The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 19
The Wheels of Justice
I love Dylan Baker. I think he's a great actor across the board, he's capable of a deceptively wide range, and he manages to bring the exact right flavor to his portrayal of Colin Sweeney every time the character shows up. To my mind, it would be exceedingly easy to have a character as over the top as Sweeney go off the rails, especially on a show like The Good Wife, which tends toward slightly more grounded storytelling (Sweeney would have felt run-of-the-mill on Boston Legal, where Betty White managed to kill people with cookery like four times). But Baker keeps Sweeney compelling, even as his schtick always threatens to wear thin on his next outing. If your mileage varies on the Colin Sweeney front (and this is the sort of thing I wouldn't bother to quibble with you about), you may have liked "The Wheels of Justice" less than I did, though I think this episode had enough else going on that even Sweeney detractors should have had a good time. But for me, this was a delightful hour of television.

The gimmick of the episode, that the Lockhart Gardner team needs to get the case to deliberations before an Illinois Supreme Court case is handed down that would expose Sweeney to life in prison, is a fine one, though perhaps not as effective as the show thinks. I always give it credit for including lines of dialogue indicating that the firm doesn't resolve cases within a few days, but the nature of a legal procedural like this is that it still usually feels like they are dispensing with each case quite quickly. We usually spend one episode on any particular legal question, and we spent one episode on this one. So for all the characters feigning stress and lack of preparation, this mostly felt like any other case. Except, you know, the part where Morena Baccarin says "anal" and gleefully perjures herself on the stand.

These moments worked for me, as all of Sweeney's "I am pervy and I love that about myself" bits tend to, but I will admit they sometimes feel dropped in from a zanier show (again, I think of Boston Legal more in Dylan Baker episodes than usual. I quite liked that show, but there is no question in my mind that this one is far better), as does his assertion that he likes Lockhart Gardner because everyone is always sleeping together. Its a funny throw away line, but again, The Good Wife doesn't usually focus on the sexual antics of its core characters, so the line felt like something that would be more fitting over on, say, Grey's Anatomy. I mean, yes, Will and Alicia have been together in the past, and Cary and Kalinda are probably sleeping together now, but there is no way Sweeney knows those things, and neither of those pairings have really come from an "evening soap" approach to storytelling the way his character implies. So yeah, I can quibble here and there, but the moment made me laugh (as did plenty of things Baker and Baccarin were doing), and the quibble is a slight one, so I tend to lean on the side of letting it slide.

We do get another Alicia fantasy sequence about Will here, and its a little obvious, though they aren't having sex while playing the parachute game this time around. Mostly this episode just felt like the writers shrugging and saying "Well, Josh Charles and Amanda Peet don't pop the way we want them to, so, uh, they're done now." Scenes from the next episode lead me to believe this is plate clearing for an Alicia and Will reunion, which is fine by me. I don't think the Laura-Will subplot has been handled well, but I am more interested in the Alicia-Will-Peter triangle anyway, so if the show wants to get back to that, I say power to them. The Good Wife has created one of the great romantic triangles in recent memory with those three, and I am perfectly fine with it leaning on that going into the season's end game.

As if Colin Sweeney and Will-Alicia stuff isn't enough romantic and sexual tension/release for one episode, we also get the return of Gary Cole as Kurt McVeigh, one of the show's many "ace-in-the-hole" recurring characters who improves an episode by his simple presence. The rushed trial means the firm doesn't have time to find a ballistics expert, so they go to McVeigh (why they wouldn't always do this is beyond me. I know he only represents innocent defendants, in a cute moral quirk, but Alicia has made clear she thinks Sweeney is innocent here, and McVeigh is obviously a genius, so I feel like he already should have been on the case), and he and Diane immediately return to smoldering at each other. Christine Baranski is phenomenally good as Diane Lockhart, and one of the beats she always nails is the feeling that Diane has given up a lot to get where she is, a feeling that is always brought to the forefront in episodes featuring Kurt. The show plays with it even more explicitly tonight, as Diane has Kalinda look into her in the lead up to her potential nomination to the State Supreme Court, and finds that her relationship with Kurt might cause her career trouble. At this point in her life, though, Diane doesn't care, and what begins as an apparently accidental proposal quickly becomes a momentous shift in her priorities. Diane wants to marry Kurt, consequences be damned. Diane and Kurt have always been a great pairing, and Baranski and Cole have amazing chemistry, so I hope this storyline stays at the forefront in the coming weeks. If The Good Wife season five had Gary Cole in its main cast, I would not complain, is all I'm saying.

Basically, "The Wheels of Justice" is a whipped cream episode of The Good Wife. There isn't a whole lot of substance to anything that happens, and whenever there is a hint of substance, its mostly in the form of plate setting for big developments presumably soon to come. But its a light, frothy, deliciously fun hour of television, mixing various elements and plotlines pretty well and delivering a lot of laughs, as well as some emotional climaxes. I enjoyed the hell out of Baker and Baccarin's interplay throughout, but I especially loved the sweet emotional button, which had Sweeney admitting he was going to marry her even though she was probably scheming to rip him off, because he loved her (and also because he could always kill her later). And its hard not to well up at the idea of Diane Lockhart finding love and finally getting her man. This show has a bona fide treasure in Baranski, and whenever it gives her room to breathe, she knocks it out of the park. I hope that choosing Kurt means she stays at the firm (the show could work with her elsewhere, like it did when Cary was an ASA, but tell me you wouldn't miss scenes of Diane and Will drinking and celebrating some victory), and I hope it means we get a lot more of Gary Cole. "The Wheels of Justice" was a feather-light episode of the show, but it had a lot of heart packed into its airy runtime, meaning I had a lot of fun and felt a lot of feelings as well. If the show is going to do filler episodes (and with a network-size order of episodes each year, it has to), I just wish they could all be this good.

Grade: A-


-"You're right. Its not as much fun when you believe me."

-"The question is, if I marry him, will he kill me?"

-"That's why I love this place. Everybody sleeps with everybody."

-"Elena and Damon have sex in a pick up truck." "I'm...happy for them."

-"And what were you doing there?" "Anal." "Well, I think that's clear."

-"People are always more than one thing, Diane."

-"Would it be too ironic to ask you to shoot me?"

-"Good. I like this new way to conduct trials."

-The scenes from the next episode also seem to imply the Governor's race is over. I know the show couldn't get Matthew Perry much because of his commitment to Go On, but it still feels really weird to have the primary last for virtually the entire season and the general election cycle last for like three episodes. If this is in fact what the show did, I think it is a mistake, even if I still find it hard to blame them for casting problems that were ultimately out of their control.
Tags: The Good Wife
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