While “Bond” was mostly about reshuffling the pieces, “Innocents” seems more sure of itself and plays to a lot of The Good Wife’s strengths, especially with its case of the week. The episode begins with a beautifully shot sequence of Alicia and Lucca in bond court. It’s the precise kind of sequence that The Good Wife nails and feels nearly operatic—choreographed like a dance. Alicia and Lucca later team up to take on a new client: a photographer’s son who goes up against his own mother for her Sally Mann-style naked photos of him and his sister when they were children. It’s a complex and interesting case that brings on just enough legal twists to keep Alicia and Lucca on their toes and the story moving forward.

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Cush Jumbo’s Lucca Quinn was one of the season premiere’s pleasant surprises, and “Innocents” confirms just how badly The Good Wife needs her right now. With so many relationship dynamics in limbo right now, the budding partnership between Lucca and Alicia is one of the more grounded relationships to latch onto right now, even though it’s still in its early stages. As they work together on the photography case, it’s clear that we’re watching the makings of a Dream Team. And I’m glad they’re not that Dream Team just yet. On The Good Wife, as with most legal shows, the protagonists almost always win their cases. But even when they do pull off quite the last-minute courtroom stunts and walk away with another win, the lawyers on The Good Wife are always more human than superhero. Alicia certainly slays in most courtrooms, but as is clear in “Innocents,” it isn’t always a walk in the park. Her skill in the bond court has already improved since the season premiere, but she’s still very green there, still awkwardly maneuvering the convoluted system, even if she has finally figured out the right questions to ask. Similarly, Lucca and Alicia are new to working together, and while they make a great team, they’re still finding their rhythm.

Meanwhile, the goings-on of Lockhart, Agos, and Lee in “Innocents” have very little payoff, as the writers struggle to integrate Cary and Diane into a show on which these characters were—once upon a time—a commanding force. A war between Cary and Howard Lyman is pretty low stakes. Even David Lee admits that Howard’s ultimatum is weaksauce. What’s the endgame here? Pushing Lyman out the door? That could have—and should have—happened a long time ago. Lyman is a comedic-relief character who is hardly significant enough to be a problem, but The Good Wife has other comedic-relief characters who are infinitely more fun like, say, Nancy Crozier, who serves as opposing counsel on Lucca and Alicia’s case this week. Hopefully Cary’s just treading water in all these boring storylines lately because it’s building to some sort of breaking point that will lead to a major change for the character, but right now, I just can’t help but feel like Matt Czuchry’s talents are being underused and like Lockhart, Agos, and Lee is taking up narrative space that could be better used by more compelling character work. The same can be said of Diane, who wears the shit out of a geometric coat and mediates between Cary and Howard and…does little else. Is that the only purpose Diane serves on the show right now? Looking flawless and making sure the boys play nice? So far this season, Diane hasn’t really had a single moment rooted in real emotion. She’s just running Lockhart, Agos, and Lee as if on autopilot.

Part of the problem with Cary and Diane is that we no longer really get to see them where they thrive: the courtroom. Diane got a little court play last week, but for the most part, we just see them in the Lockart, Agos, and Lee offices, and those offices aren’t really filled with many emotional stakes these days. When those offices used to have Lockhart Gardner on the door, the walls were filled with drama and romance and suspense. They served as the staging grounds for the explosive “Hitting The Fan.” Now the space feels hollow and outdated, a shadow of its former self—much like the law firm itself. The law firm no longer has any life to it, so it isn’t surprising that Cary and Diane similarly seem to have lost their edge when we don’t really get to see them outside of it.

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As much as I haven’t liked Peter’s political storylines in the past, at least with the campaign, people have very clear motivations, and their actions have stakes. Alicia’s response to Peter when he points out that she’s being used is one of the best moments in the episode: “I know. Who isn’t?” Eli apologizes to Peter, only to use Alicia to get what he wants, which is most likely all part of his plan to make good on his promise to destroy Peter. Ruth tries to use Nora to spy on Eli, but Nora, not one for betrayal, double-crosses her by telling Eli the truth. Everyone is playing the game, and the twists and turns as everyone tries to get what they want are the kind of weighty politics that have made for some of the best The Good Wife arcs, combining personal and professional interests. As much as the characters are playing a political game, they’re also bringing emotional baggage and character histories into play, making for exciting and rich storytelling.

Speaking of mixing the personal and professional, “Innocents” introduces another new player who already seems to toe that line. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Jason Crouse certainly has some sort of ulterior motive for wanting to work with Alicia. He goes out of his way to join her team, even forgoing a significantly higher hourly rate from Lockhart, Agos, and Lee and lying to her about it in the process. It’s a little too early to tell if he’ll end up being a love interest for Alicia, but there certainly is a flirtatious spark there in “Innocents,” and in fact, Alicia’s interactions with Jason are some of the more enthralling moments of the episode. Ever since the departure of Will, it does seem like the writers have desperately tried to fill the will-they/won’t-they hole, with mixed success. Finn ended up fizzling pretty anticlimactically. The Good Wife doesn’t need a big romantic plotline, but it has lost a lot of the powerful and complex relationships that used to be so important to the show’s overall themes—whether it was the friendship between Kalinda and Alicia that was killed so long ago or the more recent killing of Will and Alicia’s romance. In season seven, The Good Wife still has very strong characters, new and old, but sometimes they still strangely feel disparate from one another. If Diane, Cary, and Alicia no longer have real relationships with each other, that’s fine. But they need to connect with someone, otherwise we’re just watching people float around with little to tie them to the world they exist in. With Lucca and Jason, Alicia’s legal world is finally starting to come together again. And the show’s political world is also cohesive: All the characters who exist in it have very clear wants and relationships with one another, complicated as they may be. But Cary and Diane still seem to exist in some narrative limbo—part of the show technically but not really part of the story.

Stray observations

  • Jason going through his hourly rate negotiations made me miss Kalinda and her never-ending negotiations with Will so much. Will I ever stop missing Kalinda? No.
  • I’m so glad Nancy got one of her classic “I’m from Michigan, so this is all just a little much for me” lines out. Nancy Crozier is Mamie Gummer’s best work, hands down.
  • One of the best parts of season seven has been how much Nora we’ve been getting! I hope that continues.
  • I find it very hard to believe that any professional investigator would make the simple errors Amanda makes. She really didn’t know Instagram exists?
  • I have no idea where Grace 2.0 came from, but I’m very here for her.

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