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'The Good Wife': Swimming with the sharks


Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. This week’s “The Good Wife” was — pardon the pun — overflowing with watery metaphors. But, thankfully, that didn't make the episode a total washout. Oops, there I go again.

Tonight, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) was defending Terrance (Charles Kwami Odei), an otherwise well-behaved young boy who is in trouble for getting into a fight at school (technically, he threw a textbook at someone's face — does that count as a fight?).  Even though the state has agreed to community service in exchange for a guilty plea, Baxter, the judge on the case — who also happens to be Will’s best friend (and is played by Tony Goldwyn, whom you might remember as the bad guy who died so spectacularly in “Ghost”) sentences him to nine months detention at Palgrave Academy, a Dickensian-sounding private juvenile facility.  It's not a life sentence, but it's unduly harsh. Alicia challenges the decision and concludes that Baxter is a racist. (Baxter argues that he can't be a racist, and points to a picture of him with Sen. Roland W. Burris, which was a funny moment.) The truth, it turns out, is a little more interesting than plain old racism. Baxter’s a gambling addict with serious debts, and he’s been getting kickbacks from Palgrave for sending young offenders their way. Yikes.

This might have been Alicia’s case, but the episode belonged to the supporting cast. Alicia’s ongoing saga was conspicuously put on hold — there was nary a mention of the fact that the last time we saw Alicia, she was planting a big, wet one on her husband after an awkward confrontation with his favorite escort — but at least we got to know her colleagues a little bit better.

Diane, for one, is becoming ever so slightly less reptilian. Up until now, she has seemed like your stereotypical bitchy boss, complete with expensive-looking highlights and a withering stare. But this week, we got to know a little bit more about her. Turns out she has a heart after all. She even compliments Alicia on all the good work she’s been doing. In a meeting with some Democratic Party operatives, Diane is encouraged to run for judge. One of them, Chief Judge Adler (Kate Burton), says they need her to enter the race because, “for every two swimmers, there’s only one lifeguard. We need judges who know the law.”  The metaphor is a little off — how exactly are good judges supposed to save bad judges from drowning? —but you get the drift. And so did Diane: She takes the bait and decides that she will divest her interest in the firm.

With Stern out the door and Diane on her way, it looked like it would be Will's turn to take over the firm, news that leaves him basically ecstatic. Not gonna lie, it was a little icky. For weeks now, it’s been hard to tell whether Will is a good guy or a power-hungry operator. After tonight, my gut is telling me it’s the latter, even if he hasn’t explicitly done anything as bad as, say, sending a 12-year-old boy to prison for tossing a textbook at someone. But, alas, Gardner & Associates will have to wait.  Blame it on Alicia’s meddling, which puts Diane out of favor with the party machine. Though it’s never stated, it’s pretty clear that Alicia’s pursuit of Judge Baxter — and Diane’s support of the investigation — dooms her potential run for office.   And even though Will eventually sides with Alicia on Baxter, it takes way too much prodding, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding the ever-elusive Kalinda continues to deepen. This week she played a crucial role in uncovering Judge Baxter’s shady dealings — largely because of her own shadowy connections. She takes Cary to Judge Baxter’s old house to meet with Frank, who is described merely as a “guy I used to work with.” Why they couldn’t meet at a coffee shop and not an empty house is unclear to me — after all, I have a hunch that Frank isn’t a real estate agent — but never mind the details. After the meeting with Frank, Kalinda shoots Cary down in her own inimitable way. Cary balks at the idea that Baxter might have turned into a racist after a black man attacked his wife. Kalinda says that people are really just that simple, even herself.  “I’m knowable, just not to you.”  Ouch.

This felt like one of those breather episodes, where the writers pause to dutifully lay the groundwork for juicy revelations a few weeks down the line. (Was Kalinda a loan shark in another life? Is Will a Madoff in the making? Or maybe a serial killer?) But sometimes that can lead to especially thoughtful writing: This episode deftly combined a compelling main plot (save the cute kid!) with commentary about the sorry state of our political and legal process, yet it wasn't boring or didactic. Even in an off week, "The Good Wife" is pretty on.

