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Monday, October 1, 2012

'The Good Wife,' Season 4, Episode 1 Recap

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 10:37 AM

You were pulled over for playing terrible, terrible music.
  • CBS
  • "You were pulled over for playing terrible, terrible music."

CBS's critical hit "The Good Wife" returned this week without any pause to ease us back into the new season, nor (unless I am mistaken) did it give us a "last time on," which would have been exceptionally helpful. "I Fought The Law" picked up right where last season dropped off: Kalinda waiting in the dark to tousle with her estranged (and extremely dangerous) husband. Elsewhere, plots were picked back up breathlessly and with a complexity that would have benefitted from some background — a show for new viewers to dive into this is not. Even long-time viewers were likely left wondering exactly what Diane was pleading with the stoney-faced judge about, and why David Lee was threatening to leave. I love you, "Good Wife," I really do, but I do not keep the intricacies of Lockhart-Gardner's finances in my head for all the months since you last were on the air.

There were lots of twists and turns and a Case of the Week that actually hit close to the Florrick home (even though it was handled strangely) that, despite any early plot confusion, should have made almost everyone pleased that this hidden gem of a series is back. For more on last night's episode, hit the jump.

It was an odd choice to begin back with Kalinda and her beating up "Bill," an associate of her husband, because Kalinda's story last season was one of the weakest. Kalinda's involvement in "The Good Wife" is like a fine seasoning — just enough and the dish is elevated to extraordinary levels of sumptuousness, but too much and it overwhelms the meat. Though things are getting interesting now that Nick (Marc Warren) is back and looking to take her back with him (or sabotage her new life), their relationship still borders on the trite. East End British baddy with a lame tattoo (only one?) who she ran away from and was ready to kill but is now having exciting sex with? Does this belong in "The Good Wife," a political drama disguised as a legal one, or did it fall over from the set of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels: The Series"? Or is Kalinda satisfying an audience need for illicit romance now that Alicia is back to "mending fences"?

Speaking of which, it was great to see Alicia and Peter actually share a scene together this week. The show has suffered from a distinct lack of Chris Noth, who in early seasons had a major role on Broadway and apparently just appeared on set whenever he could, leaving Alicia's character to develop without him. Though the show is about the the wife and not the husband, it's crucial to keep Peter in the picture (and in our hearts) if Alicia is going to eventually stay with him, which it seems are where things are headed.

It's still a long road to that ending, though, with Alicia keeping her relationship with Peter stilted and cold, even though she tells reporters (such as a newcomer this season Peggy Bern, played by Kristen Chenowith) that she committed to a marriage and though it hasn't been easy, she plans to stick with it. Though Peggy goes on about women's rights and not being trapped in a marriage, Alicia is right to dismiss this. The power that women have now is that they can leave, sure, but because of that they can also choose to stay, which can be (as we have seen) just as powerful a statement.

Politics played a part in the Florrick's relationship this week too, doubling also as the Case of the Week. I rarely question the writing on "The Good Wife," and maybe it was a combination of that plus the questionable acting of the Florrick kids, but until Officer Robb's (convenient) nefarious deeds came to light I just felt sorry for the guy. He was portrayed, initially, as operating within the purview of his job — maybe taking things a little far, but Zach acted pretty bratty and entitled about the whole thing as well. That oddness (and godforsaken chicken rap song) aside, the show also felt a little more self-aware than usual in its portrayal of technology, something critics (myself included) have praised the series for in the past.

Zach's use of bluetooth technology, YouTube, his smart phone's recording abilities, web searches, forums and using the power of viral video to enact change (at least, for him) was throwing everything in but the kitchen sink, but it's a pretty true statement. Any kid his age with access to those tech tools could and probably would do the same. Despite the (clashing) machinations of Alicia using the law and Peter using threats and politics, what really saved Zach in the end was YouTube. It was a damning and intriguing statement.

There are a few new but familiar faces in the cast this year besides Kristen Chenowith: Nathan Lane is on board as a supervisory trustee who seems like an honest player in the Lockhart Gardener game, and next week it looks like we get introduced to a new character played by Maura Tierney. "The Good Wife" always mixes things up and keeps them fresh, but has also fallen prey to incorporating too many stories to be effective. Still, the series doesn't have the luxury of 8 to 12 episode seasons but a whopping 22. I suppose tangents become necessary.

Overall, a great start to what will be a long and hopefully great season. Last year lost its way a little bit, but then again so did Alicia. Now that she seems back on track perhaps the overall trajectory will align the same.

Musings and Miscellanea:

— I love Will and Diane's moments together, and Nathan Lane's trustee Clark Hagin bringing David Lee (one of my favorite characters) back into the fold was great. Also loving the realism of that storyline, that even a powerful law firm is having money issues — a subject not tackled on other shows of its genre.

— Alicia's wig looks much better this year with those bangs sorted.

— Eli didn't have much to say this week but his facial expressions said it all. I was cracking up when he was rolling his eyes at Kristeva's use of a poor little kid with cancer to sell his campaign. The show has always been smart about politics, and I hope we get even more this year.

— Alicia: "You use Dad's name?" Grace: "Well ... how would we use the law?"

— Will is back! Good, because him not being fully reinstated was just annoying.

— Fans of "The Wire" will notice this show is dipping into its casting pool again — that was Wee-Bey who Alicia suggested Nick team up with for the government contract!

— The COTW had so many twists and turns it was hard to follow, but us learning about forfeiture corridors wasn't what was important, anyway. It did what it needed to do (show us that Zach may have a feel for politics, as well as porn).

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