The Good Wife: “A New Day”
B+

The Good Wife: “A New Day”

B+

The Good Wife

“A New Day”

Season 3, Episode 1

The Good Wife is back, and it’s sexier than ever! That’s the message I got from the season three premiere of everyone’s favorite Chicago legal/political/romantic drama (and the ads CBS has been running this summer). We had Alicia brought to orgasm by Will onscreen; we had Kalinda and Sophia as some kind of sexy cross-agency investigator team discussing the best gay bars in the city; we had a murder case that seemed like a hate crime but turned out to revolve around romance. And sure, maybe it feels like they’re laying it on a bit thick, but by and large “A New Day” was a fun start to what’s going to be a crucial season.

In its first year, The Good Wife was pretty under-the-radar, with critical attention trickling in because of its unfashionable timeslot on an unfashionable network. By season two, it was a solid hit (although I guess its ratings could have been better), and it largely delivered on expectations (save for one Scott Porter-starring subplot we would all rather forget). So now, in its plum Sunday night slot, with Emmys under its belt and all eyes on it, this show has to decline, right? Well, we’ll see. Robert and Michelle King basically had a two-season plan for the show, including Kalinda’s dark past, and all that that’s done now, so let’s see how they do with the new normal: Alicia and Will’s affair, Peter in the DA’s office with Cary, Eli working out of the office.

So far, everything seems good. I kinda lost interest in Will and Alicia last year because they became one of those “just DO IT already!” things where you knew the plot was just getting dragged out til the finale. But I like the way the show handled them here, teasing us with that off-screen conversation that suggested Will had told Alicia he couldn’t carry on with her and then pulling the rug out from under us with that sexy smash cut to Will pleasuring Alicia (and doing a good job of it, it seems). Drama, I’m sure, will ensue, and hopefully it won’t be too overwrought. But just in terms of dramatic effectiveness, I like the professionalism of their affair and how you see it seep into Alicia’s character (she looks looser, her hair is different, she’s smiling more).

Then again, we’re given a somewhat ambiguous final scene between Will and Kalinda at a bar where Will says he’s just trying to pass as a person with emotions and sounds like a high school nihilist (Kalinda gives him a nice sock on the arm or something in response). There’s a chemistry there that felt like a hint at another long-dormant affair. That’s something I have no time for (the Kalinda revelation worked once; it won’t again), and it’s also dumb if it’s just a misleading wink to the audience. If it’s just an example of those two sharing a lot of character traits and their fun friend-chemistry, though, I’m on board. It’d be kinda fun to see the Alicia/Kalinda drinking scenes of season one and two shift to Kalinda/Will scenes this year.

How ‘bout I actually discuss the case of the week? It was quite a doozy, a textbook example of the kinds of challenges the Kings like to set themselves and their staff, challenges they more than often win (although the Social Network and Hugo Chavez episodes were notable exceptions). But I thought they did well, projecting their usual cynicism onto a murder that looks like a hate crime against a Jew (a swastika was carved into his forehead backwards) and is immediately jumped on by a Muslim lobbyist who also wants to use Eli as a political adviser. That brings a Jewish leader (Peter Jacobson, who appeared to be playing an author/foundation head) to yell at Eli about his lack of brotherhood, but really, almost everything seemed to come down to the usual power plays of money and influence and politics, typical for the show and nicely-written.

Our weekly ventures into the world of the Internet and youth culture were maybe a little less successful. We had a brash video game designer testifying about his MMOG and power-ups which I guess could have been more embarrassing. I have less to say about Grace’s new tutor who appears to be into YouTube flash-mobby video type thingies (I really barely understood what was going on there). But at least I’m happy that Christian subplot seems to be out the window (perhaps I’m speaking too soon).

What I liked most about the episode was how the writers are playing Peter (and Cary) off Alicia (and the firm). Peter is trying to run a clean, plea bargain-free office to help restore his and its image. Cary is as inscrutable and driven as ever, and only Kalinda really understands him (I loved seeing it dawn on her that Cary was up to something with his traffic light bait-and-switch at the start of the episode). But Peter and Alicia had their best scenes together as they start to figure out how they’ll fight each other in court and endeavor to remain civil in their private life. Noth and Margulies spark off each other best with this kind of tension. His more relaxed dad-around-the-house act less year was necessary, but not as exciting to watch.

I must also reserve some praise for Fred Melamed (Sy Ableman!) as our new judge of the week. I hope his character wasn’t a one-off created because the show needed an extremely obviously Jewish man for the role this week, because I’d love to see him added to the rotation. His indignation at Alicia’s accusation was very nicely played. He genuinely seemed stunned by the idea that he would be biased in the case because of his religion, but mixed in a good amount of self-doubt that his dilemma seemed momentarily real (before Cary brought him back around). Also, his questions about guns and references to street fights: Every judge on this show needs a gimmick! He’s got one!

For The Good Wife, this episode was largely routine plot-wise, not engaging in any of the complicated arc-juggling we’ve grown used to, more of a table-setter. But so far, I have no cause for concern. Looking forward to a strong third season.

Stray observations:

  • “Where you going?” “Court, I’m a lawyer!”
  • “You are a Jew. We are both—“ “What is this, ultimate Frisbee? We only win by making them lose?”
  • Sweet move by Kalinda lifting those crime scene photos.
  • Judge Alan likes the assault weapon used in the suicide bomber video game. “What’s the range of fire?” “450 meters.” “Cool!"
  • The hostility between the Muslim lobbyist and Eli when he fired him confused me a little. He was more mad at Alicia than Eli but seemed to direct all his fire at Eli, unless there was something I was missing.
  • “Diane thinks I’m going too hard on you. Am I? Going too hard?” Oh my.
  • “Arab spring. Sort of like Irish spring, but with Arabs.”
  • What to make of that last shot, Alicia’s trepidation? I don’t know. But drama for Will and Alicia can’t be far off.

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