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A desperate Good Wife brings up the past to try to save the future

Illustration for article titled A desperate Good Wife brings up the past to try to save the future
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Until the final moments of “KSR,” is shockingly low-key for a finale of any type. While that could be a strength in some instances, it’s actually a glaring weakness in this particular episode. The things in this episode that The Good Wife’s writers want the audience to react to and feel things for are the things that they couldn’t care less about. All of the interchangeable new associates have left the firm; series regular Jason is shipped off to San Jose for the very specific time of two months; guest character Courtney Paige is returning to her home in California, away from Eli; apparently Peter wants his mother to have a pre-nup for her impending nuptials; and Eli finally reveals to Alicia that he deleted Will’s declaration of love voicemail six years ago.

That last one just so happens to be those aforementioned final moments of the episode, and it’s the only plot point that’s even somewhat interesting out of the bunch. Yes, the episode happens to have a disturbing case-of-the-week that also ticks the interesting box, but the greatest achievement within the case itself is that it doesn’t come across as tone deaf as most of The Good Wife’s more sensitive issue cases or plots. As a whole, “KSR” is an episode with small victories in a world that has become far bigger than anyone would have ever expected or really even wanted.

The Cary arc (if that’s really what it is) this season with the “us versus them” mentality of the young versus old is one that has been D.O.A., unfortunately. It doesn’t help that the “us” that Cary’s aligned with by default are privileged, spoiled brats with no personalities outside of “unpleasant” or “sniveling.” Seriously, seeing the bunch of them together in this episode makes the hiring practices at Lockhart, Agos, & Lee even more suspect. Besides all being white, there’s not even a single woman in the bunch. Plus, they won’t even set out for their own firm because Cary once told them it was “hard.” So the pay-off to Cary hiring this cast of moving props is them showing their true colors and making the jump to Canning’s firm (despite not actually signing any contracts) and Cary eventually humiliating them, for the sake of the “them” in “us versus them.” Then the firm desperately—desperation is the name of the game in this entire episode—hiring the outstandingly smug Monica, whose wunderkind status as an associate supposedly erases the fact that she filmed her now-employers to prove racism within their company and has somehow not been blackballed by the entire legal industry in Chicago (or at least been snatched up by Canning). As for Lockhart, Agos, & Lee’s case in this episode… Eh, that’s not important. It’s never important, and that’s how they leave things in this midseason finale.

It’s episodes like this that really highlight how Alicia’s isolation from the rest of the day one series regulars is affecting those characters and the show as a whole. In fact, it’s now hitting Cary the hardest (you know, since it can no longer hit Kalinda the hardest), as his and Alicia’s relationship, good or bad, was been one of the cornerstones of the series. This dynamic is something The Good Wife is sorely missing these days, especially when there are no longer prison cell bars to prevent it from exciting, just incidental writing.

As I mentioned earlier, the case-of-the-week in “KSR” (from which the episode gets its name) is especially disturbing. Finding our protagonist as the defense for a Dr. Joseph Portnow (Josh Stamberg), a cardiac surgeon who’s being charged with “conspiring to kidnap, sedate, and rape a woman,” is already troubling even enough before the reveal of the crimes. The way that Alicia and Lucca bring up him being in surgery saving a child or have him wearing scrubs to court are all measured choices, no matter what they say, and it’s honestly one of the better decisions in the episode; it makes it clear that the audience should be on guard with this character and it makes it an uphill battle for the audience alongside the jury. However, the more the show goes on about the dark fetish site he frequents, the more unsettling it becomes, even if the law is technically on this side. The case is just as dour as the rest of the show, which is such a strange way to end the first half of a season. But at least it is a compelling case.

In fact, the early goings-on of the case can easily lead the audience to question why Alicia and Lucca—but especially Alicia—would even take on this case. Even with a leg to stand on with regards to the law, Alicia is still very much thought of as “The Good Wife,” the woman who stands up for what’s morally right, not questionable. But as Portnow’s “clinical” wife brings her husband being an exceptional individual who knows how to compartmentalize, it’s a fact that’s also true about Alicia as a lawyer, especially when it comes to someone who can pay well. Plus, Alicia’s not innocent at all, as her first ex parte meeting with Judge Schakowsky reminds the audience: She brings up the FBI’s bribery investigation and the fact that Eli warned him about it, after all. What doesn’t track though is how Alicia could possibly think her bringing those things up wouldn’t sway the case ultimately in her favor with the judge, despite that being the most obvious part of the whole plot.


