October 26th, 2010
That’s more like it.
Thus far, I’ve been disappointed in the quality of The Good Wife’s second season, if not disappointed in the season as a whole. There has yet to be an episode which really lived up to the potential of the first season when it comes to its legal procedural elements: the show’s serialized elements have remained present, but the series was at its most effective when the legal story was novel or particularly well organized (I’d argue “Heart” was the season highlight).
For me, “VIP Treatment” is the best episode of the season and certainly a standout in the series as a whole primarily because it is driven by a legal case as opposed to ongoing character interaction. Like last week’s episode, it features some work regarding Peter’s campaign, the love triangle, and Kalinda and Blake’s feud of sorts, but it’s all done in service to the standalone story. It’s an episode which makes its standalone storyline feel like something much more substanthe episode worked really welltial, and which embraces the show’s uniquely well-drawn workplace environment to tell a small story with potentially huge ramifications.
“VIP Treatment” works because it is quite literally an interruption of an ongoing event: if this episode had taken place over a few days, it might have felt tedious or unnecessary. Instead, it seems exciting and tense, and the cutting between the two events was a smart way to emphasize the unique circumstances. Outside of the awkward way they shoehorned Carey into the situation, which still doesn’t make much sense for me, the ability to move between the two kept up the pace of what is a lot of standing around and investigating things.
Personally, I like that focus – it’s all about the language that the victim uses to discuss their encounter, and the details that are gathered from friends, employers, and just about anyone else. It’s about the construction of a story before the story gets revealed, about the legwork necessary when dealing with a case which is this controversial. I think the episode went a bit far in the end, especially his wife calling Diane, but I loved the way that Diane approached the case and so the phone call was a nice capper to her relationship to the case. Her search started as an effort to exonerate Kent, but over time she was searching for confirmation – she wanted to discover that it was a lie, but once she knew that there was some kernel of truth to the story she had to investigate further. It was a strong episode for Baranski, and the different perspectives on the case from the partners was part of its dynamism.
As for the Alicia side of the story, I thought that was solid if ultimately uneventful. I think we’re reaching the point where clients showing up to meet Alicia because of her own personal experience is getting a bit old, but it still resonated in that final scene. I liked the idea that the episode had been so focused on the partners deciding on their interest in the case that they sort of looked past whether the client was actually willing to go through the process of filing suit, and it made for a complicated yet fitting end to the story. Still, this wasn’t Alicia’s hour, and I’m sort of glad she got to remain a secondary figure here.
As for the recurring serialized storylines, I thought this was especially well done. Blake and Kalinda didn’t have anymore parking garage run-ins, but they were in a sort of indirect competition on opposite sides of this case. I was particularly pleased with the way Peter’s story played out, as Kent’s troubles ended up connecting quite logically with Peter’s campaign – it’s the sort of political maneuvering that would happen in the wake of Scott-Carr entering the race, and so to see Peter’s desperation played out in that fashion was a nice touch. Throw in Peter’s discovery of the Will voicemail, and his trust in Alicia in terms of not listening to the rest of it, and there was some nice movement on ongoing plot developments fairly successfully integrated into the episode.
There will be more substantial episodes of the series, sure, but I like these smaller stories where the stakes are put on the table and discussed in detail. It allows the show to be a bit more forensic with its storytelling, which fits with the depth of the workplace environment. We’re reminded here that Alicia is just a second-year associate, and yet this isn’t a problem since we know the partners so well, and because the inner workings of the firm are just as important to the show as Alicia’s home life. For me, the presence of both here makes his a standout hour, and I hope to see more like this in the future.
- I was surprised to see the episode end where it did, and it makes me wonder if the story will resonate into future weeks: Peter got a free endorsement out of the deal, after all, so I’m curious to see if that plays a role in the case.
- Interesting choice not to actually cast Kent – they could have done a news story, or something of that nature, but they chose to keep it entirely anonymous to ensure we saw the case only through the victim’s perspective and the degree to which her story checked out.
- At The A.V. Club, David Sims points out that this is effectively a “ripped from the headlines” episode, but the small scale and the non-presence of Kent keeps it from feeling exploitative or even referential (although it is perhaps just that I don’t remember the apparent allegations against Al Gore that Sims points out).
- Not sure what Will’s fight was about, per se, or just how long Elizabeth Reaser might be sticking around for, but at least Will’s life isn’t wholly defined by Alicia.