The Good Wife is showing no signs of sophomore slump three episodes into season two, even though it's made what feel like all the typical mistakes: it's added tons of big guest stars names, it's trying to juggle tons of different serial storylines while keeping its feet firmly planted in the "topical issues" section, what with the gay brothers and the Lou Dobbs and the Yom Kippurs. "Breaking Fast" showed just how well the show handles juggling its cases of the week, the many romantic tensions of its cast and the long-term storylines like the merger and the Florrick campaign, all in a very brisk 42 minutes.
In fact, if any storyline got short shrift this week, it was the case, where the firm is trying to prove that the state maliciously prosecuted someone for a series of sniper murders. The subtleties of the case got a little lost in the shuffle despite the fascinating idea that the accused's son was fighting for the rights of his now-dead (from a heart attack) father, even though his father was accused of murdering his mother. The Good Wife can't even keep things that complicated, throwing in the twist of a fourth sniper murder halfway through the episode and Glenn Childs then blaming the firm for encouraging a copycat with its suit. Holy shit!
What's really impressive is that while dealing with all that, we have so many subplots. First, Kalinda and Blake constantly butting heads. Seems Blake has some Georgetown connection to Will that Kalinda found out about, and this week we see him yakking to prostitutes on street corners, although he assures her it's not what it looks like. "Don't forget to use condoms," she teases as he goes out to gather facts. I'm not sure how we're supposed to be taking this relationship, which at times feels more homicidal than combative. Blake's insistence on getting Kalinda's name wrong over and over is borderline creepy, and Scott Porter is definitely dialing down the charm to play him. Plus, with Kalinda's many other love interests (including Cary, who she had a far smokier scene with this week) it's hard to tell if there's love in the air.
The other subplot is Alicia getting yanked off the case because Childs accuses the firm of going after him because of the Florrick campaign, which scares Derrick Bond off. Alicia's role in Peter's campaign has always seemed minimal at best, which Will praises her for, but the revelation that she wrote his speech at the end of the episode suggests she's rolling up her sleeves a little more. Alicia's trope is always that she's more than anyone bargained for -- be it Cary, who she out-politicked for the job in season one, or Glenn Childs, who she nails to the wall in the climax of this week's case.
But it was nice to see a new layer added to Alicia's character with her brother Owen (Dallas Roberts, who does a good job underplaying the "GAY BROTHER OMG!" role) who mocks her icy gaze and reveals her fractured home life. Could this be why she's committed to keeping her marriage alive? Given that the question of her feelings for Peter have mostly gone unanswered so far this season (outside of that lovely oral sex session in the opener) it was nice to see them challenged by Owen, who is flatly honest about his distrust of Peter. But Alicia's poker face, mocked as it is, is staying on: "I want everyone to stop worrying about me, stop reviewing my life," she insists.
There were some broad Eli Gold-runs-around antics again this week also, especially his wonderful spit take at Owen accusing Peter of homophobia and then his stony-faced insistence that the reconciliation dinner he ordered with gay fundraisers is actually to break fast for Yom Kippur (turns out Grace was reading Peace not Apartheid, the radical!). Who would have thought that Alan Cumming would excel so at playing Rahm Emmanuel? The writers can't have him running around like a headless chicken every week when something new breaks on YouTube (for one, it reeks a little of the show trying to feel current) but he's very good when he's in crisis mode.
So, while the case is being closed up by Derrick and Kalinda (who appear to be bonding) Alicia throws a Yom Kippur dinner, somehow making it work even through Grace brings up the flotilla, Owen keeps shouting "AND HE LOVES THE GAYS!" and Peter's patrician mother seems baffled by the rules of kosher food (and contributing that even if gay marriage is legalized, "You're still just going to run around like little boys with your pants down").
Like most episodes of The Good Wife, every character seemed to be in search of a little moral clarity this week. Cary says he loves that it comes with his job but has to eat those words when Kalinda gives him evidence disproving the state's case. Eli is scrambling for the moral high ground on every issue as he tries to raise money. Owen preaches at Peter from a high-and-mighty perch about cheating on Alicia, but Peter reminds him that he visited her once while Peter was in jail. And Alicia manages to convince her client to take $4 million from the state in exchange for never clearing his dad's name. "Predictable money," Diane clucks. In her toast Alicia tells everyone to atone, in the spirit of the holiday, and there isn't really a character on the show who shouldn't be doing a little atoning.
Anika Noni Rose appears in what feels like a recurring role as master manipulator ASA Wendy Scott-Carr. I'm gonna miss Martha Plimpton from last season (a recurring 'villain') but Rose did very well this episode.
Kalinda is bad-ass as ever this week, marching right up to the SWAT team (who know her by name) as they take down the sniper.
"So, you don't put pork with cheese?"