As it nears its end, The Good Wife seems simultaneously ready and not ready to die. “Party,” which is really The Good Wife doing dramatic farce, is a meditation on mortality. Funeral flowers and a bizarrely festive cake bearing the words “rest in peace” accidentally arrive on Alicia’s doorstep just in time for Jackie and Howard’s ketubah—a Jewish marriage contract ceremony. Darkness At Noon, the fictional show-within-the-show that goes above and beyond in its attempts to parody the kind of prestige dramas one might find on AMC, makes it return. And the protagonist at one point literally screams that he doesn’t want to die. Jason offers a piece of Mars to Alicia, which is funny and strange and hints at the the end of the world. The second half of this final season has been starkly self-referential. The Good Wife is ending, and the characters are in on it.
In “Party,” it works. I almost wish the writers had fully committed to making this an all-out bottle episode. It practically is, with most of the drama going down in or around Alicia’s apartment. The only action that happens elsewhere comes from Jason’s further investigations into Peter’s involvement in the Locke mistrial, and while all of that is necessary for the big-picture plotting of the show, it just isn’t nearly as electrifying as the rest of the episode.
Directed by Rosemary Rodriguez, “Party” unfolds like a play. The ketubah provides the perfect excuse to gather all of The Good Wife’s main players in a small space to dance around one another. Everyone is at crucial turning points in their lives. Alicia and Peter are getting a divorce. Diane has accomplished her goal of creating a women-led firm, and her husband Kurt is retiring. Marissa has decided to go to law school. Grace is getting ready to go to college. Oh, Zach’s back! And he’s getting married? During the party, he gets engaged to his girlfriend Hannah, who Alicia and the rest of us meet for the first time tonight. I didn’t love that particular development, but the point is: Everyone is moving forward with major life changes. So naturally, the party boasts tension, excitement, a dash of chaos. Everything from the staging to the acting is tinged with a hint of farce. Everyone’s cup brims with wine. A fake television show spews symbolism. The blocking makes full use of the set, the characters winding through Alicia’s apartment as they deal with their issues. Veronica bitterly tries to hurt Jackie by revealing Alicia and Peter’s divorce. But Grace is in the room and overhears, which spiral into Grace and Zach’s confrontation of their mother in the hallway. The ketubah is far from the perfect event, but the episode itself flows and escalates so well, the close quarters making all the intersecting conflicts all the more pressing. It’s a densely plotted episode, but it never feels overloaded.
Everyone at the party is intricately connected in terms of the show’s actual plot. Diane is representing Eli Gold in the Peter Florrick case, which Kurt turns out to have a connection to, too. Louis Canning, while not physically present at the party, gets caught up in the tangled web as well, calling both Diane and Alicia during the party to let them know he’s representing Cary. Everyone has something at stake when it comes to Peter’s trial. But it isn’t just professional interests that are colliding; personal relationships are, too. The emotional web of spun in Alicia’s apartment during “Party” is much more interesting the political and legal ones, and the best threads are the ones that extend from all three. Jason shows up to talk to Eli about his progress, but he wants to talk to Alicia, too. Because things are complicated with them again. She told him she wanted to be with him, and he gave her a slice of Mars. It was meant to be a gag gift, but the timing made it something more, through them off their orbit again. Eli eventually fires Jason in the same evening, thinking he’s too close to Alicia to work the Peter case. It’s all a jumbled, interconnected mess, and “Party” thrives on the quiet chaos of it all.
The characters all untangle various emotions throughout, and they do so in subtle and compelling ways. Alicia and Peter come to terms with their divorce in a quiet but tense manner, their complicated feelings brewing throughout the episode. Alicia remarks that Peter is a good father. He admits to being sad about the divorce. They both see bits of themselves—and of their mistakes—in their son’s idealism and blinding romance. Zach wants to drop out of college, marry his girlfriend, and move to France to be a writer. Alicia finds it all very funny. What the hell is Zach Florrick going to write? According to him, he’ll write a memoir. Sure, Zach.
The rushed engagement is nicely juxtaposed to the drawn-out Florrick divorce that was seven seasons in the making. And with Kurt and Diane and Jackie and Howard thrown into the mix, “Party” has a lot to say about all the intricacies of marriage. But I can’t get over how weird it is for the writers to bring in a completely new character to essentially be a mouthpiece for a bunch of the show’s Big Ideas on marriage and life. Hannah is undoubtedly supposed to be an annoying character. That’s fine. But she also just feels unnecessary. I’m much more invested in the way Alicia longingly looks at Diane and Kurt’s tender moment in the kitchen than I am in anything Zach’s girlfriend—excuse me, fiancé—has to tell Alicia about what modern marriage should look like.
The Good Wife’s writers are great at writing many things: will-they/won’t-they relationships, workplace drama, elevator scenes. But in all seven seasons of the show, they’ve never really figured out how to write young people. In recent seasons, that hasn’t been that big of an issue, since Grace started to only really be around when useful to the story and Zach was seemingly abducted for a couple years. As Hannah went on her rant about how marriage should be freeing and how the main motivation for it is taxes, I flashed back to the season-four episode in which Grace’s classmate, also named Grace, killed herself and another student said she was pretty sure it was because she was pregnant, which she knew because “someone retweeted it.” What? She thought she was pregnant because someone retweeted it? It’s such a small, nitpicky thing, but that piece of dialogue just stood out as so overwhelmingly bad to me, as if the writers were desperately grasping at how teens talk and just decided to throw “retweet” in there. It’s not quite the same as that, but through Hannah, the writers seems to be trying to tap into some sort of millennial view of marriage and relationships, and it just comes off as out-of-touch. We don’t know the character well enough for this to be an individual delving into what she specifically believes and wants. We don’t care about this character enough for any of that! We just met her tonight! So she’s really acting as more of a device, a wall for Alicia to throw some of her latest musings on relationships against. While the rest of the episode teases out the characters’ emotions and internal struggles deftly, Hannah stands out as a partygoer who just doesn’t add anything to the webs.
All Zachs aside, the rest of the party is very well constructed. Even the more heavy-handed moments don’t feel out of place in the story the episode tells. Alicia, for example, cycles through a round of goodbyes at the end of the party that quite literally is the show’s way of saying goodbye to most of these characters. Again, the show isn’t shying away at all from giving its final episodes an air of finality. But that goodbye scene encapsulates everything that’s great about the episode, showcasing the different relationship dynamics Alicia has with each of these characters in succinct, potent bursts that both reflect the characters’ past and also point at where they’re heading.
- There are two more episodes for this Peter mess to get solved.
- After a whole season of Alicia and Jason kind of dancing around their feelings for one another, Alicia finally says they need to be real with each other and say what they mean. Jason attempts to do so, but she still has to translate his words: He wants to be with her, but he doesn’t like feeling tied down and wants her to eventually uproot and go somewhere with him when he’s ready to move on to wherever life takes him next. Alicia says she needs to think about it, which sounds perfectly reasonable.
- Mike Tascioni can’t argue in court because of that damn dog.
- Makenzie Vega had a great episode.
- Zach is back for all of three seconds and I’m ready for him to be gone again.
- I was really worried Peter and Alicia were going to hook up one last time.
- I think especially because of the theatrical feel of this episode, I found myself wishing there was more of Cush Jumbo.