The Good Wife s7 ep 22

image“Nothing’s ever over. Remember that.”

Sob.

“I’ll love you forever.”

WAIL.

With its perpetual “on-the-bubble” status, it feels like we’ve been on the cusp of saying goodbye to The Good Wife ever since the show began but, notwithstanding the number of times it’s avoided cancellation before now, this was supposed to be it at last. Alicia Florrick’s story finally coming to an end after seven seasons of ups, downs, round-and-rounds, and plenty of arguments along the way. Except that Alicia’s story didn’t really end this week so much as begin again, and the forthcoming Diane spin-off means we haven’t really said goodbye to this world or these characters either. Instead, we got a finale which reminded Alicia and the audience how it all started and what she had and lost along the way, before she lifted her head, smoothed down her suit and walked out into the world again, ready to take it on head-on, just like she did at the start.

imageTo get to that new beginning, though, she had to be navigate her way through one last Peter Florrick scandal. To be the “good” wife one more time. The court proceedings were curious and unlikely to stand up to real-world scrutiny; would Judge Cuesta really not have been told before he went on the bench that the jury had a question rather than a verdict? Would the Governor’s defence team really be made up of both the wife of the accused and the wife of a key expert witness? And would the hitherto tenacious AUSA, with a sitting, seriously damaged governor on substantial corruption charges in his sights, really settle for 1 year probation, no jail time? Come on.

Plausibility aside, though, there was plenty of TGW’s trademark fun and flair about the court scenes and I enjoyed them a lot anyway. We’ve said it before, but one of the strengths of the show has been the deep, idiosyncratic bench of judges and bar of lawyers it has built, each with their own distinct, fully-formed personalities and grudges. David Paymer’s Judge Cuesta has the longest of those histories with the show; he was his usual caustic, terrific, funny self – “I mean, I’m excited about this!” – this week, and it’s both fitting and heartwarming that the judge who presided over the show’s first case is the one who presided over its last one too.

After being completely marginalised for much of this season, it was also heartening to see Matt Czuchry’s Cary with a win at last, finding a new purpose in teaching and peace in solving the mystery of the missing bullets, after one last hurrah with the now-legendary Matan back in the SA’s office, for old times’ sake.

imageChristine Baranski’s Diane was, of course, majestic, moving seamlessly from comedy to tragedy to rage, as Alicia and Lucca did the unforgiveable and broke her heart in the process. Her slapping Alicia is not the way I would have chosen for Diane’s TGW arc to end at all and I’ll always be sad that their bond – a multi-layered friendship and working relationship between two complex, rounded, unique female characters – has been destroyed over the past couple of seasons, but Diane has been one of the show’s most resonant, marvellous creations, and at least the spin-off means we’ll be seeing Ms Lockhart again one day. Hopefully, still married to the wonderful Gary Cole and still happy, despite Alicia’s best efforts to derail another marriage to suit her own.

Alicia’s husband is indeed finished, though, and Chris Noth’s Peter’s initial farewell to Alan Cumming’s Eli was surprisingly moving, with the twist that Eli was already making plans to cut line and move on to Alicia both very TGW and very Eli indeed. “Does Alicia know yet?” No. Because these two men are still trying to use Alicia, as they’ve always done, albeit her stepping off the stage and running away from Peter’s outstretched hand at the press conference – even if it is in pursuit of Manic Private Eye Dream Boy Jason – suggests she might finally be done with both of them.

Individual performances and iconic characters aside, though, there’s no getting round the fact that, overall, this hasn’t been a good season. The cracks started showing in season six, but season seven, by the show’s standards at least, has been a disaster. There have only been a handful of really good episodes, and the lacklustre nature of the rest of them, coupled with the way the firm has turned into a giant game of the hokey-cokey (people are constantly in, out, in, out, shaking the partnership all about) and audience suspicion about what has been happening behind the scenes over the past few years has tarnished the legacy of one of the best tv shows ever made. Because, yes, never mind this season, The Good Wife is one of the best tv shows ever made.

