If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s poker metaphors. I like poker, and I've got nothing against the great movies and shows that have deployed poker well, but more often than not, it’s just a lot of guff about “calling your bluff” and “betting big” to make something seem more interesting than it is. That isn’t precisely what happened on this week’s Good Wife, but it veered a little too close to that territory in a fun but mostly lightweight episode.
I say lightweight because really there were only two plots here: Alicia and Will in mediation on a medical malpractice case and Eli and Diane in crisis management mode as Wisconsin’s cheese is struck by the listeria virus. Plus a cute little side-plot with Alicia’s brother Owen (nice to have you back, Dallas Roberts), but there was only a half-hearted attempt to intertwine everything, and it didn’t have the usual “a million balls in the air, and they’re juggling them perfectly!” feel of Good Wife.
The sillier stuff was the most fun. Eli in crisis mode is something that may eventually get boring, but we have not yet reached that day. Since he was stuck on the Florrick campaign for the first two seasons, the show is now having fun giving him other stuff to drive around in, with the addition of Kalinda to his life a major boon (although they barely interacted in person this week). Alan Cumming is also extremely good at saying the word “cheese.”
The plot was remarkably timely given the listeria outbreak in cantaloupes out in the west. My girlfriend and I debated whether it was possible the episode could have been made fast enough to have knowledge of the breaking news, but since it only happened a couple weeks ago, we decided it was just a crazy (and prescient) coincidence. The show laid on the “Eli’s always right” stuff a little thick, but it does have a good sense of how much fun he is barking orders at everyone. He can be wrong about other stuff, and I hope we have more forays into his personal life this year, but he’s gonna be right about crisis management.
The episode did an effective job placing Diane as his foil, though. Even though Eli brings her on as legal counsel just to show off how good he is bringing in clients for the firm, her lawyerly instincts kick in, and she starts trying to protect the CEO Eli wants to offer as a sacrificial lamb. Eli was right on most counts there, but Diane’s instincts made sense too.
The Alicia/Will stuff had a lot going for it. First, here’s Lisa Edelstein, an actress I very much appreciate, in her new recurring role as Will’s old flame Celeste, a tough-stuff lawyer who enjoys a good game of cat-and-mouse. Also, we’ve got Isaiah Whitlock Jr. (all together now: sheeeeeeeit), the show's eleventy billionth Wire alum, as a frustrated mediator. Plus, it’s always great to see the show explore some specific part of the legal process, like the jury selection episode or the federal court episode or what have you.
But “Get a Room” suffered a bit by taking the metaphor that the mediation is akin to a game of poker and just running with it. Will’s game of Cheerio poker with Celeste felt risible, until he declined to play, making the point that he’s becoming more of an adult in this relationship with Alicia. But while it was equally fun to see Alicia and Will get one over on Celeste by beating her at her own game, it leaves Celeste a fairly unlikable character. She felt petty and ridiculous by the end of it, not a serious competitor that Will would be tempted to hire (or be tempted by romantically).
I like Edelstein; I just feel she’s underserved here. Maybe Celeste will improve in future appearances, but The Good Wife is usually good when it comes to its adversaries: Glenn Childs, Louis Canning, Patti Nyholm, Wendy Scott-Carr. I know Celeste isn’t a villain or anything, but those guys had some serious repartee with our heroes, whereas hers felt like it was trying too hard.
The stuff with Owen? That was pretty cute. I've got no complaints there. It’s nice to have him around as a recurring character, especially now that Kalinda isn’t hanging with Alicia. He’s the only person aside from Kalinda to voice much insight into what’s going on with Alicia and to draw her out of her shell (Will does that too, but it’s not the same). Plus, Dallas Roberts is just pretty funny, and him dealing with the kids and realizing how lame he’s becoming in his middle age was great, especially since Alicia is having such a dramatic second act in her adult life.
I’m not worried about the third season or anything just yet. Every episode so far has been good fun. But outside of the Will/Alicia romance there hasn’t been much of an overarching plot this year to drive things forward. Maybe the Kings want to scale things back after last year, where we had the Florrick campaign, the Blake stuff, and the infighting between Diane and Will, but I’d like to see more from Peter and Cary. It can’t all rely on Alicia and Will, which I will admit has been better than I expected. I'm still waiting for that wave to break, though, and for everything to be all dramatic and ruined.
- "Two hours and a bottle of wine we can settle this." "Just this? Why not the Middle East?"
- Owen calls Alicia "one of the most prudish wanton women I know."
- Owen dropping the slice of pizza over the (somewhat unrealistic) news footage of kids barfing was funny.
- Always impressive to have a Joseph Mengele joke, and have it land. I laughed.
- Kalinda dropping off the wrong file was a nice summary of the day she had.