The Good Wife Season 5 Premiere
Stuff I Liked:
• Alicia meeting up with Cary and the rest of his gang in the parking garage. The Good Wife excels at encapsulating key situations or relationships in lapidary moments. Seeing the fourth year associates and Robyn lolling against the cars, soft drinks in hand and grins on their faces, you don’t even need Alicia’s West Side Story joke to realize just how much younger they all are than she is. It’s a smart visual setup for the subsequent scene, in which the fourth years brush off Alicia’s warning that they need to leave Lockhart Gardner sooner rather than later.
• The writing around Grace landing on the 10 Hottest Politicians’ Daughters list. What I loved about this was how the writers used contrasting genres in two parallel scenes to draw attention to the gender dynamics at work. Zach’s discovery plays as comedy; clearly unsettled by the realization that anyone might regard his sister as a sexual being, he sneaks furtive looks over his shoulder and hides Grace’s (utterly innocent looking) photo as though it were porn; Sleeper Agent’s “Get It, Daddy” (“oohhhh, I’m not a baby no more….”) plays on the soundtrack.
But when Zach shows the website to Grace, the scene is somber: Grace’s eyes widen with confusion and revulsion; becoming a woman, the writers imply, is to lose ownership of your own image, to be denied the possibility of a purely private self. Indeed, this is a recurring theme on The Good Wife. The show has always underscored the costs Alicia incurs in performing as a public icon (“Saint Alicia,” “The Good Wife”). Through no choice of her own, Grace has become her mother’s daughter.
The male gaze: image via here
Stuff I Liked Less:
• This is the second episode in which Lockhart Gardner has raced against time to save an innocent death row inmate. (The first was Season Two’s appropriately titled “Nine Hours.”) In order to succeed, a death row episode has to maintain stratospherically high stakes, and repetition makes this challenging. In real life, the endless parade of executions increases their horror. On screen, loss of uniqueness often causes a loss of gravity.
• The telecommuter-bot. It was funny for the first two minutes—but then the writers ran the same gag for the entire episode.
Some Questions Going Forward:
•It seems safe to bet that the episode’s title, “Everything Is Ending,” serves as a harbinger for the coming season. Carey and Alicia’s decision to leave the firm has triggered (or revealed) other fissures: Carey and Kalinda appear to be going their separate ways (although she’s still got his back); Alicia and Will are headed for a flameout once he figures out that she’s leaving the firm. Diane’s play for a judgeship was already causing tension with Will and the other partners last season. The show has always been as much as about Lockhart Gardner’s fate as Alicia’s—more on that point in subsequent recaps. The show has spent four seasons establishing the firm as a closely knit, though often acrimonious, community. I think this season is when we get to watch that community tear itself apart.
•On a related note, I’m interested but somewhat apprehensive to see how the writers handle what I assume will be the implosion of Alicia and Will’s relationship. I’ve never felt like that relationship has been able to carry the weight the show wanted it to bear. Sure, Alicia and Will are crazy about each other, and it would be nice if Alicia detangled herself from the patriarchal framing of female desire as invalid and selfish. But the show haven’t provided much evidence that Alicia and Will would work well long-term—they have sexual chemistry to burn, but they don’t confide in each other. It’s tough to imagine them doing any of the mundane things that form such a big part of stable, long term relationships—picking out new carpeting, watching mindless reality TV on random Thursday nights, driving the kids to soccer practice. Because the relationship doesn’t have the weight that it could, the stakes of its outcome feel lower than they should be.
•By contrast, Will and Diane’s bond, although platonic, displays all the deep-seated trust and commitment that Alicia and Will’s lacks. Those two have been through the wars together; in a variety of episodes, we’ve seen them fight and make up and come out on the other side stronger than ever. The two characters have joked that they are “the perfect couple” (“Great Firewall”), and their partnership feels closer to a marriage than any romantic relationship the show has depicted. “Everything Is Ending’s” final image—Will and Diane laughing and dancing in the darkened office—drives home the “perfect couple” analogy. I hope the writers put the partnership to the test this season; that would be a storyline with genuine stakes.
You can watch the current season of The Good Wife at cbs.com.
Featured image via mashable