Those who felt there wasn't enough of a bang with last night's "Mad Men" premiere may find solace in a fantastically action-packed episode of "The Good Wife." "Blue Ribbon Panel" deserved its own blue ribbon last night as - potentially - the best episode of the season so far. Mutiny on the bound! Alicia fights for justice! Kalinda learns a lesson! The return of Evil!Jackie! Seriously, did you see that "I will chew you up and spit you out and defeat you for all eternity" smirk and saunter that Jackie had to end things? And now we have to wait three weeks to see the results? If you think that "Mad Men" trolls viewers with its cryptic promos, it's nothing compared to CBS and their month-long hiatuses after a cliffhanger.
"The Good Wife" subverted its legal procedural form by taking Alicia out of the courtroom and into the back room, where she played the role of "The Token Woman" to a room full of powerful white men (with the exception of Pastor Danforth, who announced himself as "The Token Black"). Alicia, moved by the spirit, immediately sought an inconvenient truth in relation to the shooting in question, not using race as a factor, but mere procedure. Though she went outside of her purview and "investigated" the case, in the end the tide turned her way enough to hear reconsidered testimony that she helped bring to life.
But wait! Matthew Perry played a deliciously villainous role as head of the panel who attempted to belittle and thwart Alicia at every turn. By the end of the episode, though, it seemed that he wasn't interested in a cover-up so much as simply torturing Alicia. Yes he wanted to be right and he wanted things to be kept status-quo, but his final comments to Alicia mocking the grieving son who had pleaded with her to seek justice for his father were just downright evil. He got his way after she recused himself, but there was a feeling that he wanted more. He wanted her to make a choice, to either openly agree with him or to denounce the actions of her husband (who acted on Eli's behest).
Though I am often critical of Alicia-centric episodes, "Blue Ribbon Panel" brought out the best in her character. Alicia fighting for truth and justice is simply more satisfying that other, more realistically balanced times when Alicia more coldly considers the bottom line or backs a questionable character. But last night also took us back to the Alicia we met a few years ago who, in the wake of her husband's scandal, was torn between her old life and a new one that was foisted upon her. In a number of moving scenes, Alicia reminisces about the family's first home. There's plenty of good - with Peter and with the kids - but there's also a lot of still strong negativity from the fallout of Peter's indiscretions. I was under the mistaken impression that Alicia and Peter were funding the purchase of the home jointly, which I thought was a bold and interesting statement. Not so, as is made clear when the house is bought and paid for a Florrick other than Alicia (that being, of course, Jackie), much to her disgust.
There were plenty of underhanded conspiracies going on last night, but the most delightful one was of course the office politics within Lockhart Gardner. Watching Julius, Eli and David Lee scramble and conspire "like children who want a toy and are told they can't have it so they want it even more" (to quote Diane) is always a joy, though there is always the danger that could actually achieve something "and break it." Will's plan to bring Howard back into the spotlight and give him his seat to thwart the others was brilliant, particularly as seen through the eyes of the conspirators. Eli's genuine confusion over who Howard even was might have been a Top 3 moment of the night. Diane wins again, and not just because of mis-guided loyalty, but because her choices are deliberate and smart, and having a loyal connection with Will is partially sentimental but mostly safety scheme. Diane knows the power of alliances, something that Julius, Eli and David Lee seem to think they can do without.
Speaking of learning lessons, I was exceptionally proud to hear Kalinda utter the words, "don't mix the two" in regards to business and pleasure. It has been Kalinda's MO for a long time now to do just that, with typically disastrous results (to the personal side of things, anyway). Has Kalinda actually grown? Has she learned something? Kalinda went from being one of the best characters in the first season of the show to being reduced to a two dimensional bisexual Terminator in Season Two. Her character was moved to the background a bit more this season, thankfully, though her old ways still caused trouble for some and she has been paying for it. In the remaining episodes, I'm hoping Kalinda's enlightened trajectory continues.
"The Good Wife" went back and focused on its roots this week to great success. It handled strong personal and business stories for Alicia while interjecting some nice B-plots for humor and depth. And now, predictably, instead of riding that wave, CBS will put the show on yet another hiatus. "The Good Wife" will return April 15th, if we haven't already gotten distracted by "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones" by then to notice it.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— "Mad Men" fans may notice that Officer Zimmerman is also Abe, Peggy's boyfriend.
— "Early bird special, he turned me onto it. Such a deal!" - Will. Hey, don't knock it til you've tried it!
— I liked how Alicia was given a sloppy hand-written name placard while all the other men had fancy ones, as if she didn't already feel like an outsider.
— Personal point: when I joined the HOA board for my condo building I felt a lot like Alicia did in that meeting. The room was full of an "old guard" who had a certain way of doing things and didn't care if you got left behind. I did stand up for some small-scale justice a few times, and was bullied just like Alicia for it!
Del Ray Delaney felt wasted for only appearing in one episode. That could have been dragged out more, though I did like the end result with Kalinda.
— "I can't answer but I can be offended" - Cary.
— "Honor among thieves" - Eli.
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