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'The Good Wife': A PG-rated conjugal visit

November 4, 2009 |  8:17 am


It’s something surely every woman can relate to: In order to exonerate an innocent man, you have to pay a conjugal visit to your husband in jail and cajole information out of him. 

All kidding aside, this week’s episode of “The Good Wife” had a pretty irresistible, if not exactly relatable, premise. Alicia pursues an appeal for Clarence Wilcox, a man she believes was wrongly accused of killing a cop. At first the case seems pretty hopeless, but sure enough, it turns out he was innocent. I am enjoying the dynamic that’s playing out between Kalinda and Alicia — they are the id and the super-ego.

Kalinda is willing to break the rules and be aggressive (I loved when she flicked that nasty cop's feet off the desk), while Alicia pursues a seemingly hopeless case because she thinks it’s the right thing to do. “Unlike Alicia, I don’t deal in the same moral shades of black and white,” says Kalinda. Exactly.

At first, goody-goody Alicia is unwilling to visit Peter, but she relents. The Wilcox case dates back to his time as state’s attorney, and she hopes he might have some crucial piece of evidence. The estranged couple spend a very chaste night together in the prison’s drab conjugal quarters (is that what they’re called?), which looks like a room from a dumpy motel, and Peter alerts her to an unrelated wrongdoing by the lead detective on the case. It’s not exactly a smoking gun, but it strengthens Alicia’s resolve to prove Wilcox’s innocence. And in a way, I liked that the information from Peter didn’t end up being what broke the case — Alicia handled this one just fine on her own, thank you.
Aside from conjugal visits, this episode packed a serious punch, taking on an issue that seems to be more relevant than ever lately: dubious convictions. With cases making headlines in Texas, New York and, yes, Illinois, this episode was especially well-timed. More than any other legal show on TV, “The Good Wife” actually tries to depict flaws of our legal process -- not just the fiery courtroom drama. This week’s episode hinged on a white woman misidentifying a black witness, not out of any malicious intent but because of a frequent problem known as cross-racial identification. Basically, people of one race are often unable to accurately identify members of another race. 

And once again, the show brilliantly established a parallel between Alicia and her clients. This time, Alicia can't help but identify with Wilcox's wife, a woman who firmly believes her husband is innocent. Alicia is not so sure about Peter, but you sense that she understands the impulse to protect your loved one, to believe in them long after everyone else has lost faith.

This was a great episode, even if it quite didn't live up to its salacious promise, and we didn't see much more of the slowly building tension between Alicia and Will. I guess some things are more important than conjugal visits.

What did you think?

-- Meredith Blake


Complete coverage of 'The Good Wife' on Show Tracker

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Photo: Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick. Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / CBS