Reviews

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 21 - "Verdict"

Colin McGuire

The series' penultimate episode doesn't disappoint with its drama and intrigue. All that's left now is a series of questions we can only hope will be answered next week.


The Good Wife

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Chris Noth, Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Subtitle: Season 7, Episode 21 - "Verdict"
Network: CBS
Air date: 2016-05-01
Amazon

"I don't care what you believe; I care what you can prove."

Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) utters this while sticking up for her husband, Peter (Chris Noth). It's important, because after seven seasons, you kind of get the feeling that such is a mantra by which she's lived her life. All the affairs in which her husband partook, she weathered. All the jabbering about the guy's other misgivings have been, by and large, swept under the rug. It might’ve taken until the second to last episode of the entire series to fully understand it, but perhaps that passage should be all we need: Alicia’s been obsessed with proof in a world where the entire definition of it tends to evolve by the wine bottle. It's a winless task.

Yet if anything, this final season has set the deck to ensure one last victory for the governor's wife … or has it? Conventional wisdom suggests that the most fruitful way to go is to embrace the love she's found with Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and leave Peter to figure out his life, prison or no prison. But this is The Good Wife, remember. There's something strange about the aftertaste of this seventh season's 21st episode, "Verdict", that suggests Alicia might actually fall back to what she knows: enjoying the freedom to do whatever she wants, both professionally and personally, while her husband essentially gets away with doing whatever he wants, both professionally and personally.

Such is why this series is brilliant. It's the penultimate episode of the entire operation and after more than 150 episodes, creators Robert and Michelle King (or, well, whichever writers are running the roost these days) still leave us with one final cliffhanger going into the very final hour. The surprise is a surprise itself -- the episode's name is "Verdict", remember, but we fade to black this week without actually getting one -- and with that, The Good Wife reminds all of us The Good Wife devotees precisely why we signed up for it in the first place. It still has that ability to charm, bewilder, and provoke. Other network series may have mailed this one in, but shame on you if you think these guys play on the same level as everyone else.

It's The Good Wife, damn it!

"Verdict" is a revelation in acting, and that says something for a show that's consistently lauded for as much. The two most memorable moments come as a result of the players living them out in front of us. First, there's Alicia, who, when confronted by Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) about her husband's latest cheating rumors, offers up the worst fake cry in the history of televised fake cries and asks if she should be surprised that the guy she's standing by is connected to yet another tale of adultery. Canning, who Fox plays exactly the right ways at exactly the right times, responds the only way a character as slimy as his can respond, saying, flatly, "Wow. God, I love you." You knew it was coming, but holy cow that exchange was delicious.

The second moment comes when Diane (Christine Baranski) shows a rare (if not first-time?) flash of humility and remorse after she coerces her husband Kurt (Gary Cole) into slanting his testimony for the sake of her argument in court. He complies, only to be upstaged by the blond disciple we already knew Diane hated (side: Diane's contempt for other women in Kurt's life is such a great thing to watch, don't you think? It's a mixture of jealousy, acceptance, strength, anger, and gold). Turns out, Kurt has a history of overselling things, or at least so says Diane's Immortal Enemy, and the guy's credibility takes a major hit.

This leads to a fantastically tender moment in bed when a teary Diane apologizes to Kurt before explaining how she'll make him happy every day for the rest of his life and grabs his hand. It isn't until he grabs hers that we can breathe a sigh of relief … and a tissue for our own eyes. In seven seasons, it's the only real time we see Diane this desperate, and wow, Baranski knocks it out of the park.

Other things being knocked? How about the walls at Lockhart/Florrick. In atypical The Good Wife meta-awesomeness, the people running the show found a way to write the destruction of the set into the plot. A construction company mistakenly begins demolishing the offices before being told they got the wrong floor, and what we have left are only pieces of a background we've grown so accustomed to seeing. Holes are in walls. The sign is gone. That beloved conference room is a shell of itself. It all eventually works itself out in the name of expanding the firm to an upper floor (or, well, kind of, at least), but for now, everyone is shuffling around the bottom floor in the exact way everything looked so crowded to Alicia way back when this series started, and she first stumbled into that firm, looking for a job. You can say it's too self-referential; I'm going to say I love it.

