October 13th, 2009
The Good Wife is a solid show, and a lot of this has to do with a very solid premise. What works about the show is how versatile it can be, even within each of its various elements. As a legal workplace drama, the show covers an extensive range of potential cases, and because Alicia is a junior associate it means she could end up doing a variety of jobs (like digging through files, or second chairing a bigger case) whether they’re representing the plaintiff or the defendant.
The show is ultimately a procedural, but it’s managed to be quite the chameleon. This week’s episode follows the basic formula, presenting a legal case that dominates the episode while Alicia is similarly burdened by her husband’s indiscretions. However, they’ve done an impressive job of providing variety in both of these departments, to the point that the twists and turns in either storyline are still effective.
The show is never going to blow me away, per se, but it’s nonetheless impressed me so far.
I think what I liked about this story is that the “fix” in the jury was legitimately interesting. There have been many legal shows that have tried to zero in on the Jury aspect (such as Justice, or L&O: Trial by Jury), but it works better when it’s not the entire premise of a show. Here, the jury was fundamentally out of their control, but they were nonetheless forced to fixate over every look they gave. As Diane (Christine Baranski, who had more to do here than in previous episodes) noted, she thought she had the jury working for her, and yet there was that underlying concern that they were being mislead in some way. It’s roulette, not law, I believe she said at one point, and I think the episode did a good job of sending us around the wheel without making things feel too random.
With Chris Bauer (who is coming off of a stint on True Blood, but who I will always refer to as Frank Sobotka due to The Wire) as the opposing attorney, the acting calibre was as solid as the show ever is, and the legal side of things again feels very well populated with engaging characters. Meanwhile, the show’s private investigation perspective allows it to have a House-like sense of humour, with the various investigative methods sending them on a wild goose chase that’s not entirely honest. The episode also worked better because Alicia’s storyline quite importantly followed the same investigative methods as she resisted searching into the juror’s lives as she was forced to head into her own by Peter’s attorney.
That side of things had its own surprises (although the bait and switch of the family’s video from March 16th looking like pornography was a bit unbelievable considering the identity of the filmmaker), becoming less about Peter and Alicia’s relationship and more about the balance between the legal and the personal. In this instance, there was an expectation from Peter’s lawyer that the family could be bought, and then eventually the expectation (leaving us on a cliffhanger) that Alicia should testify. The show can’t quite lead with that part of things, as it’s not the most complex story in the world, but I thought this was a good escalation from having her sift through things looking for a receipt to actually sitting on the stand and keeping her mouth shut. It returns to the image in the pilot of her standing silent, but now she’s going to need to lie and that’s going to be a bigger challenge, to my mind.
The end reveal, that it had been the plaintiffs who had bribed the juror, was a nice bait and switch, and raised that interesting question of whether they had done all they could. In the end, the judge was told that they expected tampering, and even now that they have more information it doesn’t really change anything. It’s a more subtle connection than other shows might make to the protagonist’s central dilemma, acknowledging how complicated Peter’s situation is when both the law and Alicia’s own feelings are concerned. It’s nothing particularly new, but I find the show continues to hit the right notes.
- I remember, around Press Tour, the writers indicated that Chris Noth might not be around very often, but he has appeared in all of the episodes and has been integral to emphasizing the personal side to the story. I can’t imagine the show without him, so I’ll be intrigued to see what happens if he disappears.
- The show spent a bit too much time pretending as if we should have known who Kozco was: I thought Alicia knew, but then she acted confused, and I still don’t really have a clue on this one.