What did you think? Do you have any theories about Kalinda’s shady past? What’s your gut feeling about Will? Is 'The Good Wife' ever just a little too cynical for you?

— Meredith Blake


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Photo: Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies) keeps on fighting the good fight, even when she's up against that guy from "Ghost." Photo credit: David M. Russell / CBS.

Comments () | Archives (6)

Although I agree,not following up after the kiss seemed a missed opportunity to establish the character of Alecia(who I still can,t figure out)I enjoyed Dianna being the focus.She is a much stronger woman and far more interesting than the long suffering clueless Alecia.I question the storyline of Alecias kids,it was disconnected,she doesn,t talk to them or the grandmother? Maybe the director realizes what a m istake it was to make Margolise the star,she is sooo dull,with her smirks and stares and little dialogue.Last night proves how she really doesn,t carry the show.

Will scares me. Something tells me that he is deliciously cunning. Alicia has received various warnings and signals about him. One (of course) came from Peter. One telling experience was the fishing expedition at the hotel where he and Alicia investigated rape allegations made by their client. (They are approached by one of a group of women in the lobby who recognizes him, who comes over to take a few jibes.). Also, there was the info regarding his behavior in a previous case where opposing counsel was someone who was later found to be presenting himself as an attorney (though he never passed the bar…anywhere). Will seems pretty connected to power players, so I’m guessing he knows more about Peter’s situation. (Stern was aware…how many others are in the know?)

Kalinda is a puzzle. I can’t wait to see more of her character revealed. And, it was good to see more of Diane (I’m sure she has lots of battle scars from her many years of experience). I think we got to see a little bit of the machine that helped put Peter in power, and then took him down.

I’m learning more about Alicia as the season continues. We know she continues to deal with the fallout of the scandal. The peek into her life prior to the scandal provided a good opportunity to see just how distant she’s been from her profession. (I think Peter’s mother represents who Alicia was prior to the scandal). It will be interesting to see how she grows as she continues to get reacquainted with her former profession, former colleagues, and former friends (now foes), and as she is enlightened by their actions.

If Will turns out to be a bad guy, they lose this viewer forever. Josh Charles is my only reason for watching.

Alicia took a backseat in this episode, and the rest of the cast proved they can make the show just as compelling without her. That doesn't detract from Alicia who undoubtedly is the heart of the show, and is always compelling to watch.

Review of the episode on my blog.

This episode was a rerun. A rerun of a Law and Order SVU episode. Saw the "judge" on SVU in a similar episode without the "gambling". That episode had a female judge who was taking kickbacks from a juvey facility.

One would think that the writers could come up with a plot that had not been done on a competing network. Perhaps they transferred over to CBS from that "pinhead" Dick Wolf (as Bill O) would say.

Will is really interesting and I'm hopeful that he won't be the bad guy. He is somewhat arrogant and is willing to do whatever it takes to win the case. That's nothing to gasp about. I would say even Kalinda subscribes to that theory. In this episode we see he is fiercely loyal to his friends be it Baxter or Alicia. He's obviously rubbed some people the wrong way, but he's devoted to his friends. Which is why I find Stern's comment to Alicia in the previous episode that Will is capable of stabbing her in the back pretty flimsy. C'mon, he goes the extra mile to get Alicia a job whereas all her other friends seem to have deserted her and he gave Baxter 120 grand and wasn't too bothered he only got some back. Baxter's betrayal of his trust hurt him a lot, but someone could easily say Will stabbed his friend in the back. He has his limits which also explains why you won't see him acting on his feelings and being brazen in his behavior with Alicia; he's very much aware of Peter still being in the picture. And this episode sort of makes me wonder if Will is so intensely protective of his friends, he must be reeling with anger at Peter for what he did to Alicia especially if she was his "one that got away". I remember Will shouting at Matan in 'Conjugal' about not talking to his junior associate because he had said something about Peter to her so I'm very eager for a scene between Peter and Will. Pretty please, writers.

And Will sleeping with Alicia in his head? Spot on. And hilariously so.


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