TGW’s commitment to bringing back guest characters – be they lawyers, judges or clients – from previous cases is a big part of its charm; the TGW universe doesn’t just comprise a different, unrelated case or a different bunch of guest stars every week, it’s a carefully, lovingly constructed, cohesive world, and recognising (or Googling) returnees is a big part of the fun.
Bringing people back can be a double-edged sword, though. Some come back too often, outstaying their welcome like the now completely unbearable Louis Canning. Others, however, like Rowby Canton can be victims of their previous success.
This week, Matthew Lillard’s Rowby – in a lovely, funny, sweet performance – does what the writers should just bloody get on with doing on a permanent basis (hopefully Alicia will see sense and accept Cary’s offer soon) and gets Alicia and Cary to work together temporarily on a dispute between him and his former record company, represented by the also returning Christine Lahti. It’s a fun case about music and the law, with a nerdy musical expert who has amazing ties and lots of cheery, amusing touches, but it brings back so many memories of Rowby’s previous appearance and the fabulous (and far superior) Thicky Trick episode, that this week’s automatically a) suffers by comparison and b) makes me sad again because, y’know, Will.
Of course, I’m not the only person feeling sad because, y’know, Will – Alicia is putting a brave face on it for the most part, doing the tough love thing with Grace (a character who is turning into something of a Mary Sue with all her Florrick Quinn-related successes) and taking on all comers in court and out of it, but her initial happiness at Marissa’s visit turns initially into cold fury then bone-deep pain when Marissa tries to intercede on Eli’s behalf. “I hurt” is an awkward turn of phrase and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it in real life, but Julianna Margulies is terrific as always and, in that moment, once again, Alicia’s heartbreak is both palpable and devastating.