We gave it a B+
Alicia Florrick is starting over. Flushed out of public office by a voter fraud scandal, she’s rebuilding her legal career and her reputation, taking bottom-of-the-heap public defender cases and relying on the kindness of satanic “friends” like Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) for referrals. Not that any of this discourages our hero. On the contrary: She’s seems enlivened – if harried – by the labor of redemption and reinvention, however unfair that work might be. “For the first time in my life,” she tells Canning, refusing his offer of partnership offer for the umpteenth time, “I don’t have to answer to anyone.” (We’ll see how long that lasts.)
Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) could use a good reboot. Sapped by a dispiriting season that culminated with the hasty exit of colleague-lover-prison liberator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi, missed), he struggles to engage the concerns of his fellow partners at Florrick, Agos & Lee and finds himself drawn to the company and cares of the younger, discouraged associates. (His spacey eyes seems particularly attracted to the ones in tight skirts.) A generational rift might be threatening the house built by the Florrick/Agos rebellion. Which side will Cary choose?
Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) could teach Cary a thing or three about picking yourself up after a reversal of fortune and dusting off premature gray. Passed over as campaign manager for Peter’s (Chris Noth) presidential bid, pissed by the governor’s lack of loyalty and regard, Eli took a job as Alicia’s chief of staff, just to screw Peter, so to speak, and maybe steal the job he lost to cunning, big time political operative, Willa Eastman (Margo Martindale, continuing her quest to pollinate every show with her unique goodness). I wish he didn’t have to hustle back to work so soon: I could spend a few episodes watching him watch Dead Snow, that Nazi zombie flick. Still, hunger looks good on him. So does that spiffy new haircut.
Hunger looks good on The Good Wife, too. Here, late in its life (season 7!), showrunners Robert and Michelle King Michael and their cast, led by an unfailingly dialed-in Julianna Margulies, refuses to settle for auto-pilot zombiehood. Their creation remains one of the most inspired shows on television, and since its extraordinary mid-franchise renaissance in season 5, TV’s best drama about the grind and glory, tumult and necessity of mid-life revolutions and reinvention(s) — business that its adult audience can relate to, and a relatively new rite of passage in American life. The winsome, witty season 7 premiere proved anew that that unlike Eli, it doesn’t resent the challenge of proving itself; it thrives on it. Yes, the show is repeating itself. Once again with an election. Once again with launching a new practice. Once again with the Alicia/Peter happy marriage fakery. Yet there’s meaning in those narratives and repeating those narratives – life as a never-ending series of builds and rebuilds, campaigns and recoveries – and what’s exciting about this season is the prospect of watching Alicia apply all the growth and experience and learning of six seasons to what might be our last look at her cycling toward a more authentic, mature, independent identity. For us, the final arguments in the matter of Alicia’s ongoing education have begun.
The premiere set up several promising early season storylines. I look forward to watching Alicia with Judge Don Schakowsky (Christopher McDonald), an idealism-sapped prune of cynicism who runs the bond court like a proud middle manager overseeing a churn of cheap widgets. Can Alicia throw a spanner of humanity into the machinery of pitiless justice? Alicia’s budding alliance with bond court hell psychopomp (and future partner?) Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) is also promising.
Peter’s Trojan horse presidential push gives this iteration of campaign narrative its interest and ratchets the stakes in the fraught Alicia/Peter relationship and Alicia’s movement toward being the commander-in-chief of her destiny. His true objective is to be a strong second-place finisher to Hillary Clinton in the primaries so he can be her Veep, and I love the ironies of Peter aspiring to be second fiddle to the former first lady and wanting to ride her wave to go next level in his career. Do we want him to get what he wants? I’m not sure. This attempt to surf real-world political narrative could be as risky as Peter’s own coat-tailing. How can the Kings keep current with reality? I’m interested, nonetheless.
Peter, Schakowsky, Canning – Alicia’s late game journey sure is afoul with all sorts of tempting, corrupting, and just plain lousy man’s world devils. But what about Eli? Will his score-settling machinations support or subvert the woman he’s supposed to serve? To be honest, while I buy Eli’s feelings of betrayal and entitlement, I don’t quite his I’m-going-to-destroy-you-Peter burn. But I will follow Alan Cumming anywhere. (Not to be all fan theory-ish about it, but do you think it’s possible Peter’s playing games with Eli? Maybe trying to light a fire under him to get the best out of him?)
I’m less enthusiastic about watching her courtroom clashes with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and her former colleagues; the show will have to work her hard to make this “been there, done that” meaningful and not keep us looking our watching, waiting for the inevitable reversal.
Oh, and I want a Dr. Nigel Buggy spin-off.
What did you think of The Good Wife premiere?