The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 17
Invitation to an Inquest
Every once in a while, The Good Wife likes to do a "fish out of water episode," in which our heroes are forced to litigate in a forum in which they are not familiar. Our guys don't know the rules of the game, and hilarity ensues as they try to figure them out. We've seen this with the various adventures in military court, and in things like the episode with the athletic appeal earlier this year. Generally I am a fan of these adventures in alternative legal forums, but "Invitation to an Inquest" fits into this subgenre in some very strange and ultimately only somewhat satisfying ways.

This isn't to say the episode isn't fun, as it often is a good time. But the new forum (a Coroner's Inquest, presided over by the Medical Examiner, played by an under-utilized Rene Auberjonois) did not provide the fun gimmicks and legal gymnastics these episodes usually trade in. The only real trick here was that the attorney's were limited to three questions per witness, and the only thing that lead to was a series of comically long run-on sentences.

The episode also tries to make much out of the mystery surrounding the judge's death, only to fail to have any satisfactory resolution. This is actually a problem I am seeing more as The Good Wife gets longer in the tooth--the show throws in a lot of twists and turns to pad its cases of the week out to episode-length, but they are less often satisfactory and have an increasing tendency to feel forced. The judge was in a car accident--NO! He committed suicide--NO! He was having an affair and was murdered by a jealous mistress--NO! He was murdered by his jealous wife--NO! He was just forced off the road by some drunk driver. A lot of these twists felt a little constructed, and when the final resolution is perhaps the least exciting, it tends to undercut the drama the episode has been building up. I'm not saying every episode of the show needs to go with some manic, over the top twist to be effective, and in fact I would like it less were this the case. But this episode just felt like it threw a lot of obstacles in our faces to distract from the fact that the story it was telling wasn't that interesting, and certainly wasn't strong enough to be an A story.

This could have been spice up by the personal drama the show feigned toward, with Will joining Alicia on the case for basically no reason except to remind us that their sexual tension is still a thing. But this, too, goes nowhere, or at least not wnough of a somewhere to qualify as more than an aside. They profess a return to friendship, but then Alicia doesn't get on an elevator with him (a smart move, seeing as elevators are The Good Wife equivalent of seedy motels. Seriously, has any show ever done as much for the sex-appeal of vertical in-building transportation as this one?), and that's basically it. More as this story develops, I guess?

Also there's a lot of Kalinda and Robin working together, and Kalinda pulls her "I'm all smoky and mysterious" routine with the trucker guy, but this all feels inconsequential to the point that, by epsiode's end, it isn't even clear these two have done anything of worth for the case. If any of the other theories had panned out, they might have been helpful, but as it stands, Alicia probably could have stumbled upon the DUI arrest in some other way and I wouldn't have shrugged. Or Kalinda could have rushed in at the last second with this magic black box revelation that wrapped things up. It felt like more padding in an episode that wasn't lacking for filler.

Then Cary's dad (John Shea) comes back, throwing Cary a client for the clear purpose of out-muscling his son and getting exactly what he wants. But Cary, once again, out-thinks and out-maneuvers his dad, going to the CEO directly when a problem arises and saving the day without having to bend to his father's will. This wasn't particularly more substantial than the rest of the plotlines, but it worked better for me for a few reasons. For one thing, I enjoy when the show figures out what to do with Cary, a great character often treated like a problem character (a la Ann Perkins from Parks and Rec, a character that show really doesn't know what to do with), and this episode knew how to use him. It also built on what had come before in a way that made it feel more substantial. Cary's problematic relationship with his slimy father is interesting to me, and I enjoy the show forcing Cary to contend with the ways he and his dad are similar when he has to out wit him. It also emphasizes their differences, though. Cary is hurt by having to play these games with his dad; his father simply sees his son as a means to an end.

On the political side, Eli outmaneuvers Jordan so easily, its almost not even fun. TR Knight didn't ever really click as part of this ensemble, nor did he even coalesce as an antagonist. He was just there for a little while, and now it looks like he will not be around anymore. So ok, I guess. Maura Tierney's Maddie has similarly just sort of faded away quietly, and Matthew Perry is still over on Go On, presumably trying to help people overcome their debilitating speech impediments (that's what that show is about, right?), so it is unclear how much of him we will get to see as this season progresses. This puts the political side of the show in an increasingly awkward position, as things have to progress but are stymied by circumstances outside the show's control.

On the whole, "Invitation to an Inquest" feels like a filler episode. None of the plot lines amount to much, all of them feel padded beyond any foreseeable need, and this mostly feels like an episode of the show that exists more to fill an episode order than to actually advance any of the stories. But this is the nature of the beast on network TV, and I can't fault the show for having a few of these in a 22 episode season. As filler goes, "Invitation to an Inquest is perfectly satisfactory, but as an episode of The Good Wife, it leaves a bit to be desired. We'll get 'em next week, guys.

Grade: B-


-Hey guys, remember Zack? Oh. You do? Remember Zack's girlfriend? Me either. RIP Nyssa. Good night, sweet princess.
Tags: The Good Wife
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