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The Good Wife opens hot with “Hearing”

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A lot of the best scenes in The Good Wife history have taken place in very small spaces—namely elevators. When the show pushes characters into tight spaces, it squeezes emotions out of them, lets us get up close and personal with their headspaces. And the show is great at using physical space to establish mood. The opening act of “Hearing” is easily one of the finest scenes of the season, and it takes place entirely in Alicia’s apartment, which isn’t technically small but starts to feel suffocating once it’s full of shirtless Jason, blabbering Veronica, Owen, bagels, a courier, and a subpoena. The direction and use of space in the scene create tension and make us feel Alicia’s anxiety. The episode’s main storyline—the prosecution of Peter, which seems to be the main storyline for this final stretch of the series—feels mechanical. But in those brief moments at the top of the episode, we’re firmly grounded in Alicia’s feelings, and the writing does more than just move the story along.

It’s also worth noting that the cold open is very, very hot. Alicia Florrick so often starves herself of pleasure, but here we see her at the most indulgent she has ever been, having a sex marathon with Jason with breaks for chips, ice cream, and television. The good wife finally gets to live that good life. But, of course, the perfect weekend is short-lived. As sexy as the first half of that opening is, the best part doesn’t come until Veronica and Owen crash the party. Suddenly the cold open turns into a game of endless interruptions. It allows The Good Wife to briefly escape the legal drama world and do something a little closer to sitcom conflict, and it works. The Good Wife has always had a strange sense of humor to it, but a lot of the comedy this season has fallen very flat. Leave it to Stockard Channing to make sure that doesn’t happen here. The cold open manages to be funny in a way that plays to the show’s strengths, stays true to its characters, and touches on the show’s central themes like the blurred lines between personal and professional relationships.

In “Hearing,” boundaries crumble. Alicia and Jason suddenly find themselves having to find the right balance between their professional and personal lives—a problem that always plagued Alicia and Will. Things are different now than they were then though. Alicia gives way fewer fucks than she used to. She’s hardened now, more cynical than ever. But she’s also letting herself take what she wants instead of worrying about what’s “right.” She talks about her “arrangement” with Peter openly around Jason, doesn’t hesitate to enlist him for help with Peter’s trial. She even points Eli in the direction of a well placed vent that allows him to listen in on the grand jury proceedings. “Is it illegal or unethical?” the lesser Tascioni asks. “I don’t know anymore,” Alicia replies. She hasn’t necessarily gone full darkside, but season-seven Alicia isn’t playing the hero.

Who knew that Eli eavesdropping through vents was going to become a recurring plotline this season? At this point, Eli’s vents have become a bit like the three-hop device The Good Wife manages to bring back over and over: They’re too convenient and just come off as lazy writing. At least this time around it leads to some fun directing choices. But I’m stuck on the vent. It feels like a sitcom device, and even though the sitcom vibe of the cold open is wonderful, it comes off as sillier here. It’s another example of The Good Wife using space as something more than just scenery, but regardless of the stylization, it just isn’t that interesting to watch Eli listen to these drawn-out proceedings that have yet to feel urgent.

Meanwhile, Cary and David Lee are still paranoid that Diane is trying to push them out so she can start an all-female firm. Over lunch with Alicia, Diane basically says she’s not not trying to start a women-led firm. She wants to buy out Cary, and she wants Alicia by her side. The proposition would work a lot better if Diane and Cary had actually been a part of this season so far, but they have been so detached from the central storylines for a very long time now, and the relationship dynamics between Diane, Cary, and Alicia went from being, well, dynamic and well developed to being…confusing and stiff. Cary hasn’t been a real character in what feels like forever now. So sure, it’s easy for Diane to dump him. Given these characters’ history with each other, Diane’s decision to push out Cary and unite forces with Alicia should carry much more weight than it actually does. But since the three of them are barely in scenes together anymore, it’s hard to get excited—or otherwise feel anything—about it. Diane’s schemes signal yet another potential shift for Alicia, but the storyline just hasn’t been developed enough over the past few weeks. Even tonight, it gets overshadowed by the grand jury hearing and Veronica’s storyline, which unfortunately fizzles out once it becomes more about her actual problem and less about her interrupting Alicia’s life.

Chris Noth never even shows up in this episode, and yet Peter still manages to be such a major focus. Matthew Morrison shows up as Connor Fox, who is prosecuting Peter for…we still don’t know. The show is just retreading old ground with this latest case against Peter. How many times have we been here before? It feels like 150 times, which is exactly how many episodes of The Good Wife there are as of tonight. The writers so desperately want us to care about the mystery of what Peter is being taken down for, but it’s hard to care about a story that comes off as so redundant and lifeless. At least Margo Martindale is back, but even Ruth Eastman’s presence in the episode has an almost robotic energy, which has nothing to do with Martindale and everything to do with the lackluster writing when it comes to this story. “Hearing” might have one of the most engaging cold opens the series has ever done, but it has trouble sustaining that spark.


Stray observations

  • Okay, I’ll admit that some of the meta humor in the cold open was a little too much. Alicia repeats over and over that “it’s Sunday!” and Veronica informs Alicia that she’s popular and people want to see her. I see you, The Good Wife. But hey, the final season seems to be the right time to get self-referential.
  • For a second, I thought we were going to get a bottle episode taking place entirely on a Sunday afternoon in Alicia’s apartment.
  • “Where’s Grace?” Veronica asks. To which Alicia may as well have responded: “Who?”
  • Mike Tascioni is alright, but I miss Elsbeth.
  • Luca shows up for the last five minutes of the episode, because the writers still haven’t entirely figured out what to do with Luca. Tonight, she’s just a sounding board for Alicia as she figures out her next move.