I guess it’s officially time to start thinking of The Good Wife as The Alicia Florrick Show. Of course, the show has always belonged to Alicia Florrick. Its biggest emotional beats have all been deeply rooted in the character’s psyche and perspective. But for a while there, especially in season five (the show’s best season), despite the continued focus on Alicia and her narrative, The Good Wife really was an ensemble show with volatile relationship dynamics constantly changing the terms of the story. But now, Alicia is on her own professionally and personally, because her relationship with Peter is still just a political one at the moment. Even though there are a few other storylines at play, this isn’t anything close to an ensemble show right now, because Alicia doesn’t have an ensemble. She doesn’t even have a partner. All she has is Grace running around pretending to be her assistant. “For the first time in my life, I don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s just me,” she tells Louis Canning, who is still trying to make the same pitch he offers up in the season six finale.
Season seven’s premiere is titled “Bond,” and the literal interpretation attributes that name to the time Alicia spends in bond court. But new character bonds form and break in this premiere as well. Once again, The Good Wife has shattered the foundation it spent so much time building, pushing Alicia onto her little solitary island, putting a wedge between Eli and Peter, and leaving Cary to flail among the aging partners of…what’s the law firm called these days? Lockhart, Agos, and Lee? I think that’s right, but it’s hard to keep track. The Good Wife’s ability to totally destroy everything and then rebuild has been one of its strengths. “Hitting The Fan” remains one of the best episodes of the series, and it was all about destroying the show’s narrative foundation. In “Bond,” the pieces are already starting to move into their new positions for season seven. Both Matthew Goode and Archie Panjabi left the show after last season, so a reshuffling is certainly in order.
If The Good Wife is going to start to build new relationships for Alicia, that’s fine. In fact, it seems quite reasonable and realistic for Alicia to surround herself with new people, form new alliances, and make new enemies when she’s in this totally new era of her life. But if the show is going to keep Cary Agos and Diane Lockhart around, there needs to be a reason to do so. And as much as I love Matt Czuchry and Christine Baranski’s performances on this show, I just don’t see one at this point. Cary spends this episode wistfully looking at the other associates and wishing he were one of them again instead of being stuck in a room with the drooling, snoring partners of Lockhart, Agos and Lee. Cary’s life lacks excitement right now, and so does his storyline, which seems to be wandering aimlessly for the time being. Diane barely says anything in the episode except to tip off Alicia about Canning sending the client and to establish herself as part of the out-of-touch status quo when Cary points out that the firm is turning into a joke. Diane and Alicia exchange a fiery glance in the courtroom that reminds us that Baranski and Julianna Margulies don’t even have to open their mouths in order to get a point across, but that’s about as fun as it gets for Diane in “Bond.”
Right now, the show is just in a strange place where the stakes only ever seem to matter when Alicia Florrick is on screen. All else is inconsequential. Even Eli’s shift in this episode happens too quickly to leave an impression. Eli going from Peter’s friend to foe in the blink of an eye is great, but Eli’s descent and then immediate rise just isn’t effective. When Alicia goes to visit Eli Alan Cumming’s performance here is great, and it’s jarring to see the character so down and disheveled. But then just a few scenes later, he’s already making his slick comeback.
The new players introduced in “Bond” are certainly one of the episode’s highlights. Character actress Margo Martindale is always a welcome presence on any drama, and her Ruth Eastman already goes toe-to-toe with Alicia. Ruth charms, but there are also plenty of signs that she can attack when necessary. But the new character I’m even more excited about is Cush Jumbo’s Luca Quinn, who Alicia meets in her bond court adventures. According to Luca, bar attorneys stick together in bond court, and the two start to help each other out in a partnership that has a lot of potential for friendship. Alicia doesn’t have many allies right now other than Assistant Grace. Eli promises to help her out, but that’s still more of a political allegiance than anything else. Louis Canning also wants Alicia on his side, but as Alicia reminds us multiple times over the course of the episode, he’s the devil. The dynamic between Luca and Alicia more closely resembles that of Finn and Alicia or Cary and Alicia in season five or early-seasons Alicia and Kalinda—before that relationship was thrown in a dumpster. Jumbo brings a fun little spark to Luca, who apparently likes dancing with no one in particular. New relationships—and ones that aren’t super toxic—could be just what Alicia needs in order to move the character forward. Plus, it’s just nice to see Alicia share a drink with a coworker without a green screen getting in the way.
Overall, it’s not a bad thing that The Good Wife is stuck in a transition period. But “Bond” just feels too tedious at times. The seams are showing as the writers stitch the show back together again. The case Alicia works on is intentionally tedious, and I felt the same way about it as the presiding judge (played by Jane Curtin!) does. Another expert? The case gets buried in the science of fluttering, adhesion, and roomba trajectories, and it’s all just sort of exhausting with little payoff. It’s much more fun to see Alicia in the bond court, where Margulies plays the character’s inexperience so perfectly. Alicia scrambles as she tries to figure out this new environment she’s in. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of a metaphor for where the show is right now.
- Alicia’s sudden decision to let Peter run doesn’t really track for me. She says she doesn’t want to make decisions for other people, because she’s sick of other people making decisions for her, but wasn’t her initial decision to say no because Peter deciding to run is Peter making a decision for her? Her whole life is affected by the campaign, and I thought she was trying to not answer to anyone. I think I’m just overall not interested at all in Peter running another campaign.
- This might be a polarizing opinion, but I think turning Grace into Assistant Grace is the best move the writers have made for this character to date. Grace’s own storylines have never really taken off, and she’s usually more of an annoyance than anything else. But here, she’s really funny and even good at the job. Still, Alicia running her own business without Marissa Gold at her side seems like the wrong choice.
- Alicia makes two hilarious phone calls to Assistant Grace. The first: “I need an aerodynamics expert! They’re going after science!” The second: “I need you to find out everything there is to know about roombas.”
- Bridget Regan’s talents are underused as Ms. Smulders, but I was excited to see her nonetheless.
- Nora continues to be the best.