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

The Good Wife: "A Defense Of Marriage"

Illustration for article titled The Good Wife: "A Defense Of Marriage"

Just as I’m getting grumpy with The Good Wife, it busts out exactly what I’m looking for: a cavalcade of beautiful hams! Not only does “A Defense Of Marriage” feature the return of Brian Dennehy’s Bucky—now an AUSA putting in time with the Feds—but here’s thunderous Southerner Bruce McGill as a legal titan seeking to take a gay rights case all the way to the Supreme Court, and Stockard Channing as Alicia’s batty mother, fighting a (totally true) charge that she cheated on her third husband and deserves none of the riches he left her in his will. Why watch Liz & Dick when you could enjoy some sparkling histrionics on CBS?

Things get especially crazy in the last five minutes, but I’ll get to them later. First off, a very convoluted corporate-fraud case in federal court (Judge Bebe Neuwirth presiding) unfolds nicely into a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, as the Lockhart/Gardner client fights to prove that his gay marriage should protect evidence involving his spouse from being used against him, and Bucky has to argue the federal case that a marriage between a man and a woman is the one true marriage.

McGill plays Jeremy Breslow, a liberal legal titan who’s gone toe to toe with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and is sniffing around this case because he could take it to the high court and win over Justice Anthony Kennedy with the nice, presentable upper-middle-class gay couple who are involved. That doesn’t totally follow, since a large part of Bucky’s case against their marriage is the affairs they let each other have, and this dude is being charged with corporate fraud. But McGill sells it with his Texan bluster and his “I’m on the verge of tears” speeches and his own backstory (his brother apparently died of AIDS, although that only comes up in his introductory scene).

The fun part is watching it dawn on Diane and Alicia that Breslow is trying to lose the case so that it can be appealed up the federal ladder. So it becomes a face-off within the guy’s own defense team, something I could have had more of. Breslow doesn’t really develop—once Alicia and Diane win the case on their own, he begs off, telling Charlie Rose he decided the case wasn’t worth taking to the Supreme Court because he’s such an honorable gentleman. Hopefully Breslow will come back so the show can do more with him, because his mix of douchey grandstanding and stirring sincerity does well to fuck with the vibes at Lockhart/Gardner.

Just think of the other client of the week, Alicia’s mother Veronica, who needs her poor son to perjure himself to defeat a totally fair challenge to her will. Always nice to have Owen (Dallas Roberts) back with us, and I liked that we knew immediately that he’d fold under pressure from his mother. If her thinking Will has a crush on him is all he needs to spill the beans on Alicia’s relationship with him, then he’s definitely going to side with mom when the going gets really tough.

Channing does an okay job with a fairly clichéd role—Alicia’s mom is everything she isn’t: a raging id, marrying who she pleases and cruising around the world (she hasn’t even seen the grandkids in two years). She gives Alicia a biography of the vagina and seems genuinely baffled as to why she’s still giving Peter the time of day, telling her to embrace short-term happiness and Peter to stop being selfish and let her go. Of course, this is enough to drive Alicia and Peter to sexytimes (their first such encounter in quite a while, right?) just to get back at her. Which probably wasn’t what she was going for, but she’s unintentionally unleashed Alicia’s pleasure-seeking side—in a way, she’s a good mother.


In another, more real way, she’s kind of a jerk, and colors in Alicia’s character very nicely for us. No wonder she’s so emotionally cautious and withdrawn when she has such a bonkers mommy. Now, the question is—is Alicia’s dad still in the picture? Has his status been mentioned on the show before? What thespian could fit into that role? This is The Good Wife, so you know it’ll scoop someone up from Broadway soon enough. (I’m amazed at the show’s restraint in waiting four years to bring Alicia’s mom by.)

The episode is dominated by these two plots—Will, Cary, and Kalinda barely appear at all, although Cary pursues his assault in a surprisingly underhanded way, saying his black eye was a basketball injury and making cryptic personal threats to Nick on a construction site. Is Cary simply acting this way out of pride? At the very least, get Kalinda involved. That lady can wield a sledgehammer. Plus it’ll make her dump Nick lickety-split, and that’s what we’re all interested in.


So, definite improvement, and all the over-the-top notes, from McGill’s speechifying to the rolling thunder and screeching cop-cars in the background of the Thanksgiving dinner, are very welcome in a show that has needed a bit of an energy boost. There’s always the fear that things could get too silly, of course, but let’s not worry about that yet. As long as The Good Wife is having some fun, I’m into it.

Stray observations:

  • Veronica bought Grace a giant stuffed giraffe, quite a way to announce her presence in an apartment.
  • I kept waiting for David Lee’s M&Ms to have some relevance to the plot, but they’re an amusing detail anyway.
  • Veronica’s showdown with Jackie is epic. “I heard you nearly died, Jackie.” “A stroke, from helping out the kids by myself.”
  • Peter’s conversation with Jackie’s Cuban helper-man is COMPLETELY BIZARRE. Are we supposed to infer that these two are boning? Or is he scamming her? I am so confused.