The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 13
The Seven Day Rule
Say what you will about The Good Wife, but this show nails its midseason turning points. Last year's best episode of the show was "Another Ham Sandwich," which closed off the Grand Jury investigation into Will and prepped the show to turn a corner in the back half of its third season. And while season four has been rockier than that one, "The Seven Day Rule" serves a similar purpose for this season. It may not reach the heights of "Another Ham Sandwich" (an all-time great episode of the show, I think), but its the best episode of The Good Wife in a while, capping off some of the major elements of the bankruptcy plotline, moving Alicia's career and the political plotline forward, and being a lot of fun while doing it.

My first reaction to Alicia being offered a partnership was annoyance, honestly. As a law student myself, and someone who plans to work in a law firm after I graduate, I know a thing or two about how they work, and I know that NO ONE is making partner in four years. The standard partnership tracks these days are eight to twelve, and it felt to me like the show was skirting reality to give us some new story directions in a way that belies its general commitment to being realistic in its examination of law firm life. But as the episode went on and it became clear Will and Diane were using partnership offers to issue capital calls as one way of paying down their debt, it became plausible enough to me that I was willing to go for it. And as the episode's closing moments make clear, this will open up a lot of possible storylines for the show. The scene between Diane and Alicia, where Diane quietly, politely makes clear that Alicia is making a political mistake by working through the firm's party is an awesome one, and I hope the show does more with the idea of Diane as Alicia's stern mentor into the life of Equity Partnership.

That closing scene is an example of what The Good Wife does well, and its something we haven't seen too much of lately. This is a cynical show, but its not a nihilistic one. Its smart about how political the law, and life, can be, and its smart about the compromises we make, and the ones we might shouldn't. Alicia is wrong to pout in her office, but its not like she's not also right to feel slighted by Will and Diane's deceit. She should feel ecstatic about the partnership offer; its insanely early, and she will make a TON more money now. But she should also be concerned that the capital call (which isn't unusual for an equity partner) and the other partnerships were concealed with her. She's getting in bed with these people, after all, and they didn't have the decency to tell her all of the truth of what that meant up front. Alicia's completely artificial parade through the partners is a complicated moment, handled well. Its a bit depressing, as we know its all an act (Diane's gracious acceptance of the thanks she just told Alicia to give her is excellent), but also a bit triumphant. Our girl is moving up in the world, and its impossible not to be excited about that. Plus, she's got that get out of jail free card from Louis Canning.

I know it is unlikely that the show would ever chuck out Lockhart Gardner or even reduce the role of all the characters there, and I don't want it to, but I would love to see Alicia work for Louis Canning for a while (in the very unlikely event that the show could get Fox to agree to be a regular for a stretch). The two have a very complex relationship, and watching Alicia's integrity clash with Louis' sliminess would make for great television. It would remind me of the final season of Angel, where that show's heroes attempted to do battle against their greatest foes, the law firm of Wolfram and Hart, from within the belly of the beast by agreeing to take over the firm's L.A. offices. It was a huge overhaul of that show's premise, and it resulted in arguably its best season. Again, I am not advocating for this to happen to The Good Wife (nor do I think it is even remotely possible), but it would probably make for some pretty great television nevertheless.

But the rest of this episode was solid, solid TV as well. Its always a pleasure to have David Lee involved in the proceedings, and the ChumHum prenup was a darkly comic blast. I was worried in the opening scene that I had accidentally Tivoed a rerun, but once it became clear the show was just messing with me, it settled down into a really fun case-of-the-week. I couldn't have cared less about the prenup, but watching David, Cary, and Alicia emotionally manipulate and, failing that, openly extort to get what they wanted was fun. This was a cynical episode for the show all over the board, but it wears cynicism well, especially when it has David Lee as its charming, snarling mascot.

And oh, the glory that was the political poltline this week. Footage of Maddie not praying in church has surfaced, which has Eli and Jordan (he still has my name, guys!) scrambling to figure out whether Alicia believes in God. Fiercely protective of her privacy as always, Alicia isn't quick to admit it, but she is an atheist as well. Eli bargains her down to agnosticism for public purposes, and eventually she is glibly (seemingly) resigned to pretending to believe in God for the campaign. Until she is asked and, with a huge smile, immediately admits to being an atheist. This was a huge laugh line for me, and also, a glorious reminder of how badass Alicia can be when she puts her mind to it. In an episode that forced many characters, including Alicia herself, to put on an act and lie their way through testimony, prenup negotiations, and office parties, it was refreshing to watch Alicia refuse to toe the party line. If only we had been able to watch Eli explode afterwards, this may have been one for the ages.

Finally, we should talk about Clarke, whose storyline seemed to get closure tonight (though hopefully we will see him again). The episode very nicely returned him to the gray area I preferred him to occupy while also making clear just how uncomfortable he is there. It also gave him some great moments, where he refuses a devil's bargain with Canning and testifies to that fact in court, and where he speaks with Cary about how maybe he isn't cut out for the law after all. Nathan Lane has been great in the role throughout, even when the material made him do some things that did not fit his character, but when the show actively gave him good stuff, he made it sing. Please bring Clarke back, The Good Wife, and please do it soon.

Overall, "The Seven Day Rule" was a great episode for the show. Every plotline worked, there was thematic coherence throughout, the show waded into the cynicism I've been missing, and the whole thing was a lot of fun to boot. We closed the door on some unrewarding subplots quite nicely, and opened the door on some promising new ones at the same time. If this was season four's version of "Another Ham Sandwich," it gives me high hopes that the show is back on track, and has me looking forward to the rest of this season, far more optimistic than I was a few weeks ago that The Good Wife is moving past its missteps and toward a future that looks brighter again.

Grade: A-


-"I did go to the track, by the way." "I went windsurfing. Unsuccessfully."

-"We? When did we become a we?"

-"What do you plan to do afterwards?" "I intend to practice the law." "We should talk."

-"I believe your father was politely Anglican, and your mother was politely nothing."

-"That's almost a belief in God..." "How is that almost a belief? I have a husband who believes in God, and a daughter who believes in God..." "What about Zack?" "I don't know. But I don't." "But you could believe in God." "But I don't."

-"So Diane and Will negotiated in good faith, Cary is as deserving as I am, and God exists. Ok. I'm good." "Yeah, I don't know what that was about. But yes."

-"I think my wife can speak for herself." "I'm an atheist."

-"I don't like mess. I like precision. And this. This is mess. And I don't know how to handle it."

-"I've come to not like the law. It's not very precise." "It can be. It depends on where you practice it."

-"Extortion? Not even you would stoop that low." "Sure I would."

-"The vultures in Real Estate are hoovering up all the shrimp."

-"You know the best thing about Monopoly? The get out of jail free card. I used to love hoarding that card, because you never know..." "Mr. Canning, please. I hate these stories. Whatever it is you need to say, just say it. I don't need the stories." "This is your get out of jail free card."

-"When the door that you've been knocking at swings open, you don't question it. You run through."
Tags: The Good Wife
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