I know I’m not the only Good Wife watcher who’s been clamoring for more David Lee this season. Yes, he cropped up briefly in one other episode, but season three has mainly lacked some meaty material for everyone’s favorite acid-tongued leg-breaking master of divorce proceedings. Well, for its first episode of 2012, Good Wife gave us all the David Lee we could ever hope for – David Lee screaming til he’s purple in the face, David Lee being witheringly sarcastic, David Lee probably breaking several laws just to protect his neck, and best of all, David Lee in an old-timey British naval uniform, yanked abruptly from a Gilbert and Sullivan performance.
My brilliant colleague Carrie Raisler observed tonight that Good Wife succeeds far better than David E. Kelley’s legal dramas at giving us slightly “quirky” humor without seeming too self-consciously wacky. David Lee’s silly naval uniform is a perfect example of that – essentially, the show having its cake and eating it too, getting a cheap fun laugh out of a silly sight gag while having it work for the character.
So, too, did this episode have its cake and eat it too. As a return after the holiday hiatus, it was a perfect confection – a wild, slightly zany plot about the firm being sued over a divorce that happened two years ago by the couple, now reconciled. David and Julius and Eli were all yelling at each other, Diane was trying to play peacemaker, and meanwhile F. Murray Abraham guested as a very theatrical L.A. lawyer who swans into the office complaining, “it’s…FREEZING outside.” When Alicia reminds him that it’s January, he rolls his eyes and replies, All this affection for seasons, I don’t understand.” Alicia, ever the master of the underplayed riposte, says, “I think it’s about change.”
We also had a fun new romantic interest for Diane, a rough-and-tumble Australian process server played by Bryan Brown, best known in his 80s heyday as Tom Cruise’s buddy in Cocktail, the photographer in Gorillas in the Mist and, my personal favorite, the star of F/X and F/X 2: The Art of Illusion. As we’ve seen in the past, opposites definitely attract when it comes to Diane, so this guy makes sense for her, plus he’s another step along the way in the show’s process of exploring every single occupation relating to the legal system. Plus, let’s not forget the return of the misleadingly ditzy Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), now serving as Will’s attorney in the Wendy Scott Carr probe.
But, along with all that fun, this was a surprisingly tense episode that pushed Alicia to the brink of perjury and had me genuinely on the edge of my seat in the hunt for a missing document. It also moved the season arc along very nicely as Will and Elsbeth take the fight to Wendy, whose robotic cool was troubled for the first time this season when Elsbeth dishonors her good name in the press with the city’s judges. It wrapped up with a genuine cliffhanger, too – our new favorite process server showing up back at Lockhart/Gardner, both to ask Diane out and to serve Will with an indictment.
Apart from Wendy’s accusation around the basketball games with judges and Will forgiving bets, the matters of the case remain pretty unclear, and will, I assume, be fleshed out in future weeks. So for now, we’re just concentrating on all the hand-to-hand combat and sniping Elsbeth is doing on Will’s behalf. I was happy we only got one brief scene of her being “weird” before Will hired her (she hunts for a ringing phone in her office, which is being painted) because by now we know what a competent attorney she is. It’s much more fun to watch her work her magic on a less-suspecting Wendy. But Josh Charles did a good job this week too – Will was more sober about the case and was not swayed by one attorney who laughed off a grand jury. His best scene was when he met with a venerable attorney played by Edward Herrmann who said gravely that his best case scenario was 2 years in minimum-security prison and disbarment. Will has to laugh, just to keep himself sane, but he’s definitely not cocky any longer.
The meat of this episode, though, was the two-year-old divorce and Alicia’s crisis of confidence in whether she’d gotten the firm’s client to sign a conflict-of-interest waiver two years ago. I know that sounds boring, but it sure as hell played out masterfully. Julianna Margulies still gets some flak over her reserved portrayal of Alicia, but she was just perfect in the scene where she was going over the signing of the waiver with Kalinda and realized she had no memory of it. Kalinda, ever the steady hand, tries to keep things cool, but Alicia begins to crumble as she realizes she could be costing the firm $44 million or at the very least perjuring herself to try and save them. There’s a reason we got a brief scene of Alicia taking her kids back to private school this week – just to remind us that the pressure remains on for her.
David’s jockeying with Eli was a bit more of a sideshow, since it never seemed plausible that Eli would go after him so hard just to prove a macho point. Eli’s bored, and he’s quick to anger, but he’s not stupid. Still, the pissing contest gave Diane a real moment to shine when she shuts them both down at the end of the episode, deconstructing their hidden motives expertly. In general, this was a terrific Diane episode – she was hard on David, comforting to Will, and fair but firm with Alicia, undoubtedly a master of her domain.
One last thing that bodes well for 2012 – it seems two of the show’s long-running feuds may be at an end. Alicia and Kalinda aren’t drinking each other under the table yet, but they’re also advancing beyond cordiality. Even better, Cary’s one major scene in the episode (where he sticks up for Alicia and Lockhart/Gardner in the deposition and bursts F. Murray Abraham’s balloon) hinted at a reconciliation there as well. Even though I understood Cary’s hurt at being fired, at a certain point, his vindictiveness seemed childish. But this year, we’ve watched him develop nicely both professionally and personally, and his vendetta appears at an end. Hopefully this can mean only bad things for Wendy Scott Carr.
Diane had the best reaction to David’s uniform. “Not to pry, but did you enlist?”
Among David’s past sins revealed – he hired a stripper to get his client’s husband drunk and pulled over for a DUI. “You have such lofty goals when you start a law firm, dreams of righting wrongs, fighting injustice,” Diane sighs.
But David’s finest scene was when he told the stenographer he lost his virginity at the age of 14. And: “I didn’t cry when the Challenger exploded.”