It’s sort of telling that the best episode of The Good Wife in a while was one largely disconnected from a lot of what’s happening on The Good Wife at present. Last week’s “Mind’s Eye,” sure, revolved significantly around Alicia’s campaign, but its emotional beats were more spread out, tied to Will, Alicia’s sexual desires, all things that are infinitely more interesting than the race for States Attorney, which is truly starting to feel like a deadweight story arc that will never end. I keep trying to remind myself about The Good Wife’s fourth-season slump, when all that messy and poorly written Kalinda/Nick stuff really started dragging the show down. Though the writers never really recovered when it specifically came to Kalinda—the character hasn’t had a compelling storyline in years—the show eventually bounced back from its missteps, rediscovered its strengths, and moved on.

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Similarly, though in different ways, the State’s Attorney race has created a slump. It just hasn’t been written with the same sense of urgency that The Good Wife’s long-term arcs usually are given. In fact, it just detracts way too much from the more episodic action of the series, of which there hardly seems to be any anymore. Tonight’s Case Of The Week—about a misfiring 3D-printed firearm—is hardly a boring one, and it sees the return of some of the series’s best recurring characters: Nancy Crozier, Kurt McVeigh, and Judge Abernathy. Once upon a time, the three of them would have been nearly enough ingredients for an exciting episode. But yet again, Alicia Florrick is just too absent from it all, and the show doesn’t seem to have time for its other leads. When was the last time Cary had dialogue that wasn’t entirely expository? When was the last time Diane had a real storyline with emotional stakes?

Well, tonight she actually gets one! Her personal relationship with McVeigh gets all muddled up with their professional relationship, as they clash over how to handle the gun case and McVeigh accuses her of being a politician instead of a lawyer. It’s all powerful stuff that’s weakened by its lack of build-up or nuance. For a show that’s usually so careful with its character work, The Good Wife has lost track of far too many of its characters. It’s not necessarily a problem that McVeigh just sort of turns up tonight without having been on the show for a while, but it is a problem that this is the first time in many episodes that Diane Lockhart has been more than just a piece in the game

Hopefully this is all the start of some forward momentum for the character, but it still seems like the show is really missing out by not having Diane and Alicia’s relationship dynamics grow since Diane was folded into Florrick and Agos. Does Alicia even know who Diane and Cary are anymore? It’s almost like losing Will made everyone just completely lose touch with each other, even though they’re all working in the same damn law firm again! If the writers are going to insist on keeping Alicia’s storylines separate from the others, the others need to have storylines that don’t just feel like filler.

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Alicia, meanwhile, decides to throw Peter under the bus when Prady’s campaign people find a way around Prady’s refusal to attack Alicia by having him go after Peter. Now, I’m the last person to ever complain about Peter’s absence, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that he isn’t part of this. The conflict from the plotline, instead, manifests as Johnny and Eli just strongarming one another, and it’s all pretty empty or, at least, hard to care about. It looks like next week, Alicia and Peter will finally confront one another about the political problems they’re causing for one another. But without any of that substance here, all the back-and-forth on whether or not to take a stab at Peter feels about as weightless as the rest of the episode. The look on Alicia’s face when Johnny gives her the go ahead to trash Peter, however, is priceless.

One thing I’ve always loved about Alicia’s rivalry with Louis Canning is how even though the two do the same dance over and over—Canning tries to convince Alicia he’s capable of good; she believes him; he strikes with venom—it never feels tired. That’s mostly true even here, with Canning playing her from his deathbed. I do have some serious reservations about the specifics of the Canning scheme. The show dangerously and inaccurately suggests that pro-Palestinian organizations necessarily have connections to Hamas. Alicia does roll her eyes at a lot of what David Lee says in their meeting, and I don’t think The Good Wife is really taking a firm political stance or anything like that, but I worry about how this little sideplot might be misinterpreted. Beyond that, Lee and Canning’s suit against Alicia is just another storyline getting dragged out that hasn’t had enough fuel to it to justify such a long arc.

Maybe the way this season was broken up has a lot to do with its deeply rooted momentum problems. This last break before “Dark Money” certainly didn’t help things. But the show isn’t supposed to take any more breaks from now through the end of the season, so there’s hope that things could start to pick up again. The Good Wife in its current state is still better than bad television. It’s mostly just television that has lost its way.

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Stray observations:

  • “God, handsome men are so weak.” Marissa Gold stays dropping the truest of truth bombs.
  • I’m not all that invested in the Alicia/Johnny romance, but oh boy, that last scene is the most I’ve ever liked Steven Pasquale. He nails the adorable awkwardness of the whole thing.
  • Is there a possibility Canning wasn’t playing her? Or am I falling for his act just like Alicia always does.
  • Should I just give up on my Finn/Alicia hopes and dreams?
  • Kalinda shows up in the last 15 minutes to solve the case, and as usual, no one appreciates her. Kurt McVeigh is literally like “wait, who is this?” No one remembers who Kalinda Sharma is. Remember when she used to be one of the best parts of this show?! Seems like such a distant memory. Even if the writers find a way to get this season back on track, I’ll forever be disappointed in the way they’ve treated this character.

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