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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

The Good Wife – “What Went Wrong”

Only in Cook County.”

The Good Wife Title Card s3Pardon me while I eat some crow about nothing happening in the investigation storyline until February sweeps.

Well. Half a serving. Since nothing really happened, still, but dayum, show. That’s some crazy stuff you just cooked up there (though I have minor quibbles).

On the upside, this is how I like to go out before (way too long) winter hiatus. Something that nicely raises the stakes for the characters while still giving a strong and compelling procedural element. Indeed, it had all my favorite elements of an episode of The Good Wife (except, oddly, no Eli, but I didn’t notice that until I started thinking about the episode yesterday!).

So let’s start with the ending and my quibbles. I love that Wendy is using being put in charge of a special investigation to steer the investigation back at Peter. It’s devious, totally from left field, and demonstrates just how much of a snake Wendy is. I admit that I enjoy antagonists that don’t act like antagonists. I like when they smile and are polite and never raise their voices, and instead pressure you with a smile and some velvety words, and you can see this on full display as she applies very polite pressure on Judge Dunaway (great turn by Kurt Fuller here, too).

In fact, let’s pause for a moment and consider what would happen to the world if Wendy Scott-Card and Gus Fring from Breaking Bad teamed up. They’d be practically unstoppable, and vicious in their schemes of retribution. Someone get on that crackfic for me.

Anyway. The episode does a nice enough job of showing little cracks in Peter’s armor of a clean office, particularly with the also velvety pressure on the private school administrator. Sure, that kind of extortion (and that’s what it is) is probably remarkably common, and I doubt anyone would bat an eyelash at it, but clearly Peter isn’t above using his office in a way that he allegedly used it before.

Which leads me to the quibble. Wendy’s gunning for Peter because he snagged the SA’s office from her. But people voted him into office in spite of the corruption charges he was cleared of. Why oh why would you bother to try and drag him down again with the same thing? Sure, she’s looking for something new, and with Will’s cooperation she may get it, but the voters didn’t care the first time, why would they care a second?

So what else? The case of the week was strong and twisty, with both sides engaging in just this side of legal and extra-legal shenanigans. When the show often excels with the procedural elements is when it has a relatively narrow focus (in this case, figuring out what went wrong with their case and getting an appeal) and mining it for the legal maneuvering. As a result, the shell game Cary and Dana played with Kalinda and Justin with the bag of jury trash feel more compelling than that might have in a broader case (like one that involves Hugo Chavez).

But contrast this to the case last week that, while enjoyable and narrow in its focus, had fewer options for inherent drama and became a battle of egos between Louis and  Alicia. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and it was satisfying, but the case becomes a vehicle for that.

And herein lies the versatile and valuable nature of the procedural on television. Not only can you address various professional elements (be it legal, medical, or whatever) in a different ways, but if executed well, you can graft on strong character elements that round out the overall story. In the case of “What Went Wrong”, the shell game played with Kalinda provides a way for Alicia to experience a minor shift at the realization that this woman who was so important to her and has since frozen out still has her best interests at heart.

So when Alicia unleashes these pent up emotions of betrayal, anger, and loneliness on Cary it’s a big deal, one that Cary (who has, between Czuchry’s performance and the writing, become the show’s most fascinating character) has no choice but to falter in front of. Which leads to the gruelingly brief and honest scene of the two in the car. They say “Thank you” where they, perhaps, mean “I’m sorry” but Kalinda reminds Alicia, and us, that she hasn’t changed. She’s still the person that slept with Peter and nothing will ever change that. And Alicia has to come to grips with that.

Or does she? As much as any of us wanted Kalinda to up at each (both) of bar scenes (DALLAS ROBERTS! YAY!), one episode and one incident isn’t going to rebuild this bridge. It’ll take time, and anything else would, really, be kind of cheap.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • I’m holding back on Diane and Alicia’s relationship as the show’s stabs at giving Alicia a dedicated mentor (remember that Bond was supposed to do that last year?) haven’t really panned out. I think there are a number of interesting things in play, particularly Diane’s double talk about family, motherhood, and professional advancement (“You can’t have it, but please, yes, totally keep it.”), but I want to see how the show plays out this thread a bit more.

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