The Good Wife – “Crash”

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“Crash”

October 20th, 2009

One of the things which makes any legal show somewhat interesting is when it largely evades the law. At the heart of The Good Wife is less a question of what is legal or moral, but rather what is just. The central premise is such that Alicia is forced to consider whether or not her husband committed a crime, and whether or not that even matters to a broader question of justice. It’s one thing to say whether Peter broke any rules, but it’s another to say whether he was unjust to his family.

And because “Crash” focuses on a story where the goal is to actually avoid the legal system, where the crime being committed is a moving target while the injustice is staring everyone right in the face, it really brings this type of story to the forefront. Mixing that case, which on its own was interesting, with a couple of interesting sidenotes, some more work on the ongoing storyline with Peter, and even some acknowledgement of the tension between Will and Alicia, and you have yet another solid hour for the series.

I think my favourite part of the episode, to be honest with you, is the sidenote of Patty’s assistant apologizing to Alicia for Patty’s behaviour during the deposition of Aldrige before eventually turning up at episode’s end as Alicia and Cary’s new assistant. It was one of those small little beats that the show built to with a sense of precision that every good procedural needs, but not every one actually has. The “new assistant” story to that point was somewhat successful, playing slightly too much into the expectation that Cary likes hot young secretaries and Alicia would prefer someone older and less attractive but having some fun with it with Cary’s less than serious choice of a computer illiterate chainsmoker. However, when it all came full circle (as the assistant quit to apply for a job with someone a bit less cutthroat), it was the kind of note that a show like this would be well to do more often.

The case itself was a bit forced, if not in a bad way. It just seemed like the sense of discovery that Alicia and Will were experiencing played out more like exposition for the audience, which is not abnormal in procedurals but was a bit pained here. I think the case was actually more interesting before Alicia got faced with yet another position where her own experience informs her legal opinion, as it didn’t feel particularly new for the series and more problematically it kind of came out of nowhere with the case. I liked that we got to see the deposition process, and the twists and turns in the case kept me engaged even if they felt a bit forced, but for it to all boil down to Alicia having to put Sarah Connelly through what she went through felt a bit off when we never got to see any of the consequences. It seemed like we never got to spend enough time with the various twists to be able to see them through, which made for a bunch of interesting ideas that never quite came to fruition.

However, the show has a certain style about it, and the elements of the case that related less to the plot were all quite good. I thought the judge, with his no nonsense policy, was an intriguing addition to the show’s roster, and Patty (played by Martha Plimpton, coming off of a guest stint on Grey’s Anatomy earlier in the season) was a sharp lawyer that really did entertain in her own no nonsense (and pregnant) manner. The show also got to work in Alicia’s home life through her mother-in-law’s frustration with her drifting away from her family, and her planting a worm about a potential flirtation between Will and Alicia. While the show got a couple of tense confrontations out of all of this (a late night realization about an affair between the two people working late at night while Alicia and Will were working late at night, Alicia confronting her mother-in-law about the kids’ visit to prison, Alicia and Peter’s final moment), all of them had a sense of reality to them: the show has thus far resisted melodrama, and little notes like Alicia pointing out the irony of Peter being paranoid about an affair go a long way to breaking the tension and keeping the show from falling into some unfortunate patterns.

Either way, it’s another solid episode for the show, one where the show’s characters and serialized elements overcame a weaker procedural story and resulted in a good hour of television.

Cultural Observations

  • Diane and Kalinda’s story was a bit of an aside, something that never really connected with anything else. However, I like the idea that we’re seeing different characters interact with one another, and since I really enjoy Kalinda and believe that Baranski is underused on the show thus far it’s something to enjoy.
  • There are some moments when Alicia’s past is played for humour (like with the older assistant), and others for dramatic effect (like with the case), but I like it best when it’s Alicia who uses it. When she noted to Patty that any attempt to make her feel uncomfortable will fail in the face of her previous experience, it felt more empowering than convenient, which is what the show should be going for.
  • Will be interesting to see how a partner leaving actually affects the firm, and where Alicia fits into it – the show occasionally dabbles in workplace drama, and that’s one storyline that will play out along those lines.
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