The Good Wife: “What Went Wrong”
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The Good Wife: “What Went Wrong”

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The Good Wife

“What Went Wrong”

Season 3, Episode 11

Man, I love it when The Good Wife does that. No, by “that,” I do not mean the big plot twist they left us with to tide us until the new year. No, I mean giving us an awesome, dramatic, fast-paced dynamo of an episode that took an interesting angle on a case (trying to prove a mistrial occurred after a verdict surprisingly didn’t go their way) and spun it into all kinds of interesting directions. That’s not to say I didn’t like the twist—I just had a couple problems with its plausibility, something I think The Good Wife should always be striving for.

But let’s start with the case. We got a pretty unique perspective here: we never saw any of the evidence or the trial, just getting the absolute basics about accused husband-murder Kaitlin’s case—her husband died at the hand of her service revolver and she got insurance money; she says it was suicide, but the state (Cary and Dana) say it was murder. But they know their case didn’t go well and offer a good deal; Kaitlin turns it down on principle, which is probably our biggest clue that she didn’t do it, but still, that’s left up to us to decide.

Or, a better way to think about it: it’s left up to us not to care about. Diane, Alicia, and Justin (always nice to see him) are out to win, and they have real passion for the case, and part of that is out of sympathy for their client. But a large part is that their lawyerly pride has been violated, I think. Justin and Diane are thrilled to get the second-degree murder deal (and slightly pained when Kaitlin turns it down) and then baffled when they don’t win the case, since Cary’s offer indicated how badly things went for them in the trial.

What ensues is a mad dash to the finish line, with Cary and Dana behaving as cut-throat as Kalinda and Alicia. Jurors are interrogated about just what happened to change a likely not-guilty verdict to a guilty one, trash is rifled through, license plates photographed, and a button-obsessed blogger paid attention to (Kalinda looked at a lot of buttons this week). Meanwhile, Dana and Cary engage in a particularly devious bit of rule-bending by arresting Kalinda and transferring her to a hospital, both under a very dubious pretense, really just to keep her off the street as much as possible. Although the firm behaved badly, too (getting the garbage was very extra-legal), Cary’s action still felt worse because he was using cops to get what he wanted. Alicia’s speech threatening to shut him down was impressive not just because of Julianna Margulies’ performance (she killed it) but because he finally didn’t have a dastardly smile and cute rejoinder for her (beyond “Hi, Kalinda”).

Even though there are hints of something deep and sinister at work (a note was passed to one juror threatening him to change his vote; that blogger lady was super-creepy) the real explanation was more banal and believable. The foreman found out something on the Internet about one of the witnesses and told everyone else about it, turning them against Kaitlin. Even though jurors are obviously not supposed to do that, it feels like something they would happily do (I wasn’t even allowed to leave the court when I was a juror, so I dunno how this guy got to an Internet café on his lunch break, but I’m willing to believe the rules are different in Illinois). Forgetting all that, Alicia and Kalinda get their client off on a totally different loophole—Judge Dunaway (the great TV guest star Kurt Fuller) accidentally friended one of the jurors, thinking her a supporter for his re-election. The Internet strikes again!

It was fun to see Judge Dunaway’s obvious bias about the case (he was shocked by the verdict too), which is how many judges absolutely behave. He had no problem with any of his comments, happily noting to Dana that everything he said was on the record. Later, he tangles with evil justice-bot Wendy Scott Carr, who thinks he may be under Will’s influence, firmly pointing out to her that her investigatory questions are a form of intimidation all to themselves. Wendy reacts as if she just got a 404 error, but her final scene in the episode makes Judge Dunaway’s observation all the more plausible.

Because, as she tells Will, she’s not really interested in him, and certainly not Bishop (who has basically been forgotten despite being the original target of the investigation). No, she’s after Peter, trying to dig up dirt on his first-term misdemeanors even though he’s running a clean office now. Will reacts with incredulity and then says he’ll hire a lawyer, and good for him—because what Wendy is doing is frankly bullshit. Her independent investigation, while created by Peter, is obviously separate from the state’s attorney’s office. But I can’t imagine anyone taking her seriously for a second considering Peter beat her in an election just a few months back. It would be seen as a ridiculous personal vendetta, especially considering how old the news is—everyone knew Peter was dastardly in his first term, and they voted him back into office anyway.

Nonetheless, we saw a darker side of Peter this week, to remind us that the enforcer side of him still exists, as Alicia tries to get her kids back into their old prep school (Grace’s whole flirtation with skateboard Christianity has her shaken up). While Alicia makes some inroads with the principal, it’s up to Peter to close the deal after she gets turned down, and he alludes to background checks of staff and his general power in the city in a forceful, scary speech that is without a doubt an abuse of his influence (although a kind of abuse that’s very common). Whether this would be scandalous by itself for Peter is hard to say. But that side of him is still out there. And even though Alicia was ultimately repelled by Will’s dirty dealing and seemed warmer to Peter this week, that doesn’t mean she’s being presented with an obvious yes-or-no question here.

Guess who else Alicia was warm to this week? Kalinda! And when I mean warm, I really mean “less glacial.” Finding out that Kalinda found Grace and took no credit for it is the instigating incident, even though I praised the show last week for not going that route. But they didn’t hug and make up; Alicia just made it clear that Kalinda deserved some credit and gave it to her, and now appears willing to be in the same room as her. Progress! The lack of Kalinda in her life was very clear this week—now that she’s not sneaking around with Will anymore, she’s lacking a friend, and while Owen’s always a hoot to have around, her old friends just don’t cut it (I loved the brief appearance by her old tennis buddy spouting wacko Chinese sex theories).

So Diane steps into the fray to enjoy a Scotch with our hero. Man, everyone’s been enjoying Scotch on this show recently. Diane approaches Alicia in her usual way—well-meaning, but a little too severe. But it’s a partnership that could be dramatically fruitful for the show. I hope it isn’t a prelude to some power play, because we had our fill of that last year. One thing The Good Wife has lacked is some good old-fashioned gal-pal drink sessions. Here’s to 2012, guys!

Stray observations:

  • Alicia flicks past some sort of Tudors or Borgias-esque sexy period show about Joan of Arc on TV. Loved that little gag.
  • Her friend has a name like a government agency. “FEMA?”
  • Alicia is worried her kids are screwed up. Peter corrects her: “You worry I screwed up the kids.” “That’s true.”
  • Dana continues to be kind of a lame fake Kalinda. Time for her to get the heave-ho. 

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