Then again, as Alicia legitimately asks Schakowsky if she and Lucca “earned” the win, it’s a reminder of how much Alicia can absolutely miss just how privileged she is compared to others.

By the way, were you to only watch this episode of The Good Wife and none before it, you would probably—at the very least—come to the conclusion that Eli and Courtney Paige have been involved in some whirlwind romance. You’d also be sorely mistaken, despite everything that this episode attempts to say all of a sudden. In fact, the relationship that this episode tries to sell is honestly more fitting for Eli’s past relationship with Natalie Flores, but apparently The Good Wife writers believe that what works for one Ugly Betty alum is what works for another. (If The Good Wife lives long enough to make Becki Newton or Ana Ortiz an Eli love interest, please remember this particular point.)


Eli’s plot does bring up the declaration of love voicemail from Will to Alicia, though, tying it all back to The Good Wife of earlier, simpler days. It’s sort of like Buffy The Vampire Slayer finally bringing up the season two finale in season seven, only with the implication that this will actually have consequences. However, when Eli says that he’s “been sick about it ever since,” it’s almost enough to take anyone who’s intrigued by the scene out of it. Because how can that even be true if Eli kept this sickening secret even when Will died? The answer is easy, though not particularly great: It’s because the writing made it so. Simply put, The Good Wife has gone past a point of having the audience be along for the ride and recognize it has great writing to having the audience recognize that things are happening simply because they’re being written. As mind-blowing as the Will voicemail reveal should be, something is just missing. And all happens to be the result of Eli tangentially blowing up a relationship that Alicia even calls strictly professional over and over again.

But maybe the reveal can bring back something. Maybe—just maybe—it might take the show back to basics. Or at least back to the past, just for a moment. It might be a crutch for the show, as the most fascinating thing about this episode is a mention of something that happened six years ago. But crutches are used in the healing process, so there just might be a positive outcome.


Stray observations

  • Just call me “The Good Daughter”: Last week I jokingly told my mother that if I ever got the chance to review The Good Wife, I’d use it as a platform to talk about how attractive present day Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks in glasses. Since the impossible actually happened, consider this me talking about said topic.
  • By the way, Kayla is supposedly on a plane, which is why I stepped in to review this week’s episode. I’m only 60 per cent sure she’s not in cahoots with my mother.
  • The Good Wife can be beautifully directed and take a lot of visual chances, but it can also be very tedious. The latter is definitely the case for the aerial shot of the associates’ phones on the conference room table.
  • Alicia: “It’s odd—that someone can be so good yet think things so bad.”
    Lucca: “It’s people. They’re all scum.”
    Alicia: “Damaged much?”
    Lucca: “No. Observant.” I’d love to avoid Lucca/Kalinda comparisons, but Lucca’s speech on people being scum is such a Kalinda speech that it would be negligent not to address.
  • The greatest part about the case-of-the-week is that it doesn’t end in David E. Kelley fashion: with Dr. Portnow actually enacting his KSR fantasy on Lucy and Alicia learning a lesson about how Lucca was right to call all people “scum.”
  • Despite the fact that Judge Schakowsky obviously was acting on his earlier meeting with Alicia when it came to reversing the verdict, I have to say I agree that the jury was not being impartial. As much as I didn’t like the doctor at all, the law was on his side.
  • Also, I remain torn on Schakowsky as a character. Christopher McDonald is excellent in this role, but at the same time, The Good Wife has apparently traded in its quirky and memorable judges for a notably corrupt and unpleasant judge in Schakowsky. It’s something that fits the tone of this season, but I’d say that those arguing for more of this season’s current tone are most certainly in the minority.
  • Don Stark guest stars as Portnow’s “accomplice,” and I really can’t buy that Matan would let that guy on the stand with how jovial he was when giving his testimony.
  • Alicia: “My life is my life, and I want you to back the hell up!” At the very least, it appears this episode has provided us with Julianna Margulies’ awards show clip.
  • Congratulations to Margo Martindale and Peter Gallagher for each having one scene and then never being seen again within this episode. These are the times you can just have characters phone each other, Good Wife.