Television

The Good Wife: Season 7, Episode 8 - "Restraint"

Colin McGuire

Diane said it best: Money isn't everything, but it sure is something -- especially in this seventh season's eighth episode.


The Good Wife

Airtime: Sundays, 9 pm
Cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Alan Cumming, Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Vanessa Williams, Cush Jumbo, Makenzie Vega
Subtitle: Season 7, Episode 8 - "Restraint"
Network: CBS
Air date: 2015-11-22
Amazon

“Money’s not everything.”

“Yes, but sometimes, it’s something.”

All due credit to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Jason Crouse for coming up with the cliché that leads the exchange, sure. But the meat of the dialogue -- and the subsequent lead to this week’s essay on The Good Wife’s eighth episode of the season, “Restraint” -- belongs to Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart. We might like to think that money isn’t at the center of our lives, but the amount of time The Green Stuff spends in that space between “everything” and “something” is oftentimes hard to swallow. We need it even if it doesn’t need us.

And that, in eight-episode hindsight, has been a bigger player in this season’s narrative than previously thought. This becomes especially this week. Consider:

- Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) is at the head of a firm in desperate need of clients that bring in more money.

- Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) is trying to talk Courtney Page (Vanessa Williams) into not paying her employees a base salary of $75,000.

- Oh, and did we mention that Page is set to be a Big Time Donor to Peter Florrick’s (Chris Noth) bid for president?

- Diane runs a business that needs the Big Money from Reese Dipple’s think tank, represented here by Irving Carver (Peter Gallagher), even though that think tank completely compromises her political worldview -- so much so that now she’s starting to feel the backlash from other Big Money clients.

- And then, of course, the whole thing ends with Grace, Alicia’s daughter (finely played by Makenzie Vega), invoicing her mother to the tune of $35,800.

So, yeah. Money might not be everything. But it certainly was something this week.

More importantly, though, was the breakout story (finally!) for Diane. Christine Baranski has been criminally underused this season, so to see her fired up, taking the lead, and being the focal point of the week’s proceedings was refreshing (if not mildly imperative) for a show that has consistently suffered from the (good) problem of having too many great actors/characters to adequately use each week. And because Baranski is a top-shelf actress, she delivered beyond expectation, especially in the judge’s chambers, where her indignant responses to such unfair rhetoric reestablished the Diane Lockhart character as arguably the most strong-willed player in the series.

Actually, the dichotomy between Diane’s political ideologies and her professional well-being is an element to The Good Wife puzzle that I’ve always been fascinated with (it’s also been a B Story that creators Robert and Michelle King don’t use enough, if you ask me, but hey, what do I know?). Watching such an intelligent, powerful, and successful woman try to reconcile her very passionate and very clear beliefs with a surrounding world that promises consequences, right or wrong, is one of the most real aspects of this series. Of all the continuing plot lines, this is one that I find endlessly fun. Contradiction is life, and conflict is inevitable. The Kings know how to translate that into compelling television better than almost anyone doing it today.

Elsewhere … well … Eli’s in love! Eli’s in love! Ok, so maybe not love, per se, but dude is smitten by Courtney (I believe I had that last week, thank you very much!). One has to wonder if he’s looking for Courtney’s kisses only to eventually use her as a piece in the game of chess (or war) that he declared on Peter at the beginning of the season. He’s so politically minded that it almost seems as though he’s incapable of actually ever loving someone, even if that someone is a gazillionaire played by the always-fabulous Vanessa Williams.

Still, you can’t not root for him to find happiness, in much the same way you can’t not root for Alicia to be successful. That’s why the acquisitions that Florrick/Quinn make this week combine to form a nice turn in story. I only have one issue with all that.

Remember when Diane got all red-faced-angry at Alicia earlier this season because she thought Alicia was encouraging Howard (Jerry Adler) to sue Lockhart, Agos & Lee? Or, how about the times in previous seasons when she accused the governor’s wife of poaching clients? My point is this: I hate seeing Alicia and Diane argue, and if past developments are meant to foreshadow, Diane is going to be smoking-mad at Alicia for stealing business at a time when her firm was clearly vulnerable (damn it, Grace -- what were you thinking?).

But, then again, business is business. And money, as Diane, herself, explained early on this week, might not be everything, but it most definitely is something. As the season progresses, it might be the everything that tears everyone apart.

Approaching The Bench

You know, I’ve read the backlash against this season by other writers; all of it focuses on most of the same things: everything is unfocused. Does Grace even go to school anymore? The Kings rip from the headlines too much. The show is funnier than it should be, if it wants to be a drama. I’m going to go the other way on all of this. The Good Wife is still The Good Wife. If I spent each week whining about Zach Florrick (Graham Phillips) not being around, I’d just be some schmuck whining about Zach Florrick not being around (as opposed to being just some schmuck, which I am currently). There are things to value within the fabric of this season; plus, we’re only eight episodes in. The Kings have always erred toward a slow-burn style of storytelling. Not everything has worked (do we really need to go through the growing pains of another new firm with Alicia?), but there are a lot of things up in the air right now that have the potential to eventually come down and captivate the audience. Remember: this is the seventh season. It’s hard to crank out quality TV for one year, let alone seven of them. It’s been a good season so far. I’m excited to see where it goes. What’s wrong with that?

And by the way, with that in mind … if you have a problem with a season of television that features Alan Cumming being romantically involved with Vanessa Williams while simultaneously feuding with Margo Martindale … you need to reevaluate some things about some things. I mean, that’s on you, man. That’s on you.

“It wouldn’t be odd if the person you respected the most was the person you agreed with the least.”

Let’s hear it for the tuck-the-front-end-of-a-shirt-in-and-leave-everything-else-untucked look that Jeffrey Dean Morgan rocked this week! Still love him. Still love that character. Still anxious to see what they do with him, especially now that he appears to be working both sides of the aisle (and, with the way Diane talked, he’s been doing that for a bit now, which I’m not so sure we already knew).

Eli coming on to Courtney was a master class in acting from both parties. The awkwardness of it all -- including the kiss -- was absolutely superb. It’s hard to have chemistry, sure, but it’s even harder to make it look and feel like chemistry is even slightly absent. And don’t tell me Courtney Page doesn’t kind of/sort of feel like Wilhelmina Slater’s chilled-out older sister. The confidence is paramount.

Call me naive, but I genuinely thought, for about five and a half seconds, that Lucca (Cush Jumbo) might just go to work for Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox). Nothing ever works out according to plan whenever Canning is involved, but … that was a fun wrinkle.

No Howard Lyman + no NSA story = good. Very, very good.

I can’t decide if I’m annoyed with Grace’s ingenuity, or if I’m charmed by it. This whole, “when are you going to pay me, Mom?” schtick is wearing itself just a tiny bit thin. Is it an indictment on Kids These Days being so obsessed with money? Or is it an indictment on the Florrick family, whose members always seem to have ulterior motives with everything they do? Either way, the office noise soundtrack (via Chumhum) was a clever touch.

This has to be the episode with the most manipulatively smart moves so far this season, right? Diane consciously maneuvering to get herself off the trial. Lucca taking the meeting with Canning to try and poach clients. Grace answering the phone from her mom’s “Midwest offices.” I love it when The Good Wife gets all The Good Wife-y. Who doesn’t?

Crazy Prediction of the Week: Jason is secretly being controlled by Canning, who is using him to create friction between Diane and Alicia. This ultimately leads Lockhart, Agos & Lee to close its doors, and everyone goes to work for Florrick/Quinn.

8

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