into his religious beliefs? Or was that just to establish for good that he doesn’t like the fact that he’s aiding and abetting a marital affair? Either way, it seemed useless.
Although with that said, The Good Wife has always done very, very well with religion. (*cough*where's Grace [Makenzie Vega]*cough*).
So, check and mate on Eli, huh? There’s something comforting about him essentially doing what he can to stay loyal to his daughter rather than put Peter first. That's a dirty, dirty move the feds are pulling, but if it helps lead to a positive note on which the series can play Eli out, I’m all for it. The only regret now is that we presumably won’t get to see more of Diane and Eli go through this thing together.
Crazy Prediction Of The Week: Cary moves to the same island Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) is on; they both become members of The Innocent Criminals.