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'The Good Wife': Twelve Angry People

April 7, 2010 |  7:21 am


One of the consistent pleasures of watching “The Good Wife” is that the show doesn't use the same storytelling format week after week.   Sometimes, we'll follow a case start to finish; other times, we're thrown into a case in medias res. This nimble format is central to the show's unique, bipolar charm: it allows "The Good Wife" to be more of a procedural one week, and something of a domestic drama the next. Plus, it means we can't predict with laser-like precision when the first body will appear, or when the jury will hand down a verdict.  With some shows -- from "Law & Order" to "Full House" -- it's comforting to know that each episode will basically be the same, even when it's different; with "The Good Wife," the thrill is in the relative unpredictability. 

Tuesday night’s episode, told largely as a flashback from the perspective of the jury on Alicia’s case, was probably the boldest storytelling departure yet this season.  Bianca Stark (Kelli Barrett) is a pretty coed accused of an Amanda Knox-esque crime involving a love triangle, some sleeping pills and a whole lot of “fluffing.” The episode begins as the (extremely articulate and reasonable) jury was deliberating.  At first, it’s a hung jury, with the women siding against Bianca, and the men suspicious of a male cop wearing an earring. But as the episode unraveled, the jurors switch back and forth multiple times.  They ultimately deliver a “not guilty” verdict, but it’s irrelevant:  Bianca has accepted a plea bargain, rather than face the judgment of the jury.   It was a poignant twist ending that O. Henry would have liked.

Of course, the episode’s clever conceit also meant there was little advancement in the story lines we really, really care about, i.e. what's going on with Peter, Will and Alicia.  And that’s true of the show in general: When “The Good Wife” focuses on procedure, we get less of the really good stuff.  Darn those clever writers.  They’ve figured out how to stall and still be entertaining.  With their passionate kiss clearly weighing on their minds, Alicia and Will shared a few awkward encounters (sample dialogue:  “Is everything OK?”  “Oh, what?  Yeah, good.”) and then a frank, if unproductive, phone call.  Alicia is back playing the good wife and tries to defuse the romantic tension.  With her daughter eavesdropping, she tells Will that what they had at Georgetown was romantic only because nothing ever happened.  Interesting, though I wonder what kind of "nothing" this "nothing" was, exactly.  I’m guessing it means they never “fluffed,” but the jury, as they say, is still out. 

At least the television gods seemed to be listening when it came to Diane and her budding romance with ballistics expert/Sarah Palin fan, Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole).  Like me, Diane was ecstatic to see McVeigh return.  She was so overjoyed, in fact, that in an interview with “Mother Jones,” she could hardly finish her prepackaged talking points about judicial activism — she was too distracted by the cowboy in the lobby.  Somehow Christine Baranski and Cole make this unlikely relationship seem believable.  I’m still hoping the affair lasts long enough for a spinoff, but with the dalliance now made public, Diane seems likely to keep her passion in check in the future.  Fooey.

Kalinda's talents as an investigator continue to grow more extraordinary by the week.  At the beginning of the season, she was earthy and a little Machiavellian (remember the cleavage from the first episode?); nowadays, she's basically a Jedi knight in a miniskirt.  Tuesday night, for instance, she convinced one guy to break the law and let her search a locker without a warrant by staring at him and saying, "I'm Kalinda” -- no cleavage or anything.  Like that's supposed to work?

What we learned:  Peter and Alicia had crushes on each other at Georgetown, but the relationship didn't go (much?) further than that.  Kalinda can get anyone to do anything simply by looking at them. 

New questions:  Where the heck was Peter this week? Will Alicia's daughter say something about the conversation she overheard?  What is up with Kalinda and Det. Burton? And exactly when did Diane change her mind about sleeping with McVeigh (presumably, it was after she stormed off from dinner)?

--Meredith Blake (follow me on Twitter@MeredithBlake)


Complete Show Tracker coverage of 'The Good Wife'

'The Good Wife': The moment we've all been waiting for

'The Good Wife': Alicia and the alpha males

'The Good Wife': Coming home and 'Going Rogue'

Photo: Almost in spite of herself, Diane (Christine Baranski) can't help being attracted to Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole).

Credit: John Paul Filo/CBS