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'The Good Wife': Not-so-high times

October 6, 2009 | 11:01 pm
Last week, I complained about the bipolar nature of “The Good Wife.” I wasn’t totally buying the dramatic conceits that kept bringing Alicia’s private embarrassment smack dab into her professional life, Angela Lansbury style. And even though this week’s episode was probably more far-fetched than last week’s, it didn’t bother me nearly as much. Maybe it’s exhaustion, or maybe the strengths of the show outweigh its weaknesses, but I think this may have been my favorite episode so far.

After two weeks of pro-bono cases, Alicia finally took on a billable client (because, after all, we can only suspend disbelief so much). Of course, this was not just any client, but Kenny, the ne’er-do-well son of Alicia’s former friend back in Highland Park. On a late-night mission to score some sweet doobage from a friend, Kenny gets caught by a security guard … who’s later found dead. Kenny goes running to “cool mom” Alicia for legal counsel.  Meanwhile, Alicia is forced once again to confront some aspect of her former life -- this week, it was her life in the manicured suburbs.

What this show does best is capture the many anxieties of being a working mother -- or maybe just a working person -- nowadays. “The Good Wife” is a show about a politician’s wife, but what it captures best is office politics. I am especially into the plotline involving Cary, Alicia’s weaselly fellow junior associate. He relies on Alicia’s research and, of course, her first-hand knowledge about lawn maintenance to keep their client from going to trial -- then he promptly goes to Diane (a.k.a. the Christine Baranksi character) to take credit for the plea bargain. Diane is all too willing to accept this story. Chalk it up to the fact that she is a nice, decent person who hasn’t spent all her adult life in the snakepit of the legal profession, but Alicia doesn’t suspect the vicious backstabbing taking place right under her nose. Is our girl going to catch on and start playing rough? 

As if Cary weren’t bad enough, Alicia’s kids were also waging war (albeit a more passive-aggressive kind) against their poor old mom this week. With Alicia heading back to the old neighborhood, Zack and Grace are both laying on some serious guilt trips. There’s lots of talk about how small their new apartment is, how much they hate their new school, and they even make Alicia feel guilty for having the nerve to have a job.  When did they morph into such nasty little brutes? Alicia is a de facto single mom, and because she’s the only one around, she has to bear the brunt of her kids’ frustrations. It’s not fair, but I’ll bet this happens to single moms more often than not. 

Also, I thought it was a little strange that Kenny’s mom still wants nothing to do with Alicia even after she’s saved him from a murder conviction. Sure, Alicia has the whiff of scandal about her and all that, but hello, like her own pothead son doesn’t? And wouldn’t you feel indebted to someone who kept said stoner out of jail for the rest of his life? I’m just saying. WASPs are weird and all, but this seemed especially harsh.

A recurring motif at the end of each episode shows Alicia curling up at home, looking cozy, only to have her thoughts turn to Peter and the suspicions she still harbors about his infidelities. Last night, things took a sexy turn when Alicia flashed back to a hot-yet-tender lovemaking session (apologies, readers, for use of the extremely parental-sounding term “lovemaking;” other suggestions are welcome), one which ended when he leapt out of bed to take an important phone call. We assume that he’s taking a call from Amber Madison, leaving Alicia in ignorant, post-coital bliss. Now even Alicia’s warmest memories with Peter are tainted by his cheating. It was genuinely a little heartbreaking.

On a much lighter note, this week also brought us the second zany judge in as many weeks. I enjoyed last week’s self-loathing liberal, but this week’s sassy black judge -- who makes grammar nerd jokes about the plus-perfect tense -- was a tad cliché. Please, no more sassy black judges, cops or nurses in minimal supporting roles. Thank you, Hollywood.

Speaking of which, I’d also like to see Kalinda’s character developed a little bit more. Right now she just pops up a few times an episode, wearing kickass boots and generally being feisty. She drinks martinis, she flips the bird, she shows off her cleavage to get the job done. Archie Panjabi is a great actress (also, gorgeous) and I am glad she’s not an Asian stereotype -- but I want to see more of her. Can’t she and Alicia bond a little more? 

Enough proselytizing. What did you think of this episode? Have you dealt with an “underminer” like Cary at work before? And what about the kids? Was it just me, or did you feel a little sad for Alicia this week, too?

-- Meredith Blake

Photo: Alicia (Julianna Margulies), right, with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) in "The Good Wife" 

Credit: Eike Schroter/CBS