The Good Wife Episode 10: Midseason Finale
After a brief work-related pause, I return with a recap of “The Decision Tree,” The Good Wife’s last episode until January 5. As The Good Wife goes on winter hiatus, it seems like an opportune time to assess the season’s record thus far.
Alicia and Will:
In my recap of “Hitting the Fan,” I wrote that Alicia’s split from Lockhart Gardner allowed her to display a newfound confidence as well as ruthlessness. Subsequent episodes have expanded on this theme. In the fight to keep Florrick Agos alive from her apartment in “The Next Day” and her maneuvering during the deportation case in “The Next Month,” Alicia demonstrates her ability to lead, maintaining calm and offering reassurance to the jumpy fourth years as she plots the firm’s strategy. Her ability to take on Will and Diane confirms her lawyerly skills, because viewers know that Will and Diane are the best. At the same time, she has blackmailed Lockhart Gardner into returning her investment in the firm, and in this episode consents (albeit reluctantly) to use Peter’s presence to draw guests to the Florrick Agos holiday party, further entangling her family’s personal and professional lives. When, in “The Next Month, Peter tells Alicia, “I think you’re going to take over the world from here,” it doesn’t sound like an overstatement.
Will, meanwhile, has decided that the best way to get over Alicia is to embark on his own path to global conquest (or at least conquest of the United States legal scene). But his need to prove himself, unlike Alicia’s, leads to rash decision- making and overreaching.
He’s hooked up with a dumb and potentially unstable new girlfriend. He’s hired an ex-Irish mob lawyer Damian Boyle as the new associate. He’s started to expand the firm—barely out of bankruptcy—to New York and L.A. And he’s rebranded Lockhart Gardner as “LG”—a move guaranteed to elicit a collective “ew!” from millions of viewers. The awkward attempt to rename the firm suggests that Will’s efforts to rebrand himself have fallen equally flat (a point I’ve also made here). Currently, none of Will’s choices have had detrimental consequences—but I suspect that’s what the season’s second half is for.
In “The Decision Tree,” the erratic yet charming Matthew Ashbaugh (played by John Noble, natch), whose murder and long-time crush on Alicia were the subject of season four’s fantastic “Death of a Client,” turns out to have made a will leaving Alicia $11 million.
Ashbaugh’s wife, unsurprisingly, contests the will, and hires Lockhart Gardner to represent her. Will, who worked with Alicia on one of Ashbaugh’s other cases, realizes that he can twist comments Alicia made to him during private conversations in order to portray her as having used Ashbaugh’s attraction to her to convince him to change his will in her favor. As Will prepares to question Alicia in court, he fantasizes about their approaching confrontation, imagining her breaking down tearfully. In Will’s fantasy, Alicia wears white. White is traditionally the color of purity; here, however, it gives Alicia an air of vulnerability rather than nobility. In court the next day, Alicia actually opts for severe gray, radiating chilly confidence. The sartorial shift foreshadows the case’s outcome: Alicia admits that she used Ashbaugh’s attraction to sway him, but claims that she did so—at the insistence of Lockhart Gardner partner David Lee—to convince him to sign the original will benefiting his wife, not the one benefiting herself. Will’s revenge fantasy crashes to bits.
While the firms’ split has served Alicia and Will’s character development, it has proved less beneficial to the show’s other inhabitants.
Diane and Cary:
It makes sense that Alicia assume de facto leadership of Florrick Agos: she’s far wilier than Cary, and possesses a gravitas allowing her to command the firms’ squabbling associates. And it makes sense that Diane’s near-firing would undermine her position at Lockhart Gardner. However, none of this justifies Diane and Cary’s current lack of screen time and character development. By focusing on Alicia and Will at the expense of the teams they lead, the writers have inadvertently lowered the stakes of the Lockahart Gardner/Florrick Agos conflict by narrowing its scope.
Diane and Cary’s diminished presences are symptomatic of a larger problem: the genesis of Florrick Agost has tossed a few too many balls into the air at once. Since “Hitting the Fan,” the show has become uncharacteristically lax about managing its narrative threads. “The Next Week” concludes with an unhappy former client launching a $6 million lawsuit against Alicia. $6 million is not big money as lawsuits go, but it’s also not pocket change, so I expected this storyline to develop for at least one more episode. Instead, the writers have apparently decided to pretend it never happened. Will’s murder case during “The Next Week” was similarly left hanging.
I’m pleased that Robyn is (finally, after almost a full season) becoming a fully-fledged character, rather than a nebulous perkiness. But because Robyn duplicates Kalinda’s function in the show, her rise to prominence deflates Kalinda’s significance. This needn’t have been the case. The Lockhart Gardner/Florrick Agos face-off could have given Kalinda and Robyn the chance to engage in spy vs. spy shenanigans. It could have provided an opportunity explore Kalinda’ s divided loyalties (which the writers took pains to highlight in the episodes leading up to Alicia and Cary’ departure). I’m not saying either of these would have been great storylines, but they would at least have more potential interest than watching Kalinda engage in high speed car chases with Damian Boyle (although setting the first round to Christmas music was a fun touch). Boyle is just the latest in a string of bad boys with whom Kalinda has engaged in dominance contests: Detective Burton (season one), Blake (season two), and her ex-husband (season four). The trope is wearing thin, as is Kalinda’s use of sex (in this case with Boyle’s lust-interest, corrupt cop Jenna) to gain information. Kalinda has faded from interest because, unlike the show’s other main characters, she doesn’t change.
“The Decision Tree” is The Good Wife’s hundredth episode. The first shot is of a speedometer hovering at 100mph as Kalinda chases Boyle. I see what you did there!
Zach to Alicia, on seeing drug-dealer Lemond Bishop at the Florrick Agos party: “Sometimes I think of you as Mom, and sometimes just as this really interesting person who happens to live in our house.”
Eli’s reaction to hearing that Peter’s ethics consultant Marilyn plans to call her baby…..Peter. It’s hard not to love an episode that ends with a spit-take.