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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Wife goes knocking on the wrong doors in “Tracks”

Illustration for article titled iThe Good Wife /igoes knocking on the wrong doors in “Tracks”
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“Tracks” opens with a montage of Florrick & Quinn clients and deliveries arriving at Alicia’s downstairs neighbor’s door. “The bitch downstairs,” as she’s dubbed by Rowby (returning guest star Matthew Lillard) is furious with people for mixing up her apartment, 603, with Alicia’s, 903. The purpose of the montage is simply to establish one of the episode’s central conflicts: Alicia versus her homeowners association. But the cold open also functions as an accidental metaphor for the episode, which doesn’t really seem to know where it is or where it’s going.

Everything that happens in “Tracks” feels random and just a little off. The Good Wife is usually a show where everything down to the way a character opens a door or sits in a chair seems deliberate and thought out. That’s becoming much less true of season seven, in which the writers seem to be plugging different characters into wherever they’re the most convenient instead of where they make the most sense. It’s almost like the writers weren’t really sure how to follow last week’s intensely emotional “Iowa” and so someone just said let’s just throw Lillard, Sarah Steele, and Kelly Bishop into the episode, force Alicia and Cary together, and see what happens. Those are good ingredients, sure. But not enough attention was given to the recipe. What we get are a bunch of scenes that have a few things going for them here and there but don’t really connect to each other or to any kind of larger story the season is trying to tell.

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Even Ruth Eastman’s departure is strange. The show could have easily—and should have—let Margo Martindale walk on out of here after her great performance in “Iowa.” Instead, we get a weirdly sentimental goodbye between her and Eli that doesn’t really make sense for either character. Alan Cumming and Martindale packed a whole lot of emotion into their “I wish I had been better to you”/“I wish you had been, too” exchange, but where did any of that emotion come from? These two hated each other, and they were at their best when they were hating each other, trying to outmaneuver one another at every turn. To suddenly try to create some sort of reconciliation between them feels both forced and disingenuous to the characters.

After so many weeks of complaining about how Cary is completely disconnected from the show, I’m surprised by how little I liked Cary and Alicia working on a case together. Their reunion in “Tracks” hardly even hints at the characters’ past together. It’s all just strictly business. And to top it off, the case in and of itself is a snoozer. It’s not really a case about people so much as a case about a lot of really technical aspects of copyright law as it pertains to music composition. The Good Wife often delves into the nitty gritty of specific laws and policies, obviously. It’s a legal drama after all. But in the best cases of the week, the questions the show raises within the case are compelling and smart. Sometimes The Good Wife can verge on preachy—clumsy, even—when it tries too hard to hit hot-button issues, but that’s not really what the problem with Rowby’s case. It just mostly lacks humanity, especially since Rowby is such a caricature. So really, it’s just a case about pumping Lillard for some comedy…comedy that never really lands, unfortunately. The courtroom babble touches on some of the ways music companies exploit artists, but there just seems to be a disconnect between that narrative and the way the case actually unfolds, so the points get lost in the dialogue.

“Tracks” is simply disconnected throughout. It’s such a strange episode, because it isn’t really a bad one. Cush Jumbo is fantastic throughout, even though Lucca’s sudden romance with Rowby is the most random part of this very random episode. As random as it was though, I actually didn’t hate it. Lucca and Rowby’s tryst definiteily contributes to the overall off-kilter tone of “Tracks,” but at least Lucca has a storyline outside of Alicia and outside of her work. Plus, the development does actually track with that little we know about Lucca. From the start, Lucca has been impulsive. She dances at bars, goes out with Cary, and now hooks up with a client. Simply put, she’s the anti-Alicia. Alicia spends so much time keeping herself from giving into her desires. She overcomplicates and overthinks things. And now in the aftermath of Eli’s voicemail reveal, she is full of regret. Lucca doesn’t seem to be someone who lives with any kind of regrets. She’s straightforward with Rowby: “I like artists, but I lose interest in them real quick,” she tells him. It’s just a fun little dalliance for her, a break from the real world. Alicia could never dream of making out with a client in public.

But contrasting Alicia isn’t enough of a foundation for an entire character. We still know so little about Lucca. The way The Good Wife is executing Lucca’s development reminds me a little too much of how the show handled Kalinda Sharma’s development. In other words, as was the case for Kalinda, the writers just don’t really seem sure of what to do with Lucca outside of Alicia. The contrast between the two intrigues me, but there needs to be more to it. That juxtaposition needs to somehow come into play in their relationship to one another, which still lacks emotional stakes or even any semblance of consistency. They’re together all the time and yet they aren’t very close. Alicia carries the weight of last week’s heartbreak, but she opens up to…Marissa Gold, of all people. Again, it just doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

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To make matters even more confusing, for the very first time in The Good Wife history, Grace Florrick was the most enjoyable character to watch. The Good Wife may have struggled with Kalinda, but when it comes to Alicia Florrick’s children, the writers have never had any idea what they’re doing. Grace The Christian has never really led to a worthwhile storyline but Grace The Boss Ass Lawyer In Training has taken the character to the next level and given Makenzie Vega a whole lot more to do. Her delivery of “actually, there isn’t” at the homeowners association meeting had me snapping. Alicia may have lost her case in court this week, but Grace kept on winning…only to then be fired by her own mother. In “Tracks,” both Marissa and Grace end up stepping into the roles of their parents and, in fact, end up doing their parents’ jobs better than they do. It’s a small detail of “Tracks” that works, but as with the rest, it still feels like there’s something missing. Just as Grace becomes a seemingly crucial part of the show, she’s taken out of the game again. Most of the characters outside of Alicia are lacking in a clear arc this season. And the central storylines are all over the place, too. At this point, The Good Wife just sort of needs to pick a door and walk through it.

Stray observations

  • Let me know if I missed any, but I counted five Alicia Florrick Eye Rolls in court this week.
  • “I have eyes.” - Marissa, when Eli asks how she knew Will Gardner was the friend who loved Alicia
  • #NotAllPopSongs
  • I like Matthew Lillard, but Rowby isn’t nearly as entertaining of a character as the episode seems to think he is.
  • Are Diane and David Lee really on board with bringing them into the firm? It wasn’t really made clear, but I got the impression that Cary was going rogue with the offer.
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