When we last saw The Good Wife, things were looking good—the firm had raked in a big new settlement, Nick was shown the door, Nathan Lane hadn’t shown up for a couple episodes, and while Peter’s campaign was under investigation, it was just for campaign finance misdeeds, a piddling matter for the great Eli Gold. It was a surprising place to leave off for a few weeks, but it also suggested that the show was going to try and shake the rust off its existing season arcs, which had never really taken off in this middling fourth season.
But we’re back, and while Nick is still gone (may that be true forever and ever, amen), everything else remains the same, even if a couple of recurring thorns in Lockhart/Gardner’s side are trotted out to spice things up. Clarke Hayden (Lane) rears his head again, trying to kick Will and Diane out of the firm for blocking his planned merger. Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) is back, too, and we find out at the end of the episode that he’s bought up some of the firm’s debt and is now a creditor with a seat at the table of its looming bankruptcy. And Wendy Scott-Carr (Anika Noni Rose) is revived again, even with her reputation surely in tatters after her last witch-hunt against Will and her blown campaign against Peter. She’s here to head up the Department of Justice probe into Eli, because why use an accomplished and funny actor like Hamish Linklater (who appeared in the same role in the last episode) for that job?
I enjoy Fox’s performance on the show, and he’ll likely have a fun time playing mind games with everyone in his future appearances, but the show already tried this stuff once before in the season three finale, and Louis’ vendetta is beginning to feel a little stale. Is he just a jerk at this point? I like him being portrayed as a morally unscrupulous man who’s always after the bottom line, first and foremost, but at this point, he’s just willfully fucking with Alicia and company, at one point making her talk about her dead dad through some base trickery. I don’t really get his motivation for doing so, and I hope the show either sheds light on it or stops leaning on Fox as a villain to deploy when plots need some star power.
Now, the case of the week was a good time: Canning’s battle of wills with Alicia out in the Minnesotan wilderness was expertly portrayed, and Alicia’s final gambit was both clever and shockingly venal. She basically blackmails a bank CEO (played by a subdued James Rebhorn) into settling a convoluted foreclosure/stagnant swimming pools/West Nile case by threatening to reveal that he has cancer, which would spoil an upcoming merger. Sure, he’s bad for not revealing his cancer, breaking the law himself, but that’s still pretty cold-blooded for Alicia.
My only real complaint about the Minnesota scenes is that Kalinda shows up late in the episode to help Alicia out, and that development should have come an act break sooner. There’s one brief (and well-staged) conversation on the hotel beds, wine glasses in hands, but this could have been the perfect opportunity to explore the pair’s new, cooler chemistry, and instead, Kalinda just wasn’t used much this week at all. A shame, because it’s so nice to have her back, free of Nick’s grasp.
Over in Chicago, Diane and Will do battle with Clarke’s efforts to remove them, arguing before a mediator (Tamara Tunie) and deposing Cary to make Clarke look like a bit of a self-important chump. We find out that Cary has been tutoring him to take the bar exam; it’s a nice, sad little moment for Clarke, who’s been the most successful of the new characters this year, although the Lockhart/Gardner bankruptcy storyline is beginning to outstay its welcome. I audibly groaned when Tunie said Will and Diane had five more weeks to figure out a way to get the money together. Five weeks! This better get solved a lot more quickly than five weeks. I’m happy for some change in the status quo, but we also know the shake-up isn’t going to be that drastic, so why drag it out so much longer?
Eli’s battle with the Department of Justice is even more convoluted, and the introduction of Wendy is a wrinkle we don’t really need, an even more naked example of this show dredging up old characters to gussy up failing new plotlines. Every time Wendy walks into the room, everyone’s pointing out how unsuitable she is for this new job—she’s had nasty interactions with pretty much every character on the show, and she’s way too close to everything to possibly be acceptable as the lead DOJ lawyer on the case.
But no matter, she has some legal mumbo-jumbo for why it’s acceptable, and she quickly plays hardball when Diane tries to ward her off by talking to an old fundraiser of hers—she drags Lockhart/Gardner into the investigation, ensuring that this whole thing is going to be headache-inducingly complicated before it gets wrapped up. Wendy has been one-dimensional for a while, so every attempt to make her seem ambiguous is just a miserable failure.
More interesting is the introduction of T.R. Knight as Jordan, a young-gun campaign manager brought in to shadow Eli in case the investigation takes him off Peter’s campaign. I haven’t seen Knight in anything in quite a while, but I always enjoyed him on Grey’s Anatomy (I only watched the early seasons), and he seems well-suited to this role. Hopefully he’s more than an arrogant upstart and can have a real rapport with Eli, instead of just calling him “old man” behind his back. Because if I’m putting up with this campaign for the rest of the year, it had better get interesting soon.
- Alicia says the firm is doing fine. “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” “Then you’re gonna be pretty strong,” snarks Canning.
- “No one disappears! They all come back, like zombies!” Eli screams at the sight of Wendy. Indeed!
- Liked the introduction of Canning’s lovely wife, a new pal for Alicia. “How does a bastard like you end up with such a wonderful wife?” “Women like bastards. It’s like a challenge!”