This wasn’t necessarily the way I wanted it to finish, but the finale was, like the series as a whole, smart, funny, sad, and very, very brave, ending as it did with Alicia alone and the rest of her life more of a question mark than a full-stop. It wasn’t satisfying, exactly but, in the context of the show, I think it was right. Because TGW has never been about tidy, happy endings, it’s always been about the messiness of life having to go on, of Alicia having to go on, no matter what.

The show has always balanced tragedy, comedy, drama, romance, hot-button issues, complicated ideas, political controversies and unwavering, unflinching feminism in a way that few others will ever come close to even attempting, and, if it didn’t always work – nothing always works – it still gave us some amazing characters, both regular and visiting, and some of the greatest performances and relationships, romantic and otherwise on tv. I wasn’t initially on board with TGW’s first season, but it blossomed into something very special in season two, and when I fell in love with it, I fell hard.

And since we’re talking about falling in love, regardless of who we might or might not see again, at least the finale gave Alicia and the audience the chance to say a proper goodbye to one beloved character neither she, nor I, nor the show, truth be told, has ever really got over losing.

It’s not the first time Alicia has tried to work through her feelings about Will in a dream sequence but, emotional and poignant as last season’s “Mind’s Eye” was, that episode didn’t entirely succeed because, never mind not being the real Will, it so obviously wasn’t any kind of Will at all.

imageThis time, though, the much-missed Josh Charles came back one last time, and it made all the difference. Alicia imagining coming home to Will would have been heartbreaking enough, but her talking to him about love, life and everything – “you wouldn’t like it here now, things have gotten so sad” – was both beautiful and deeply moving. I will always be baffled and infuriated by the show’s obsessive focus on Jason this season – Lucca even banging on this week about how Alicia had to talk to him, right now, in the middle of her husband’s trial for corruption – but at least Alicia (and the show) acknowledged to the real love of her life that “He’s not you.” Nope. “Very few people are.”

How utterly lovely it was to see him, to see them together and laughing, loving again. Especially soundtracked as it was by what might – in the face of stiff competition, since this show has always utilised wonderful music to incredible storytelling effect – be the most perfectly appropriate song ever. Regina Spektor’s haunting, gorgeous “Better” with its refrain of “Do you feel better…. Do you feel anything at all?” could have been written about Alicia Florrick, a woman who has fought so hard and so ruthlessly to carve out her own identity and her own life, but has sacrificed so much of herself and her happiness in the process that numbness has become her ultimate weapon. Julianna Margulies has been at the centre of a lot of speculation, but no matter what happened backstage, her performance has never been less than magnificent and the Alicia she and Robert and Michelle King created, taking as they did the sad, stoic tropes of the long-suffering political wife and the legal procedural drama and combining both to make something and someone iconic, is just as much an achievement as Don Draper, Walter White, or any of the other male tv anti-heroes of the past few years. (*wipes away tear*) I’m ok with that.

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The Good Wife s7 ep 21

Second-to-last episode ever and, my gosh, it’s a great one.

Surprisingly, given the length of time the grand jury proceedings took, (but awesomely, given how well condensing it into one instalment works) Peter’s trial is done and almost dusted in this one ep, with Diane and Lucca representing him, (I feel sure this is a massive conflict of interest, given Diane represents Eli, but never mind), Mr Schue from Glee prosecuting and Judge Cuesta thoroughly enjoying himself on the bench.

Using both brevity and history to their advantage, the trial and trial-related scenes are snappy, sharp and exciting, with turns from several old friends and enemies – Matan, Geneva, Cary and Kurt, of course – all gripping for entirely different reasons, and even the awful Canning put to entertaining instead of irritating use. In terms of sub-plots, the destruction of the firm’s offices/sets is hilarious on both a surface level and a meta one – I assume they didn’t know about the spin-off when they planned that – with David Lee a particular joy, but the more solemn, sad Kurt and Diane side of things is also terrific. God, if he hadn’t forgiven her….. No, let’s not even think about it.

