The Good Wife continues to pay off on its premise. It does not shy away from the anguish and uncomfortableness that Juilanna Margulies’s Alicia suffers in the aftermath of her husband’s sex scandal. It may be one of the most downbeat scripted shows in network prime time, yet it pulls in big ratings. Aren’t we frequently being told that viewers are seeking out upbeat, escapist fare these days? Why is The Good Wife doing so well?

Because it’s damn good, and because all that ageist stuff about how people don’t want to watch shows starring people over 40 is pernicious hogwash.

Last night’s episode was a prime example. We saw more about the woman with whom Chris Noth’s Peter flung. We saw a very clever, very realistic way this woman might promote herself in the aftermath of such an affair — in this case, by going on Chelsea Lately.

The episode covered a lot of ground and an impressive range of tones. The Chelsea Handler segment — viewed by everyone, including Alicia’s children, on their computers the morning after it aired — was depicted exactly a viral phenom such as this would take hold in the pop culture.

And the show’s subplot, in which we finally met the globe-trotting law-firm partner, played with shaggy belligerence by Kevin Conway, was another example of the way The Good Wife renders office politics fresh and surprising.

I can’t say that I was startled by the hour’s final scene, which had been promoted as a “shocker.” Alicia kissing her husband — out of relief for getting the mistress at least temporarily out of their lives; out of surrender to sheer emotional exhaustion and genuine affection — made sense, on the terms The Good Wife has set up.

Although it has arrived packaged as a lawyer show combined with Law & Order-style headline-chasing, The Good Wife is proving, week by week, that it is its own distinctive creation.

Do you watch The Good Wife?