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'The Good Wife' recap: Confronting the past

April 30, 2012 |  7:53 am

The Good Wife Julianna Margulies Finale

It's fitting that the finale of "The Good Wife" hinges on what is, essentially, an elaborate "case of the week," given how this season has lacked a single overarching narrative. After Lockhart-Gardner wins a massive class-action suit against the manufacturers of a dangerous acne medication, their nemeses Patti Nyholm and Louis Canning fire back with charges of fraud and malicious prosecution. The case is ultimately a red herring, used to distract Will and Diane from their biggest client (and then poach him) but, for a while there, it looks like the firm is in huge trouble.

For the show's writers, the case also provides a very clever way to dredge up those never-quite resolved allegations of bribery against Will and to implicate Peter in the misdeeds as well. It's a smart way to cap the season, and to bring both of Alicia's men together, to delightfully awkward effect, in the same elevator.

Alicia finds herself in a rather different situation from a year ago, when she capped a triumphant day in court by getting a hotel room with Will. Months after their breakup, Will and Alicia are just about back to normal -- albeit a new normal with less of all that fun sexual tension. Will has moved on to a new love interest, Callie, one who understands both his struggles with gambling and what it's like to be suspended from the law. But he clearly still cares about Alicia and wants to be reassured that their brief romance did, in fact, mean something to her. Otherwise, why would he ask her if it was a "mistake"? (The elevator scene was a nice callback to last season, wasn't it?)

As for Alicia, she hasn't found a new romantic interest -- next season, perhaps? -- but she and Peter have reached a comfortable kind of marital limbo, and there are signs of a reconciliation on the horizon. I've repeatedly expressed my objection to this idea, but I will give Peter credit for growing up considerably this season. Just a year ago, we saw Peter's ugly side emerge when Alicia decided to leave him. In this finale, we see his more selfless side: During a deposition with Patty and Louis, Peter says that he and Alicia are separated and therefore he'd have no reason to curry favor with Judge Wynter. It's a brave admission, especially since it's likely to endanger Peter's gubernatorial campaign.

Peter's charm offensive isn't limited to the professional realm. He's also being rather chivalrous when it comes to Jackie's purchase of their old house, claiming he's going to do some work and then flip it in a few months. More likely, he's hoping the vision of Peter and the kids sharing a pizza dinner in their old house -- and their children's endless entreaties -- will be enough to win Alicia back.

But is it? That's the question the finale leaves us with. As far as cliffhangers go, it's not quite "Who shot J.R.?" levels of drama, but it's an intensely fraught decision for Alicia -- and for the show itself. Can the show move forward if Alicia moves backward? I tend to think it can, but I'm intensely curious to see how it all shakes out.

The true drama in this finale arrives courtesy of Kalinda, who kicks the episode off with a bang by replying -- two years after the fact, mind you -- to Alicia's question about her sexuality. "I'm not gay," she says over drinks at the bar. "I'm flexible." Of course by now we already know this, but for Alicia it's something of a revelation (indeed, it's shocking enough that she mixes up the "IRS" and the "IRA," or maybe that was just the booze talking). While hardly a thorough explanation, it's a step closer to the openness and honesty that Alicia is looking for in their newly revived friendship.

But Kalinda is even less forthcoming when it comes to the subject of that mysterious uncashed check for $21,000 (but, hey, who hasn't got a few of those lying around, right?). She plays it cool when Alicia inquires about it, but then promptly bugs out, packing a bag full of money and guns. It looks like she's about to split town but, for some reason -- loyalty to the firm, perhaps? -- Kalinda shows up at the office the next day. Alicia, having gotten scary calls from "F&E Construction" guy at home, pushes Kalinda for some answers.

Finally, Kalinda confesses what we all suspect: That the scary dude on the other end of the line is her husband. The clues -- like the salary advance Kalinda requests from Will -- suggest that she owes her hubby some money, but it also doesn't seem he's the kind of guy who will be placated with a simple check. In the closing moments of the finale, Kalinda, handgun at her side, readies herself for his return. Whatever happened between these two, she's ready to confront it head-on, rather than running away. For Kalinda, that's a huge leap forward.

There's a nice and surely not coincidental juxtaposition between Alicia's and Kalinda's places at the end of the episode. Alicia stands at the door to her former home, trying to resist the intoxicating allure of her old life, while Kalinda sits waiting for her past to, quite literally, barge in the front door. While Kalinda's predicament is certainly more life-threatening, Alicia's is not without its risks.

So, who's got predictions?

Stray thoughts:

-- There are lots of great small moments in this episode, like Patty's daughter wandering through the office in her baby walker.

-- Another great detail: Canning's sympathy ploy doesn't work with the wheelchair-bound judge.

-- I also love Eli's confrontation with Jackie at the hospital. "Don't Jews believe in God?"  "Yes, we all do."


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Complete Show Tracker coverage of "The Good Wife" 

-- Meredith Blake

Photo: Julianna Margulies in "The Good Wife." Credit: CBS