Ah, it’s fun to watch The Good Wife show off. This isn’t the first time it’s done an episode like this, set in real time at a party as a million different things go on. And it doesn’t go off perfectly—there are plot threads that dangle annoyingly, and there’s a mystery that gets resolved half-heartedly. But it’s so much fun to watch, and it understands its characters so well, that it’s hard not to enjoy.
“Death Of A Client” has an intriguing flashback format—and believe me, I don’t usually find flashbacks particularly intriguing. There’s a nice aural trope of a particular Bach sonata being played over and over again, one of the many quirks of an irritatingly fun client of Alicia’s, Matthew (played by John Noble doing his actual Australian accent). Matthew is a character very much in the John Noble mode, to the point that it’s almost a Fringe homage. He’s grumpy, but in a cute way. He’s insane, but also some sort of unspecified tech genius, which means that he’s rich enough to be ridiculously litigious with one frivolous, paranoid lawsuit after the other and still have Lockhart/Gardner devoted to his services. And he’s weird enough to bring little portable speakers around with him at all times playing a particular Bach sonata on a loop and not have everyone follow through on their desires to murder him.
Except, of course, someone ends up murdering him, rather coldly shooting him in the back of the neck on a Chicago street. At first, as the episode unfolds and the cops try to figure things out about his many enemies, we think it’s a justification of his paranoia, which he constantly acknowledged to Alicia while warning her that one day he’d be proven right. Many hints are dropped about a corruption investigation into a particular cop who threatened him, and the connection to the shooting of a drug dealer. Nothing gets too specific, though, and one quickly gets the impression that there’s some further twist in the tale, because the whole thing feels too clear-cut (while also being implausible—a cop probably wouldn’t openly threaten someone’s life if he actually was planning to kill him).
This was the aspect of the episode I was the most and least satisfied with. I enjoyed Noble’s performance, brief though it was, and his instant chemistry with Julianna Margulies (Alicia is so good at winning over the crazy middle-aged men, after all). I liked the flashback structure and the attempt (although it was somewhat facile) to show Alicia’s memory as not just functioning like a computer archive, but letting other things in, like her affair with Will, which was going on during much of Matthew’s litigiousness. It is a nice way to bring that back as Alicia’s having those feelings stirred without it feeling forced or patronizing to the audience.
But I wasn’t thrilled with the resolution. Turns out Matthew was killed by some dog owner he was suing, a particularly ridiculous case that was the first one we heard about. Fine, but it was a little too cutesy for its own good and made the other strands of this plot feel like a waste of time. It’s almost as if the writers got bored with the plot halfway through the episode and decided to start concentrating on other things. Alicia’s last memory of Matthew was a lovely one, but I wish there had been a little more, or a little less, to that mystery.
The other party material was good fun, if highly silly. Matthew Perry made his long-awaited return as Matthew Kresteva, but perhaps unsurprisingly, didn’t have the grip on the character he did in his appearances last season. There used to be something unsettling about him—he projected a very legitimate straight-arrow image, and it was creepy to watch the facade fall as we realized what an opportunistic slug Kresteva really was. But now, he’s just a pantomime villain, dropping hints about Zack’s drug arrest to the cardinal to try and curry favor and cause problems for Peter. The more cartoonish Kresteva gets, the less I believe he’ll have any chance at winning the governorship, which really hurts whatever little tension remains in that subplot.
So Peter deals with Kresteva by punching him in the face and making it look like he stumbled due to drinking, a simultaneously psychotic and underhanded move that delights Eli and Alicia because they hate the little fucker so much. I liked it too, but as a cartoonish solution to a cartoonish man. I wonder if Perry will be able to return for another episode? I know Go On makes any chance of an elongated arc impossible, especially since it’s shot on the other side of the country.
What else is going on at the party? A bunch of things that I was really interested in but got short shrift. There’s not much advancement for Cary and Kalinda, who just get one (very nice) scene together that ends with a surprise pinch of her leg, brushed off very sexily. Even sexier for Cary to just do it so brazenly. If they keep behaving like that, well, I’m just fine with that.
Clearly Kalinda isn’t ready to get too serious though, since she’s on a date (on St. Patrick’s Day? Really?) with a lady when Alicia calls her for help. She readily accepts, because Kalinda’s a sweetheart, and she’ll do anything for Alicia, but it is nice to see that reinforced.
Most interestingly, Peter offers Diane a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court if he wins, reviving a plot we haven’t thought about since season one (where Diane wrestled with the decision for an episode but was ultimately passed over by the party). Diane has even less time to figure this one out, but it seems like she’s going to do it since she’s already telling Will to just make it Gardener and Associates and not let David Lee become a named partner. I love watching Diane wrestle with this, but there’s no resolution! There had better be some by next week! I’m way more interested in this than in Peter dancing with his wife!
Finally, to me the most amazing feat was that this very busy episode managed to integrate the kids AND the return of Veronica (Stockard Channing) without it seeming crowbarred in. Alicia needs Veronica to get the kids out of the house because her kids might be in danger, and so Veronica ends up taking them to a bar and freaking them out with news that Alicia was pregnant with Zack when she got married and that Grace was possibly an accident. There wasn’t really anything new here, but we just got to see Grace and Zack’s connection reinforced, a sweet scene with Alicia and Grace, and a nice bit of parental ambiguity (Alicia might be bending the truth, but it keeps Grace happy) for a good cause.
What to make of Will and Alicia’s latest breakup? I don’t know. This is material we’ve seen before, but I buy that Alicia has been holding onto the relationship even as she’s kept her distance. Laura may or may not be the rebound girl for Will, but he certainly hasn’t let go—he’s just happier to look on from afar like some silent protector. Margulies and Charles crushed that scene in the police room, though. Especially Charles, who conveys a lot of emotion without a lot of emoting.
Well done, episode. Despite all your flaws and an annoying singing Irish cop, I enjoyed the heck out of you.
- Alicia exchanges niceties with Mike. “This has been fun; die choking on your own blood please.”
- I’m sad the show has already killed Matthew off since I want to see the resolution of his lawsuit against Mossad.
- Diane hates talking about leaving Will. “It feels like I'm cheating on you.” “You found someone better.”