All that's left now is a handful of things, including what may or may not happen between Alicia and Jason. Lucca (Cush Jumbo), who's been criminally marginalized in the second half of this season, steps back up to the role of Mediator For Jason and Alicia as she calls him out over drinks, saying he's in love. Alicia, meanwhile, doesn't really know what do about it (and rightfully so) because, as he's said before, he's the restless type. The look of relief on her face as he tells her he's quitting working for Peter as an investigator (as opposed to quitting the relationship the two share) is telling on a lot of levels.

Even so, Jason's right: you have to think that if Peter goes back to jail, she's going to adhere to a sense of loyalty to the governor and things between Jason and Alicia will be stymied. On the other hand, if Peter walks, that gives Alicia the freedom to follow through with the divorce fully equipped with a good conscience in tact.

So, here we sit. Will Peter go to jail? Will Alicia and Jason live happily ever after (knowing The Good Wife Land, probably not)? Will David Lee (Zach Grenier) take down the firm with his new sexist crusade (more on this below)? Will we see Cary (Matt Czuchry) again? Are Diane and Kurt in it for the long haul? And, of course, for god's sake, will any of those names on my list be crossed off before it's all said and done?

Next week is it. And smart money says precisely none of those questions will be fully answered. Oh, I'm going to miss this show.

Approaching The Bench

I don't understand the David Lee thing. I just don't. With, literally, one episode left, he's given the opportunity to mess things up again? I thought we were led to believe he was living in rich-guy ignorant bliss now that Diane and Alicia are taking over. Plus, it was no less than episode 19 when I wrote that for once, I actually liked the character. And now we're back to this? To what end, I ask. To what end? Hopefully, this wrinkle has some type of small payoff next week.

Cary. Cary. Cary. Did anyone else get the feeling that this was most likely going to be the final stand between Cary and Alicia? And by the way: Cary's right. You can't blame him for going up there and telling the truth, and Alicia's indignant tone made him really, really sympathetic. What I loved about this the most, though, was that we (presumably) ended the relationship where it began: ambiguity. It's always been kind of/sort of hard to understand if those two actually like each other, but it's been historically downright impossible to decipher if they actually respect one another. Walking away from that final exchange in the courtroom lobby, it's hard to feel any differently.

Well. Time's just about out, but 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): Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode), Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter), Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), 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.

Hey there. So … whatever happened with that Judge Schakowsky (Christopher McDonald) stuff?

Just in case you missed it: Alan Cumming (Eli Gold) recently told The Guardian that he wanted to leave the series last year, and the profile is worth a read if you have the time. The best nugget? "I do the same thing again and again. There’s only so many ways I can raise my eyebrows. I was talking to my team. I said that I feel like all I do is come into the room and go: 'Alicia, what the hell is going on?' and literally the next day I got the script and the first line was: 'Alicia, what the hell is going on?'". Oh, but he does it so well.

Don't tell me you believe that Peter didn't sleep with Geneva Pine (Renée Elise Goldsberry). We've been down this road too many times by now, right? Sure, his denial felt earnest, but … .

All right. So, how about that cross-examination between Alicia and Peter? If you tell me that didn't smell like, "let's sum up seven years of shit in four-and-a-half minutes, right here, right now", then I'm going to tell you that you're a liar. It highlighted the maturity of Alicia better than most other recent plot devices, I thought. Even when Peter kept snapping back, you never thought twice about who had the upper hand. To put an exclamation point on it with "I'm not on trial, buddy" was only icing on an awfully tasty cake.

I'm sorry, but Michael J. Fox is just the best.

Anyone else catch that Kalinda's name was left off the list of affairs Alicia cited?

Crazy Prediction Of The Week: Let's have an honest go at this for once. My prediction from months ago holds true and Peter's forced to resign before going to jail and we're given the same exact scene the series opened with, Alicia standing next to him, a completely new woman. This means no more Jason and at once, Alicia's ending is yet another brand new beginning, devoid of all children and men.

9

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