Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Alicia is living her best life, but The Good Wife isn’t

Illustration for article titled Alicia is living her best life, but The Good Wife isn’t

There’s a troubling contradiction at the heart of The Good Wife’s final season. “I wasted the last 20 years,” Alicia Florrick tells Jason, loosening his belt at a very crowded bar so that she can give him an under-the-table hand job. Those are words I certainly never expected to type. And Alicia probably never expected herself to get to this point: nearly flaunting her affair with an employee without a single fuck to give. But this is the new Alicia, the Alicia who is sick of wasting all those years. Alicia wants to have fun, to not worry, to be a little more like Lucca Quinn who seems so carefree and self-assured. Alicia wants to go out with a bang, and she’s doing it, kissing necks and not crying about her lover kissing another woman and giving under-the-table hand jobs.

Alicia wants to go out with a bang, but that is the exact opposite of what The Good Wife is doing. The Good Wife is going out at its most mediocre, its most bland. Alicia’s living her life to the fullest, and yet, season seven has become tedious, dried up, redundant in confusing ways. Eli Gold went from being an exhilarating, cunning character to someone who repeatedly eavesdrops via vents. What is the grand jury even about? It’s getting increasingly difficult to recall. Tonight’s grand jury developments offer little by way of heightened stakes. Alicia has finally come to the conclusion that she wasted so much time in the past two decades, but why haven’t the writers realized how much of a waste of time this grand jury proceeding is, especially since it retreads material we’ve seen over and over again on the show when it comes to Peter Florrick.

Grace Florrick returns, but she may as well not have. In “Shoot,” she’s accused of plagiarizing her college essays, and Alicia has to swoop in to save the day. There is a point to all of this; it’s just not a particularly thrilling one. When Alicia proves for the umpteenth time that she’s a boss ass bitch who refuses to back down, Grace confidently announces that she wants to follow in her footsteps. The plotline takes up a little too much narrative space if the only conclusion is that Grace wants to be a lawyer. We’ve already seen her doing legal work earlier on in the season, when she more closely resembled an actual character on the show instead of just some peripheral player who pops up when it’s convenient for her to do so. Although tonight, she’s not even particularly useful to the episode. The Grace scenes are mostly a slog, even when Alicia is at her most fired up.

It’s not all bad, though. Jeffrey Dean Morgan gives his strongest performance on the show to date. As the smooth and almost comically charming investigator, Morgan hasn’t really been given all that much to work with. He has to stand there and look good and occasionally remove his glasses and look good and then put them back on and look good and speak slowly and succinctly and, oh yeah, look good. Morgan, as it turns out, is very good at looking good and at speaking slowly and at achieving sexual chemistry with just about everyone he plays off of on the show. He’s great in the opening scene with Julianna Margulies, and they both have a natural, relaxed energy in the scene that starkly contrasts the rest of the labored episode. But there’s a moment later on in the episode that finally gives Morgan something more to chew on. Lucca interrogates Jason, accuses him of kissing another woman, and tells him, bluntly, as is the Lucca Quinn way, that Alicia saw. For the first time ever, we see a moment of vulnerability from Jason. He’s very genuinely taken off guard, and Morgan plays the sudden switch very well.

That’s the thing about The Good Wife: Even at its worst, there are so many little gems to be found, like the way Margulies can say so much with just a look, as she does often in “Shoot” or the familiar face of Judge Abernathy, whose musings always brighten a scene with a dose of earnestness. The case of the week is a strong one, one with very clear emotional stakes and real characters, like the loving, grieving father, who we meet in the show’s cold open in a way that feels complete and raw. Blair Underwood is, unsurprisingly, fantastic in the role, and the juxtaposition of his bright, bouncing energy in the first scenes with his haggard, deflated look in the quick cut to his trial is one of the strongest visual moments of the episode. But over the course of “Shoot,” Underwood’s bereaved father fades, having served his purpose. Instead, the focus shifts to the rather heavy-handed conflict between Diane and Cary who repeatedly aren’t on the same page.

Diane’s plans to restructure as an all-female-partnered firm still loom, but given the unevenness in the character work when it comes to the Diane-Cary-Alicia triangle, it’s still hard to get invested in that. Shaking up firm dynamics used to be such a strength for the show. Takeovers and alliances used to excite. Now, well, let’s just put it this way: My friend pointed out that the season six cliffhanger, when Louis Canning asked Alicia if she wanted to partner up, has had absolutely nothing to do with season seven. In fact, I had forgotten about Canning’s proposition entirely. It led to nothing. Even Lucca and Alicia’s transition into Lockhart, Agos, & Lee has felt mechanic rather than being a meaningful change in the story. “I was becoming…invested,” Alicia says of her relationship with Jason in tonight’s episode. I wish I could say the same of the firm politics at the moment.


Stray observations

  • The episode takes several well aimed shots at the gun industry.
  • On its own, the under-the-table hand job deserves an A grade.
  • The show is usually so on-the-money when it comes to song choices, but the use of “Everybody Hurts” when Alicia sees Jason is so bad that it made me laugh uncontrollably.
  • Mike Tascioni is such an uninspired character, and the dog bit started feeling tired a long time ago. I think he’s especially a letdown because he shares a surname with one of the show’s best tertiary characters. Is Crowded to blame for Carrie Preston’s unavailability for the final stretch of the series? If so, I dislike Crowded even more than I already dislike Crowded.
  • In addition to Morgan, Cush Jumbo also has a great episode. I just can’t help but feel like Lucca’s only purpose on the show right now is to tell Alicia what she needs to hear. And that’s not enough to make the character compelling.