2
Dec
2012
The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 10
Battle of the Proxies
Jordan
Well, Nick Saverese is finally gone, quite possibly dead. I would celebrate this, but in order for that to happen, I'd have to care. His plotline was a mess from the start, a jumbled mix of laughably unintimidating threats and confusing chemistry sold to us as dangerous and magnetic. None of it ever made any sense, it was only ever compelling in a "what the fuck do the writers think they are doing here?" sense, and the conclusion was rushed (to be fair, Robert and Michelle King have openly admitted they wrapped this up earlier than they planned) and nonsensical. The final beat, which gives a theoretical air of mystery to Nick's departure, might have been a nice moment if this whole thing wasn't so far gone long ago.

I could break down how little sense the storyline makes for a while (Nick assaults his own attorney because he saw him talking to his wife and Cary answered the phone in the office Nick knows he shares with Alicia, then, when Cary intimidates him, he threatens Alicia? I have no idea what his endgame was, but that's only because he seemed to just try to shove his weight around without rhyme or reason, and that doesn't work too well when you're as featherweight as he proved to be), but let's just try to put it out of our minds, like a bad dream, or an ice cream cone that isn't sitting too well. I could ponder whether Kalinda killed him, but instead, I'm going to pretend he disappeared in a puff of smoke and fairy dust, a fitting end to the spin-off within the show that was Kalinda's Adventures in Wonderland. This Mad Tea Party is at an end, and the less time I spend thinking about how it got there, the better I will sleep tonight.

The case of the week with fun, if a bit too emotionally manipulative and obvious for my tastes. To get their client in Chicago acquitted, Alicia is sent to the boonies to help the State's Attorney there convict another man accused of the crime. If you're willing to buy that there would be enough jurisdictional in-fighting to charge two men with the same crime (and I am), this could be a lot of fun, and it was for a time. But it went to the most obvious possible place when the Lockhart/Gardner team realizes their client is guilty and wonders if they should keep helping the State's Attorney convict an innocent man. The rest is "zealous representation, blah blah blah, moral quandary boo hoo hoo" until it wraps up in the "heart-string tugging" ending we all saw coming: due to Alicia's help, the State's attorney convicts the innocent man, and the team loses their case anyway. I appreciate The Good Wife's efforts to occasionally remind us that being a lawyer sometimes means doing things for clients that hurt your personal sense of justice, but this was heavy handed at best, and lazily emotionally manipulative if we're being less generous.

The end, with Will pledging to Laura Hellinger (Amanda Peet, back to flirt with him a lot more, in one of the few things on the show that is working for me right now) that the firm will help with the innocent man's appeal was also too neat, wrapping the story up in a nice bow that lets us go to bed (or to watching Homeland) with the knowledge that our heroes may be compromised, but they're still the good guys.

Finally, there's the DOJ's investigation of Eli. Let's put aside the fact that The Good Wife depicts the DOJ as if it has a lot more money and a lot less skill than it does in real life, this development still doesn't make much sense. The only evidence we know the feds have on Eli before they raid him is a photo of him, in his office, speaking to one of his employees. Basically, this is an obvious stall tactic for the show, which is obviously playing for time and hoping Matthew Perry's show about a hapless detective solving crimes with a cartoon octopus (that's what Go On is about, yeah?) gets cancelled so he can come back for the campaign proper. I'm glad the show is stalling with Alan Cumming center stage instead of sidelining him in favor of Maura Tierney (who, as I've made clear, is a fine actress not doing anything for me on this show at this point), but I wish The Good Wife would spend more time making sense and less time hoping to distract us with shiny raids and drugs in trunks.

I fell in love with The Good Wife as a show that was often willing to take a few lines in any given episode to make its story feel legally plausible in ways that few legal procedurals even attempt. It didn't take much to make me happy: the occasional reference to the fact that these cases had been going on for months or years and we were just seeing their resolution, the random reference to actually filing briefs and arguing motions. Sure, it stretched credulity as any legal procedural must, but it felt like it was trying, and I appreciated that. All of that care and attention to detail seems lacking this season, not just in the legal plotting, but in everything around it.

Its the rare episode in which Zack and Grace's plotline is my favorite, but that was the case tonight in a cake walk. Alicia finds a search fill on Chum Hum (the writers are clearly really happy with that fictional corporation) with the absurd phrasing "What are types of condoms?" and goes into super mom mode to make sure her kids don't need some gentle guidance. I complain about Zack and Grace a lot in this space, because they very often annoy me, but I want to take a minute to point out how much better this show deals with its protagonist's kids than many of its superior contemporaries. Breaking Bad is full of great character work, excepting Walt "Pancakes" Jr., who has served no purpose except to make us feel more hate toward Walt, and whose most prominent plotline was making everyone call him "Flynn" for a while. Mad Men has Sally Draper, the most well drawn child character on television, played by Kiernan Shipka, one of the best young actresses I've ever seen. But it also has Bobby, a character played by probably 45 different actors who gets to speak once a season to be like, "Daddy, can I have a fire truck?" If Bobby was never seen again, would most of us even notice? Homeland has Dana, and Morgan Saylor has done great work with some subpar material this season, but it also has Chris, who does karate, likes big screen TVs, and somehow fails to notice his family is falling apart. Basically, it has become a prestige drama format to give our main characters two kids and only make one (usually the daughter) even remotely relevant.

On The Good Wife, both Zack and Grace are real characters, and when they annoy the shit out of me (which happens, on average, once a week), its more because they are being teenagers than because the show is blowing it with them. The show also tends to remind us that Alicia is not just a hyper-competent, dedicated attorney, but also an amazing mother. Frequent readers of this site have seen me struggling with television's failure to depict women who are able to balance work and home life elsewhere, but Alicia is a great lawyer and a great mother. Tonight, she handles the situation near-perfectly, gently pushing her kids and letting them know they can talk to her. And the plotline's button, in which it is revealed that Jackie conducted the search, is the biggest laugh of the night, and a great moment between Alicia and Zack. So credit where it's due, The Good Wife, you nailed this one.

"Battle of the Proxies" was a subpar episode in a stretch of them for The Good Wife. If we're playing "Sports metaphor," I'm not ready to call this a bad season, yet, but the show is definitely in a slump, and even as it wraps its most problematic plotline, it has introduced some troubling new ones that make me think we aren't out of the woods quite yet. Do better, The Good Wife. I'm begging you.

Grade: B-

Notes:

-Hey! Its Becky Ann Baker from Freaks and Geeks. This has been your "hey! Its that person from that thing" for the week.

-Stephen Root is an unorthodox judge on both The Good Wife and Justified. Why stop there, television? More Stephen Root, please.

-"What's wrong?" "Nothing. Why does everyone think something is wrong when I come into their room?" "Who's everyone?" "My children. My various children throughout Chicago." I talk a lot more about my favorite supporting characters, but let's be clear here: I love Alicia.

-"We have to zealously represent the interests of our client. Its our job. We can hate it, but its our job."

-Who, outside of Sesame Street, ever thought a letter 'x' could be so dramatic? Also, really Grace? You Chum Hum'd "sex"? Maybe you do need to have the talk.

-"Zach?" "Yeah?" "We never speak of this again." "I'm good with that."

-Cool cover of "Where Is My Mind?" at the end of the episode. Anyone know who did it?
Tags: The Good Wife
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