Closing Arguments

No one can accuse The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King, who co-wrote this week’s episode, “In Sickness,” of withholding the goods: Alicia Florrick, acting upon the knowledge that her husband, Peter, had slept with her best friend, Kalinda, packed up his belongings, rented an apartment for him, handed him the keys, and chewed him out, all before the show’s opening credits.

It’s also a measure of how much story the series has to tell us, week-in and week-out, that this stuff — and you’d think a wife kicking her husband of the house would pretty much be the high point of any show called The Good Wife — wasn’t even the high point of the hour.

Certainly the wronged-good-wife scene was both inevitable and beautifully played out. Once again, Margulies’ frequently mask-like face invited us into her thoughts rather than keeping us out. She plays Alicia as a woman who’s in a constant state of wariness now, never knowing where the next blow is coming from. Yet this doesn’t come across as anxiety or fear, although of course Alicia is feeling some of those things, too. But mostly, this was a time for righteous anger and a flexing of new muscles — the sinewy strength she’s been developing this season as she becomes more confident of her place outside the home (becoming more central to Lockhart/Gardner) and of her role as the primary protector of her children’s, and her own, happiness.

We knew from last week, which ended with Alicia being clued in to one of her husband’s past indiscretions, that this was going to result in a quick reaction. It was also hastened by timing: In gaining this awful knowledge just as Peter’s election triumph had been achieved, Alicia had to get out in front of the story, so to speak. She felt she had to make her move before the weight of Peter’s new status — with its attendant pressure to present a united family front for public image — had fully taken hold.

But of course there was also the week’s legal case. Here we had {C} the most welcome return of Martha Plimpton’s chatty, mischievous shark Patti Nyholm. I love the performance Plimpton is giving over on Raising Hope, but I have to say, I could easily watch a series built around Patti (The Pregnant Wife?). This week, Patti’s deviousness took an initial twist and then a climactic turn that was immensely enjoyable. Her jousting with Will brought out the best in Josh Charles: He doesn’t get to show us Will’s playful side very often these days, and the notion of making Will so amused and appreciative of Patti’s wiliness is a good one.

Then too, it was satisfying to see John Glover, freed from the long locks he sports on Smallville, playing a different, more demure sort of weasel. As always, the casting on The Good Wife brings us familiar faces stretched into new expressiveness.

The hour did well by its regulars as well. The scene in which Alicia discussed the separation with her children gave Makenzie Vega’s Grace and Graham Phillips’ Zach opportunities to react with subtle anguish, and Mary Beth Pell was superb in conveying that mixture of dismay, fear, anger, and protectiveness that Jackie by now feels not merely for her son but for her grandchildren and, although she would never admit it, Alicia as well. And am I the only viewer who naively thought that Cary’s return to Lockhart/Gardner was a slam-dunk? Things are being set up nicely for Matt Czuchry to use his malevolent murmur for more future guile.

The final acting and writing prizes, however, go to Chris Noth and his reactions to Alicia’s confrontation. The series admirably refuses to back away from the initial profile of Peter as a serial adulterer who lies with the ease of a lawyer. One way that expressed itself this week was the way Peter tried to twist Alicia’s accusation into a counter-attack, suggesting that this was all really about Alicia and Will. A man like Peter doesn’t understand the full sense of betrayal that a woman would feel when she’s been two-timed not only by her husband, but by the close friend as well. The whole Alicia-Kalinda dynamic is alien to him. Thus, in a moment of panic (and Noth’s wide eyes when he was handed the keys to his new apartment displayed a fear of abandonment), he grabbed onto something that might occur to a guy: I may have screwed around, he was thinking, but she wants to do the same thing! Alas, poor Peter, he knows his wife not well enough, even now…

Despite the way CBS promoted this episode, we didn’t get the Alicia-Kalinda showdown glimpsed in the promo. Two more episodes to go this season. I feel as though The Good Wife, more than any network drama this side of Fringe, is capable of giving us a season-ender that will set the show spinning off in new directions. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll relish this week’s episode and wait patiently for the final two.

Twitter: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

Closing Arguments
The Good Wife

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

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