Monday, November 26, 2012

'The Good Wife,' Season 4, Episode 9 Recap

Posted By on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Death Stares caught on Dradis, set Condition One throughout
  • CBS
  • Death Stares caught on Dradis, set Condition One throughout

"The Good Wife" trimmed the fat (mostly) for "A Defense of Marriage," and focused almost entirely on Alicia both in and out of the courtroom. It's of little wonder though when this series' named is paired with an episode title and theme like this one. Marriage was on trial for everyone this week, from the micro to the macro, and while some may criticize the show not taking a stand one way or another on, well, anything, I think it was actually a perfect way to illustrate the ambiguity of its subject.

The best "Good Wife" episodes usually deal with politics, and "A Defense of Marriage" was no exception. The other key part is having a relevant and related Case of the Week, which also played out nicely with Alicia's family politics. The idea of what a marriage is or can be defined as (or can it really, when one comes down to the nitty gritty) was the main thrust in both the politics of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) as well as both Alicia's and her mother's person lives.

While Stockard Channing made a great turn as Alicia's flirty and outspoken mother, her turning on Peter and resurrecting the Will storyline (which always happens when Owen is in town - Owen also being my least favorite and least essential supporting cast member) felt too backwards. We've been over this, we've moved past it. What's more interesting at this point is Alicia repairing her relationship with Peter. Lest we forget, we've actually seen them very happy over the last few weeks, with Alicia standing behind him during the attacks by Mattie to shade his reputation. Though "The Good Wife" is right to return its focus to its main character, it is wrong if it seeks to retread her old plots when there are plenty of new places to go.

The inherent drama and complicated conflicts of family drama are what drive so many of the best shows, or at least some of the most addicting, and "A Defense of Marriage" hit all the right notes as it built up towards the final scenes with the entire family, both Peter's and Alicia's gathered together butting heard (and a few other things).

Elsewhere, poor Cary had rather little to do, per usual, except grin like an idiot and embrace his uselessness. He snuck in as a third wheel to Kalinda and Alicia's bar night, and sat patiently with Owen before Alicia kicked him out of their shared office. He also confronted Nick about the case and his getting beaten up (by appearing but not acknowledging it) in a scene that may go down as the least cared about few moments of television maybe ever. And I like Cary!

The Case of the Week had included its typical twists, but the political angle (not just the case itself but behind the scenes) was some of the best courtroom drama the show has done yet this season. The warring between Lockhart Gardner and their volunteer co-counsel Jeremy Breslow (Bruce McGill) about what "winning" the case means (winning outright versus losing to appeal to go to the Supreme Court to challenge DOMA) was great precisely because no one made any grand speeches, but simply stated the facts. It's a law the sends mixed messages to the courts and to government agencies, and the absurdity of its ambiguity, no matter where you stand on it, was subtly illustrated.

The conflicts between Lockhart Gardner and Bucky also continued to play up this odd theme this year about the firm defending the guilty ("I like to nab bad guys, like your clients" he says to Alicia). Alicia has been reclaiming her moral pillar by suggesting that her brother sell out their mother who perjured herself to get a lump sum she may not have deserved, and though she stayed silent when he did the opposite, both Owen and her mother could sense her disapproval.

This is one reason I'm irritated that the Will issue has resurfaced. The show has spent a lot of time showing us that for Will, things are almost always about the bottom line. A client being guilty means nothing, as long as the firm thinks it can win. It seemed that, throughout the back half of Season Three, "The Good Wife" took great pains to suggest that Alicia and Will's relationship was not one between star-crossed lovers, but between two people who needed something from the other one in the short-term, but that their ideological differences would not lead to any long-term happiness.

Next week looks like it may address this somewhat, hopefully quashing the Will-Alicia question for good when Alicia is asked to sit idly by as an innocent man is convicted. Amanda Peet will return too and ... is she flirting with Will? That would be an interesting pairing, and keeping Will single has seemed like an oversight anyway.

Though it fumbled at the very end, "A Defense of Marriage" was a strong and engaging hour of television. The show continues to wander, but not quite as much as last year, and with a lot more fun along the way.

Musings and Miscellanea:

- So in the land of dropped plot lines: what happened with Grace and her bad boy?

- David Lee and Veronica are quite a pair, aren't they?

- "You have got to read this Vagina book. It's very powerful." - Veronica

- Alicia seducing Peter in the bathroom (their favorite place to do it, remember last year when he went down on her to the sounds of NPR?) would have been a little more interesting had she not confirmed that it was about her mother. That's probably one of the least sexy things someone can say in that moment.

- "He has no emails, he has no tweets!" - David Lee, indignant (and hilarious)

- "Paying for it seems to run in your family" - Veronica to Jackie

- What exactly is going on with Jackie and her "male companion"? She likes flirting with him but, how does he feel about it? What was he telegraphing to Peter in that scene?

- Even though Bebe Neuwirth didn't get a lot of screentime, I love seeing her.

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