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Saturday, 17 of April of 2021

The Good Wife – “The Penalty Box”

“Get out while you can. Just don’t go into retail.”

The Good Wife Title Card s3Every now and then, The Good Wife is a little one the nose, and “The Penalty Box” is one of those episodes. Even the quote above neatly sums up everything about the episode, which is concerned with people who need to get out of things and into other things before it just ruins their lives. Or, in Eli’s case, just kind of ruins a couple days of his life listening to why the firm should institute a slush fund to help clients get laid.

That being said, this episode was pretty tame, right (Kalinda’s steamy scene with Lana aside)? Especially for the penultimate episode of the season, not a whole lot of stuff, well, mattered, it seemed. I figured Peter’s run for governor would hit the backburner a touch, but I wasn’t expecting it to be reduced to a bickering married couple scene in the elevator (a great visual, by the way) (even more worrying: Matthew Perry’s pilot for NBC was picked up).

But let’s dive in and discuss the meat of the episode.Lemond Bishop’s sudden, but always menacing (Mike Colter is really good at this, guys), appearance in the episode felt like a too-transparent attempt to up the stakes for what has been a pretty dull plot for Kalinda during the tail end of this season. Delaney’s FBI-sanctioned interest in Kalinda hasn’t made a lick of sense to me (the non-FBI interest does make sense to me), and Bishop’s arrival on the scene kind of confirms the sense of half-bakedness this plot has had.

This isn’t to suggest that the Bishop connection wasn’t always there. Given Kalinda’s shiftiness about it, I’d assumed it was shady but related to the firm, and Bishop makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is why Kalinda, or Will or Diane for that matter, didn’t simply tell Alicia about it in the first place, beyond the need for this plot to keep going in mysterious but uninteresting circles.  And while Kalinda’s scene with Delaney was sexy as hell (kept waiting for Kalinda to ask if she was going too hard on Delaney) and serves a really nice moment for both actors, it’s difficult to extricate it from the rest of the boredom in that plot.

But, hey, it lead up to Alicia turning the bar chair around, inviting Kalinda to join her, so I’m not going complain too much. (Seriously, folks, loved that.)

Meanwhile, Cary’s back at the firm! I’m really not sure at all what to do with this. Cary talked about liking the “moral clarity” of the SA’s office, and while that clarity was made muddy this year through a range of actions, I don’t quite see how going back to his old firm is in keeping with his moral compass (it is in keeping with his wallet, sure). But I do like that Cary admits that even he seems lost, that he feels like he hasn’t learned anything in his two years at the SA’s office. I do feel is this in keeping with Cary’s search for honesty in a profession that lacks it, and that he doesn’t know where to go to find it any longer.

This Cary shift also feels a bit like “Oops, we’ve kind of run of story for Cary in the SA’s office (which they had, unless he was going to be on Peter’s campaign), so we need something to happen.” But he has been gone for two years, and both he and Alicia have changed and grown, and I suspect the dynamic between them to be different and exciting, so I’ll take it.

The case of the week was a delight only so far as it allowed two terrific actors — David Paymer as the recurring Judge Cuesta and Stephen Root as Judge Wicks — to be terrific. As  a whole, however, it felt more like a thematic riff on the past catching up with you than a full-fledged case. Normally the show’s good (enough) at making stakes clear for the clients, but Cuesta’s demotion while all this happens feels kind of “Meh” to me. Topping it off was the exchange of looks between Wicks and Cuesta that felt significant, but I couldn’t tell why it was significant. Was it a small-time county judge judging the big-city judge, or was it something more? Anyone else? Thoughts?

But the gang’s all together again to face a looming and surprising threat in the finale. I just hope they don’t overplay the “Alicia in peril” angle too much.


  • “Alicia? Who’s Alicia?”
  • “Is he gay? He only wants to take boys to a desert island.”
  • Callie wants to leave her old firm due to fiefdoms, and doesn’t think Lockhart & Associates has that problem. Good thing she didn’t take the job.
  • “Could you please keep your pants zipped?” Diane’s exasperated reading of the line that aired in the episode was much more effective than the shout-y, angry one that played in the promos.
  • “Do you think there’s a hell?” “No.” “Neither do I. But then I meet lawyers, and change my mind.”
  • Why, hello there third year associates who are “celebrating” Cary’s return. No doubt they’re actually plotting his demise. Clearly season 4 will need a “Lower Decks” episode to deal with all this pent-up hostility that I just made up.
  • Any bets on what Peter was calling Cary for? Is it for the campaign? Hmmm.
  • Preview for the finale: “We’re here to destroy you.” EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

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