Kurt and Diane aside, though, it’s another, far less hopeful marriage that’s at the root of many of the best scenes. Alicia’s not giving evidence, but her role in proceedings is no less crucial for it, and her scenes with Peter, with Mr Schue, with Cary and even with Canning are just fantastic. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but her entirely unfazed reaction to the Geneva “rumour” (I like that we can make up our own minds whether it’s true or not) is terrific and her trial prep with Peter is so wonderfully vicious, it leaves blood on the walls. Forget most of this season and the Jason rubbish and whatever else has ailed TGW recently, this is the show I love.

The Good Wife s7 ep 20

This week on TGW, for reasons which are not entirely clear – maybe the press are camped out at the Governor’s mansion, maybe Jackie’s home is too small, maybe they just didn’t want to build another set – Alicia threw a Ketuba-signing party in her apartment for the mother-in-law she cannot stand and the senior partner she has utter contempt for. It seemed to be the longest party in the world because – unless I’ve mixed up the timeline, which is entirely possible – Jason Super-P.I Crouse managed to investigate the entire case against Peter twice during it; first to show he’s guilty, then to show he might not be, who knows, while still finding time to make incoherent ramblings of affection to her in the middle of the street because (as Jed has previously pointed out) no one is going to notice the Governor’s very well-known wife making out with someone who’s not the Governor right outside her apartment block, are they?

Since feckless commitment-phobes who cleave to their adolescent insecurities in lieu of adult decision-making have been tv’s go-to male love-interest template for some time now, there will be people who found Jason’s declaration, such as it was, charming. I did not.

Equally irritating was the return of Zach, a character I used to like, who announced his engagement (to an annoying, patronising know-it-all) to a roomful of strangers at his grandmother’s party, being unable to wait till his parents came out of the next room. Perhaps his woolly, deluded plans for the future – of course he wants to be a “writer” – and marrying his college girlfriend/dropping out of college are a reaction to/ meant to remind Alicia of the more conventional, “sensible” choices she and Peter made at his age, and how they turned out. Perhaps they’re meant to show us that Alicia and her children have learned, from years of her doing what she thought she should do rather than what she wanted, to choose their future paths with their hearts rather than their heads, even if their hearts are idiots. Perhaps. For all its visual flair (the direction was particularly striking) and cleverness, I found this a strangely detached, cold, thought-exercise of an episode: while watching, I understood that it was very smart and that it had a lot to say, especially to those of us who’ve loved the show from the start and are preparing to say goodbye, but I didn’t feel any of it.

The Good Wife s7 ep 19

Gary Cole’s back!

It may or may not be a coincidence, but I thought this was the best episode in months. I don’t believe for a second that the fiercely intelligent, unflappable Diane is “mesmerised by men who use words of more than one syllable” or whatever it was – that didn’t ring remotely true and was something of an insult to a consistently magnificent female character – but it was lovely seeing Christine Baranski and Gary Cole playing off each other again, with the added bonuses of David Lee being hilarious and Ivy from Smash spicing things up also more than welcome.

The case of the week was a lot of fun, too, cleverly working years of NSA/surveillance-related themes and characters into a smart, pointed satire which hit more than a few deserving targets. I loved Alicia’s complete bafflement at Florrick fanboy Tyler eagerly asking after Zach and Grace, but it was Her Worship Nora Valentine’s palpable disapproval of “American-style interruptions” and just about everything else which stole the show: “It would be better if our neighbours from the south would try to emulate the freedoms we enjoy here with no surveillance and with our superior health care.” HEE.

On a less fun, but no less enjoyable, front, meanwhile, the Peter’s arrest sub-plot was handled beautifully, with the whole series coming full circle and Alicia and Peter “right back where we started from.” Unsurprisingly, of course, Alicia’s (and the show’s) bizarre obsession with Jason continued to jar, but we seem to be stuck with him; if TGW ends forever with him and Alicia painted as some kind of great, enduring love story, I will just have to forget that any of this season ever happened but, meantime, I thought this ep was very good indeed.

The Good Wife s7 ep 18

David Lee’s niece (?) Anna Camp pops back in this week to do battle with Alicia and Diane in a reasonably interesting case about private drones which has a lot of potential and could have tickled me a lot more if Anna’s character actually asked questions like a real lawyer instead of ranting about Reese Dipple all the time. That, and the Eli/ Marissa storyline are the best ones of the week, which doesn’t mean they’re brilliant, but they’re decent enough.

