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The Good Wife: "Breaking Up"

Illustration for article titled iThe Good Wife/i: Breaking Up
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Ah, it's winter, the snow is falling (in New York, anyway) and The Good Wife is back: let's all bathe in the cynicism and rejoice. "Breaking Up" was particularly nasty, pretty much on all levels, to the point that I was blanching a little bit at Cary's devil-may-careness and Will and Diane's ongoing professional breakup. But it remembered to have a little bit of fun too and it kept those plot wheels moving; it's nice to have Alicia and the gang with us again.

Refreshingly, the mystery of this week's episode unfolded quickly without the usual twists and turns because this was a case that never came close to a courthouse. When a wealthy client Murphy's son Jonathan is busted for drug possession with his girlfriend (Leelee Sobieski), Alicia comes to help and Will and Diane quickly swoop in once Cary drops that he's charging one of them for the murder of a pharmacist: whichever one flips first. It is a pleasure to see the eminently talented Sobieski onscreen once again, even if she is, at 28, a bit too old to be playing a college student. I know she's been working consistently since her buzzier days, but I feel like I haven't seen her in a significant role for something like 10 years (no, The Wicker Man doesn't count).


Cary is of course a bitchy little bitch in all of his appearances; it's one of the reasons we enjoy him so much. But he was especially callous this week as he played the two kids off each other and smartly convinced Alexis (Sobieski) to drop Lockhart/Gardner as her firm because they'd really be looking out for the paying client. He confirmed to Alicia that his usual prosecutor's zeal is what's letting him sleep at night, but even his righteousness couldn't stand up to this case: turns out Alexis shot the guy, but only because he was raising a gun at her boyfriend, who had broken into the place to steal stimulants to keep himself up for finals. And, yep, she's pregnant. So Cary's belief that they'd turn on each other like dogs doesn't hold up; Jonathan turns himself in to protect his girl.

And hey, Alicia's situation kinda mirrored the push-and-pull between Jonathan and Alexis, as Will and Diane's stealthy sniping reached fever pitch. Diane offers Alicia a place in her new firm, ostensibly because she admires her as a lawyer and "as a woman" but really because she needs Eli Gold's business. Alicia would, naturally, be more drawn to Will, but he shows a pretty cut-throat side to himself this week in trying to save his client's ass. He considers taking the murder weapon, which they find before the cops, trying to construe a scenario where it wouldn't be illegal (he can't). Instead, he sics what he thinks are a bunch of black hoodlum teenagers on the gun; turns out they're honor roll students who turn the piece in immediately. Take that, ya filthy rich lawyer, with your assumptions about inner-city youth!

Even worse, once Jonathan's dad tells them that he was jealous of Alexis calling a guy called Neil, he pushes that angle to get Jonathan to turn his girlfriend in, even after learning that Neil is her OBGYN. "I can't tell what's a mistake anymore," Alicia sighs. Will's tactics again fail him, of course. I liked that in both cases, Will wasn't being punished by the show's writers for being a jerk, but simply for being stupid — he should have seen the flaws in both ploys. At the same time, Alicia's got to wonder if it's worth sticking with him. Not only does he behave badly, he does it without getting results, and what good is that? It feels like Diane's imaginary firm would be better: her partner Julius (Michael Boatman) is one of the more decent lawyers in the show, although David Lee (Zach Grenier, unseen this week) is one of the least.

On the home front, also the laughs front, Dallas Roberts returned for what feels like an extended stay as Alicia's brother Owen, recovering from a breakup where he was to blame. "I'm just going to live alone, like an aging writer, with dogs," he's decided. Like in his last appearance, he has an easy chemistry with Julianna Margulies and brings out a side of Alicia we don't get to see enough, so him sticking around is fine by me. Having him prod Jackie (who appeared this week despite no Chris Noth or kids, nice to see her get different material!) over wine was a very clever idea.


Turns out Jackie isn't freaked out because she saw her granddaughter praying in the last episode; instead, she thinks her daughter is totally gay-balls for her religious best friend and worries she thinks she's born gay. That comes out of a frank (for network) conversation she has with Owen about the concept, which she can't get her head around. "If it's so good, people should be allowed to choose it, shouldn't they?" she asks of homosexuality. While the conversation was played for laughs (the fellatio lines, Owen's quip about Reader's Digest), I appreciated seeing such an exchange happen in an episode where homosexuality wasn't the screaming centerpiece of everything and every line is weighted with drama and meaning. It just felt like Owen and Jackie were having a normal conversation.

So, by the end of the episode, it's all out, and Will and Diane have a semi-screaming match that ends with Will (in her eyes) confirming all her paranoia by vowing to vote her out of the firm. In his eyes, she needs to go because she's betrayed him and Derrick Bond, but Will's motives have been much more mysterious this season, and will likely remain so until Bond and Blake's mysteries get fully cleared up. I'm sure the firm won't break up, but not 100% sure — this is a show that's happy to take risks. But the chemistry between Will and Diane is so potent, I don't want them to sacrifice that element of the show. Either way, it's good to have The Good Wife back, zillions of plots and buckets of pessimism about the human condition and all.


Stray observations:

Nice to see the return of Frederick Weller as douchey lawyer Wilk Hobson; another fine addition to the network of recurring characters.


Elizabeth Reaser also continues to burn up the screen as Will's non-girlfriend lover Tammy, even contributing to the plot this time around. I hope they don't dump her too fast and keep giving her more to do.

"Hey, it's a reunion," Cary remarks acidly about seeing Will and Diane again.

Owen and Jackie: "When did you know you were gay?" "You mean, before or after I fellated my first guy?" "I don't like that word." "I'm sorry, before or after I fellated my first MAN?"


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