It occurred to me watching The Good Wife this week that, if the show wasn’t so carefully plotted and acted with such meticulous control, its legal scenes could spin off into crazy-wacky David E. Kelly, Boston Legal/Ally McBeal-ville. As they say on Spike TV’s Ultimate Fighter, it’s all in the execution.
Take, for instance, this week’s episode, titled “Foreign Affairs.” Lockhart/Gardner represented a small drilling contractor involved in a dispute with an oil conglomerate over a South American project. The plot worked in the return of America Ferrera’s Natalie Flores as a crucial Spanish-language interpreter of both legal documents and the rantings of no one less than Hugo Chavez, seen only from the chest down via video-conference calls. Chavez was played for broad laughs, interspersing cavalier changes in the law with out-of-nowhere pleas for an Oscar for Courtney Love (“Where is her Academy Award – where?”).
Adding to the silliness was Fred Dalton Thompson, playing Frank Thomas, a Fred Dalton Thompson-like lawyer-turned-actor who uses his fame as a TV attorney to curry favor with clients and the recurring judge played by SNL’s Ana Gasteyer (she’s Judge Lessner, the “In my opinion” judge).
At Peter Florrick election headquarters, Eli Gold could almost taste victory – if only Alicia would agree to a TV interview, he figured he’d pull ahead of that one-point margin his candidate had. So Alicia relented, sitting down with the real Erica Hill, who probably never thought she’d be on TV asking someone how she felt about her husband sleeping with another woman 18 times.
Alicia was being pestered by Andrew Wiley, the bloodhound in a hoodie. He was still after the contents of the two missing pages in Kalinda’s state’s-attorney interview transcript.
I loved the way the show took what could have been a trite shot – Alicia in the voting booth – and made it pay off as a mini-culmination of the season.
The pay-off for this hour – the sight of a devastated, tearful Alicia staggering away from the news of this deep double betrayal – off-sets some of the dramatic illogic, or what I perceive to be so.
What sticks in my craw is this: Wiley gave Alicia the opportunity to decline to hear the rumor about Peter’s indiscretion. Why wouldn’t a woman as quick-thinking as Alicia not say, “You know what, don’t even tell me – there are always rumors, and I don’t need another one taking up room in my head”?
But with that moment, a moment in which as soon as she hears it was Kalinda who dallied with Peter and she knows in her bones, in her heart, that this is truth, not rumor, The Good Wife entered a new phase. From this point on, it’s an Alicia without any illusions about the past, perhaps beset by doubts about her instincts (she must be wondering how she could have befriended Kalinda and not sensed anything from either Kalinda or Peter), and flexing the new muscles she’s developed over the past months for dealing with body-and-soul blows like this.
Does the good wife now become the avenging wife?
What did you think of this week’s Good Wife, its legal plot and the final scenes?
UPDATE: Or maybe a postscript, or a new line of thought: A colleague and some of you commenting below have raised a good question. How did Wiley know that Kalinda is Lela, if he didn’t have access to the two crucial pages? I thought it was because he figured it out from – or it was just spelled out in – the rest of Blake’s testimony. But are these the same interview notes that Blake gave to the ADA, and in turn were related to Carey? They might not be the missing pages from the report.
Is that how you interpreted it? Or is this a devious move on Wiley’s part to have guessed the Kalinda/Lela unity and is trying to get Alicia’s reaction and (for all he knows) a confirmation?