Julianna Margulies (CBS)

The Good Wife sure knows how to race against the clock.

This time, the deadline is exceptionally tight: The crew has just six hours to find proof that the prosecution intentionally buried exculpatory evidence in order to overturn Cary’s plea and keep him out of prison. With an even more impassioned score than usual from series composer David Buckley, “Hail Mary” clips along at lightning speed. Kalinda runs through Florrick Agos and in the courthouse, tracks down a detective, bounces from potential solution to potential solution. Diane plays phone tag with Alicia. Alicia barrels through debate prep, the stand-in for Prady switching from a professor to Finn Polmar to Peter. It’s a stressful episode, but one that’s a hell of a lot more fun than that downer of a midseason finale.

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Earlier this season, I complained about the disconnect between the series’ main players, particularly Cary and Alicia. Alicia’s rise coinciding with Cary’s fall has been a primary focus of the sixth season, and it’s an engaging contrast, but one that unfortunately keeps the two out of a lot of scenes together. But this week, at least, that distance finally has real ramifications for the characters and informs the story. Kalinda and Diane decide not to tell Cary that they’ve found a potential hail mary for his case in order to save him from the emotional burden of hope and potential disappointment. But Alicia, who spends most of the episode in debate prep instead of working on the case with the others, misses the memo and ends up slipping the news to Cary.

Cary, too, spends the whole episode outside of Florrick Agos, preparing to face his four years behind bars with a straight-talking prison consultant played by The Wire’s Domenick Lombardozzi. It’s the weakest of the sideplots this week, mostly because Lombardozzi’s heavy performance as the consultant feels tonally disconnected from the episode. He pushes Cary, makes no pretense of the violence he could face in prison. But Lombardozzi plays the consultant’s coarseness for comedy, and it just doesn’t quite work, especially when he’s yelling at Kalinda to come have sex with Cary. Matt Czuchry saves these scenes with his subtle acting. Everything about Cary looks leaden—his drooping eyelids, his arched back, his slow walk.

The clock is also ticking for Kalinda, whose arc will wrap up by the end of this season. But it’s becoming harder and harder for me to believe that there will be any closure for the character, who the writers have been fumbling with for the past few seasons. “A lot of things about Cary end up being about you, Kalinda,” Bishop says, succinctly summarizing my main problem with Kalinda’s storylines lately, which have really only existed in the context of Cary and his issues. Kalinda is a wonderfully complex character who should easily be able to stand on her own feet, but the writers have shoved her into Cary’s arms—or sometimes Lana’s, depending on what they’re feeling that week—and stripped the character of agency and most of her purpose.

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Throughout this season, we’ve been getting occasional glimmers of Kalinda’s emotions, and in “Hail Mary,” she gets more screen time than she has in a while. She makes it very clear that she will do whatever it takes to save Cary, including illegally tampering with evidence, which she does, and which will likely play a part in the character’s exit. We’ll see how Kalinda’s involvement with Cary progresses now that he’s free, but I have a hard time buying her actions as an expression of love. Sorry Cary/Kalinda shippers, but I just don’t think Kalinda cares about Cary in the way he wants her to. I do, however, know that Kalinda is fiercely loyal to a select few, and the way she protects Cary looks a lot like how she has protected both Will and Alicia in the past. So in that context, I understand her motivations for wanting to keep Cary out of prison. But Kalinda’s role in all of this is still confusing, especially since she just seems like an emotional accessory for Cary and her conflict with Bishop hasn’t really built to anything yet.

And now, let’s talk about that kiss, because I can’t stop thinking about that kiss. And not just because it was music video levels of hot, but because it’s one of those very rare and special moments when Alicia Florrick just does whatever the fuck she wants. Most of the time, Alicia stifles her own desire and happiness, compartmentalizes the parts of her life that she deems too messy or complicated. But every once in a while, she lets go, indulges on something a little stronger than a supersized glass of red wine.

A similar scene that comes to mind is from season five’s “Hitting The Fan,” when Alicia and Peter sneak off to the bedroom when all of the Florrick and Agos employees are just outside in the living room. That little burst of spontaneity came from the rush Alicia got from the battle against Lockhart Gardner. This time, there’s a lot going on that leads to Alicia’s parking garage kiss. There’s the continued sexual tension between her and Finn, who can’t even get through a mock debate without intense flirting. There’s also Alicia’s frustrations with Peter, which have carried over from her discovery of his affair and intensify this week when he tells her he can’t help her with Cary’s case. Alicia never enjoys asking Peter for favors, but when she has in the past, he has usually abided. But things between them have become increasingly more toxic, and you can see the icy discontent in her eyes when he shuts her down. Eli certainly sees it.

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So Alicia is sexually frustrated, mad at her dirtbag husband, and on top of it all, gets a call that her friend and partner isn’t going to prison after all. It’s all enough to make her strut right up to Johnny and go in for a kiss. Shippers and anyone who has picked up on the chemistry between Finn and Alicia— or in other words, anyone with eyeballs—will lament the fact that it wasn’t Finn in that parking garage. But I think it’s safe to bet it wouldn’t have happened with Finn. Alicia has very real feelings about Finn, feelings that are wrapped up in her past with Will, and kissing him would have meant something real, which isn’t what she’s seeking in that parking garage. She’s seeking a release (and maybe a little revenge, too).

For all its stressful story twists and roaring background music, “Hail Mary” ends on an exhale. Sure, there’s Kalinda’s ominous mystery call from Bishop and her metadata mishap and the campaign and plenty of loose strings left, but the Trial Of Cary Agos is over at last, and it’s a huge relief for everyone involved. Cary’s relief comes in the form of weighty hugs and tears. Alicia’s kiss, similarly, feels like relief. In other words, I don’t think the moment hints at any new developments between her and Johnny (whereas had it been Finn, there would have been a lot more at stake). It’s a release, simple as that. And hopefully the end of Cary’s trial means The Good Wife can get somewhat back to basics, folding Cary back into the firm and keeping the drama a little more contained to Florrick Agos. And if that ends up being the case, I too am relieved.

Stray observations:

  • Diane Chain Count: One. But Diane also, thankfully, got more screen time this week than she has had in a while, so I’m surprised that this count isn’t higher.
  • Thinking of starting an eyeroll count for this show, but it could get tricky to keep track of because damn these characters love to roll their eyes.
  • “I’m her bodywoman, not her fluffer.” Marissa Gold continues to be amazing.
  • What’s up with Cary still thinking Kalinda is his girlfriend? I guess this week she doesn’t really correct him, but hasn’t she repeatedly shut his puppy love down? Cary booboo, I know you’re hurting, but take a hint.
  • Geneva Pine looks truly shocked to discover Cary has been a victim of entrapment. I’ve been wondering about where Geneva falls in all of this for the past few weeks, whether she really thought Cary did it or not. I guess we have our answer.
  • Whereas the prison consultant humor didn’t work, the debate prep provided the best comedy for the episode. I know Eli disagrees, but snarky Alicia is the best Alicia.
  • Czuchry killed it, but tonight’s award for Best Performance goes to Kalinda’s dress.

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