Julianna Margulies and Matt Czuchry (CBS)
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“Old Spice” is by no means a bad episode of television or even a bad episode of The Good Wife, which has been on such a killer narrative streak for so long that it seems all the more noticeable when an episode doesn’t work perfectly. “Old Spice” isn’t a bad episode, but it is an odd one, one that struggles to find its footing tonally and doesn’t really connect all the dots. But it’s full of emotionally resonant moments and even some downright funny ones, because even when it isn’t firing on all cylinders, The Good Wife is still good television.

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A lot of my reservations about the episode have to do with the Elsbeth Tascioni and Josh Perotti love story, which has never really worked. Carrie Preston and Kyle MacLachlan are two very great actors who play off each other very well, but the whole storyline is more confusing and annoying than cute, especially because Perotti is really just a human piece of trash. He has basically been stalking Elsbeth ever since he met her, refusing to listen to her repeated rejections. Persistence and male entitlement are not romantic! At least Elsbeth still beats him in the end (Preston’s delivery of “So, call me… maybe” deserves awards), but up until that point, the writers were doing some very questionable things with Elsbeth this week.

What I have always loved about Elsbeth is that she’s never dumb. She’s eccentric, unpredictable, and all over the place, but never ever dumb. Other characters often think she’s stupid—or crazy—because they judge her and don’t understand that all of her peculiarities are also what make her a damn good lawyer. They underestimate her; she outsmarts them. And it’s fun to watch every time. But this week, she slips up in court and tells Perotti to add an “in my opinion” in Judge Patrice Lessner’s famed IMO Courthouse, even though he’s opposing counsel. Alicia throws her a wtf-are-you-doing look that’s totally warranted, because what the fuck was she doing? Elsbeth might see dancing penguins in her head and think “Call Me Maybe” is a good song in 2014, but she doesn’t do dumb things like helping the opposition. I guess we’re supposed to believe the affections of Josh Perotti are throwing her off her game, but that just seems like an insult to the character.

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Meanwhile, in Alicia’s world, Marissa Gold becomes Alicia’s official body woman, and Sarah Steele continues to be a show stealer. Seriously, I could watch Marissa chauffering Alicia around the city forever. In fact, someone please write that spinoff. Marissa provides some much needed humor in the episode, which struggles to find its voice and any central theme connecting the plots together.

At times, it seems to want to ask some weighty questions about faith—particularly: How do the major differences in how Alicia and Grace feel about God affect their relationship? It’s somewhat trodden territory for the show already, but “Old Spice” really draws it out without ever coming to any convincing conclusions or making us think too hard. Sometimes I wonder why the show keeps trying to make Grace Florrick happen. As important as I think Alicia’s interpersonal relationships within her family are to the character’s arc and the show’s continual exploration of the tension and mingling of personal and professional lives, Grace’s storylines have just never worked. When she does show up, it just feels like a forced reminder that Alicia has a family. When Grace meets with her Bible group in this episode, it doesn’t add anything and only contributes to the muddled tone of the episode.

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Even though a lot of what happens this week seems so isolated from other parts of the episode, there are some solid moments. I’ve been truly enjoying a lot of what has been going on with Cary this season. With all of his misfortunes coupled with sexual excursions lately, it’d be easy to say the show is positioning him as the “new Will.” But I think it’s working on a few more levels than that. Cary has really come to the forefront as a true main player this season, and Matt Czuchry is finally getting some of the praise he’s due. Cary is such an interesting contrast to Alicia right now. She’s absolutely killing it, and meanwhile, her partner is drowning and completely powerless in his own firm. Alicia tells him “we do this together” when Cary suggests that he take some time off from the firm, but it’s a little hard to believe her, considering they’ve been voting against each other ever since the issue of Diane joining the firm first came up. I do think Cary and Alicia care about each other, but their relationship is undeniably fraught with tension and power politics. Relationships are never straightforward on The Good Wife, and that’s what makes them so intoxicating.

Smaller highlights include Julianna Margulies’ brilliant, subtle acting when Will’s death comes up in her interview. My biggest pet peeve with major character deaths on television is when the characters collectively forget about the loss altogether. Characters on TV seem to move on way too quickly in a lot of cases, probably for the simple reason that writers don’t want to dwell too much on something that has happened in the past and need to push the story forward. But death is something that never really goes away, and The Good Wife writers’ room seems to understand that, bringing Will’s ghost back at just the right times. At the end of “Old Spice,” Diane and Alicia return to the former Lockhart Gardner office to begin the process of making it the new Florrick, Agos, Lockhart office. Alicia doesn’t even make it all the way into Will’s office before she starts crying. “No. Take mine,” Diane says, and there’s so much there. So much emotion, backstory, and meaning all in one tiny line. It’s by far the best scene in the episode, ending with a powerful shot of Diane and Alicia looking at each other from their old-but-new offices, ready for the next step.

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Stray observations:

  • Diane chain count: Only one, but she also wears a classic Diane brooch and a gold and black dress in bond court.
  • Further proof that Josh Perotti is the worst: He ripped her puffy-sleeves blouse! Okay, so she ripped his shirt, too. But only after he destroyed her amazing blouse. Also: He wears Old Spice.
  • Love that Alicia studies so intensely for her interview and treats it like preparing for opening arguments.
  • “This is stupid.”—Cary, on his arrest for going half a mile into Indiana
  • I think the one good thing that might come out of Cary and Kalinda not being allowed to see each other is that Kalinda might finally have some scenes with other characters again.
  • “You’re still going to lose. I have Alicia Florrick on my side.” Elsbeth really understands that having Alicia Florrick on your team makes you invincible.
  • The way Louis Canning talks about his kidney failure is so Louis Canning.
  • I got so excited about Kalinda and Alicia talking on the phone that I jumped up, which tells you just how infrequently these two interact anymore. And then Kalinda, Alicia, and Elsbeth all got on the phone together and honestly it’s a wonder I’m not off somewhere writing fanfic about it.

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