On the firm warfare front, however, both Cary and I are truly over it, and given the way Matt Czuchry’s been, shall we say, “under-used” over the past season, there’s something uncomfortably meta about Cary walking out for being pushed aside, even if I did like his little dig about the subpoena on the way out. As far as Alicia and Jason are concerned, meanwhile, every scene they shared made me want to switch off the television – especially that conference room awfulness – and if you’d told me two years ago that I wouldn’t care in the slightest whether Peter and Alicia get a divorce this time or not, I wouldn’t have believed you, but there we are.

The Good Wife s7 ep 17

All right, so every scene involving Alicia and Jason Crouse was both supremely embarrassing and eye-rollingly annoying – especially that awfulness at the end, ugh – so that knocked out, say, twenty per cent of this ep.

Moving swiftly on before I start throwing things, however, I really liked the case of the week, which started with a poignant sequence following a loving father watching his little girl grow up, before veering off into genuinely shocking, upsetting tragedy and a look at the oft-covered issues of gun control and gun commerce from a fresh, intelligent angle. The story as a whole could have done with more time spent on it, and using it to show Diane clashing with Cary did it something of a disservice, but the combination of an interesting, moving storyline, a guest appearance from the always-welcome Blair Underwood and a joyous return for Denis O’Hare’s tremendous Judge Abernathy meant this was a case I both cared about and enjoyed; not something I can say for every case this season, by any means.

As far as the rest of the ep was concerned, it was fine, if not in any way earth-shattering. Grace’s college admissions story was filler we probably could have done without, but it was perfectly watchable filler, and the Grand Jury stuff was quite entertaining – I did enjoy it, but once again, just like most of this season, it suffered by comparison with previous similar, but infinitely better scenes. Alicia was great in front of the Grand Jury this week, sure, but didn’t come anywhere close to Alicia, Diane and Will being f***ing fantastic in front of the Grand Jury in Another Ham Sandwich. Sigh. Those were the days.

The Good Wife s7 eps 15 & 16

Sigh.

My beloved TGW, now long past its best, continues to limp towards the finish line with a couple of episodes simultaneously smart enough to remind us what a terrific show it can be and has been, and annoying enough to make us relieved for the show’s sake that it’s nearly over. (And to make the idea of a spin-off both baffling and distressing, because I just don’t want to see these characters dragged down any more.)

On the smart side, Ep.15 puts Alicia on a secret government committee convened to decide if the US can execute an ISIS recruiter abroad, while also bringing back TGW icon Elsbeth Tascioni to help Peter out with whatever Peter’s about to be indicted for, and giving her an ex-husband called Mike and an “emotional support chihuahua” called Tom for good measure.

The secret committee stuff is very, very TGW and I thought it was great, but I also would have liked a lot more of it. The Elsbeth stuff is also very TGW but isn’t quite as interesting, if only because, much as I love her, we’ve been here with Elsbeth so many times before that bringing her back yet again feels a bit desperate. Not quite as desperate, however, as the annoying side of things: i.e. whatever the eff is going on between Diane and everyone else at Lockhart Agos Lee, and the Alicia and Jason business which may or may not be trying to make points about Alicia owning her sexuality, or substituting sex for alcohol as an emotional crutch, but either way is so cringe-worthy I want to hide under a cushion and never come out.

At least ep 15 is better than ep 16, though. Alicia and Jason – ugh. (By the way, is Alicia saying Jason’s name instead of Will’s a suggestion that she’s using him to try and replace Will or a more meta acknowledgment that the show is?) Veronica, Owen and Jason – enough already. And whatever the eff is going on between Diane and everyone else at Lockhart Agos Lee – stop it now. (Although you should obviously side with Diane, Alicia, even if I don’t really understand why there need to be any sides at all.) The episode is redeemed, however, if only partially, by the continued presence of Mike and Tom who are far funnier out of Elsbeth’s shadow, and by Eli’s shenanigans with the disabled bathroom, which are genuinely hilarious.