By Ken Tucker
Updated April 07, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

The Good Wife returned last night with a spicy episode that layered in character details like a well-prepared lasagna. Accordingly, one main ingredient was cheese: The central legal case, about a college student accused of murdering another, was framed as a 12 Not-Too-Angry Men and Women jury-room drama. This was the usual stuff about jurors debating and changing votes during deliberations. (Hats off to Tovah Feldshuh, herself in a tomato-sauce red hat, for breaking through the blandness here.)

The real meat of the episode was, of course, outside the courtroom. Christine Baranski’s Diane had a thick plot line reuniting her with the laconic ballistics expert played by guest Gary Cole. It was almost shocking when he and Baranski kissed — not because of the plot’s she’s-a-liberal, he’s-a-conservative tension, but because no other popular network drama gives its middle-aged co-stars so much of a romantic life. (By contrast, Matt Czuchry has seen his Good Wife role shrink to being a quiet helper. Last night, his primary job was to translate the illiterate gurglings of the young woman on trial and transmit her wishes to his betters.)

And then there was Alicia. Alicia, who’s now taking calls at home from Will and sighing breathily that their long-ago university affair is “romantic because it didn’t happen.” This was overheard by Alicia’s daughter, which means Alicia will pay for her honesty in a future episode. (It was an off-week, apparently, for Chris Noth, otherwise I assume he’s the one who’d have been eavesdropping, his house-arrest manacle clicking like a Geiger counter.)

If Diane’s sexcapades with her “Marlboro Man” ended up{C} putting the firm’s murder case in jeopardy, The Good Wife used Archie Panjabi’s Kalinda as its most dashing truth-seeker. “You been a bad girl?” she asked Alicia playfully, reading the guilt on the latter’s face over the Will flirtation. And Panjabi knows how to make a deadpan stare work like a hardboiled detective, as when she cowed a college student into opening a locker simply by giving him a cold, fierce glare in response to his feeble are-you-a-cop? questions. (“I’m Kalinda” could become the title for a spin-off series.)

The Good Wife had all sorts of good ingredients this week. The hour managed to keep Julianna Margulies front-and-center even though he didn’t have much to do with the main trial. And I liked the small details, such as the way one juror cited an episode of CSI: New York to make a point about evidence.

I also enjoyed Will talking about how the case had to tell “a good story” to convince a jury. Talking like a script writer for, say, The Good Wife, he’d say, “There’s a problem with the narrative” and “It’s not a good story” when a problem arose.

Since it started in the jury room, we knew The Good Wife had to end there, and am I the only one who wishes that, after a plea bargain made the jury decision moot, the camera had not panned down to reveal the jury’s verdict? But The Good Wife, led by the terrific performances of Margulies, Josh Charles, Baranski, and Panjabi, gave us a nourishing hour with a little food for thought, and a warm feeling in our hearts and tummies.

Did you watch? What did you think of the episode’s legal case, and the various romantic activities?

Follow @kentucker

Episode Recaps

Closing Arguments

The Good Wife

Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth star in the legal/family drama.

  • TV Show
  • 7
  • 156
  • TV-14
  • Off Air
  • CBS
stream service