21
Apr
2013
The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 21
A More Perfect Union
Jordan
Season four of The Good Wife has been a mixed bag. Its finer hours are all-time greats, but it has been bogged down in more than one plotline that just hasn't work, gone to the gimmick well a few times too many, and started to get sloppier with its approach to the law. "A More Perfect Union" cannily avoided many of the potential pitfalls it seemed to lay out, and ran head on into several others. That makes it a mixed bag episode in a mixed bag season. What was good worked very well for me. What was not was frustrating to no end. Let's spend some time with each.

The case of the week was quite good. I worried, as it began, we were getting another "fish out of water" episode where our heroes are forced to litigate in a forum with different rules and wackiness ensues, but for the most part the NLRB hearing works just like a courtroom, and John Michael Higgins' ALJ is no quirkier than our standard judge on this show, what with his fetish for compromises that mostly just ignore the law entirely and let each side win small concessions regardless of their effect on the larger case. He was fun as the judge, Mamie Gummer was back as Nancy, who is always fun to root against, and Fran Kranz acquitted himself well as our plaintiff (though I wish he'd been given more to do. His time on Dollhouse really made it clear what he's capable of when he is given room to stretch).

To some extent, the plot is a series of small obstacles thrown in Alicia's way, and it all seems like an excuse to vex her for 42 minutes while other plot things happen in the background, but I am always a fan of watching the lawyers on The Good Wife be lawyers, so seeing Alicia (and Cary! Who apparently is allowed to be a lawyer, but only when the storyline takes place outside a courtroom) out-maneuver Nancy was fun enough. I wouldn't, ultimately, call this a strong case of the week, but it served its purpose, never felt ridiculous, and brought enough to the proceedings that I'll happily put this one in the win column for the episode.

What worked less well, for me, was the assistant subplot, which just seemed like yet another example of insurrection in a season full of them. It sometimes feels as if The Good Wife isn't comfortable unless something is scheming to take down Lockhart Gardner, but where previous seasons have had some solid threats (Derek Bond and Will's suspension both worked pretty well for me, even if the former fell apart in the end), season four has struggled. Bankruptcy was interesting, but ultimately couldn't work long term, so the firm beat that and lost Nathan Lane's fitfully compelling trustee in the process. Since then, we've had the rebelling fourth years, Kalinda, and the assistants all making waves for reasons that vary in their credibility from "eh, I guess I can see that" to "what the hell is going on here?" The assistant's demands come from nowhere and then are blown up to such dramatic proportions that the plotline's "sometimes you have to get your hands dirty in management" lesson fell flat for me. David Lee imploding the meeting was impetuous, but not out of character. But would Will and Diane ever actually send David Lee in to negotiate with staff? I'm not sure if its because he is the only other well developed partner character or because this plotline needed to last for a whole episode, but it just didn't make much sense, and left me curious as to its larger purpose.

Then there is Kalinda, who has spent this season pinging from the character who is single-handedly dragging down the show to the character who is present in the room and hasn't actively done anything to hurt my enjoyment of the show yet. Its clear to me, now, that the story with Kalinda's husband was not just a horrible misstep for the writers, but evidence that they are completely out of ideas with Kalinda. Case in point, tonight: Kalinda is agitating for more money and benefits again. Will's reaction mirrored my own (basically, "Didn't we just deal with this?"), but not in a way that made me feel like the writers get how frustrating this is. I do not care how much Kalinda makes. I don't care if its more, I don't care if its less, I don't care if they pay her in ice cream cones that she adds her own distinctive flavoring to. If the show wants me to care about Lockhart Gardner mistreating Kalinda (and she certainly feels mistreated) or the firm undervaluing her, it needs to make it more apparent that she has value. She has spent more time this season complaining about how little anyone appreciates her than she has doing things worth appreciating, and that makes her a hard character to get behind. Its never felt like the show wanted to make Kalinda a more frustrating presence, though. It always feels like they are just out of things for her to do, and hey, maybe she just asks for money again?

I will admit, however, to enjoying the love triangle material as much as ever, though I wish the episode had spent a little more time making Peter viable. The show generally does a great job of balancing Peter's better qualities against Will's, but here, it mostly seemed like Alicia was agreeing to renew her vows because next week is the season finale and this will drum up romantic tension and probably lead to a solid cliffhanger (please, oh please, just let it be a shot for shot remake of the final scene of The Graduate, or, even better, a shot for shot remake of the Wayne's World 2 parody of the final scene from The Graduate). Owen seems not at all convinced by his visit with Peter, to the point that I expected him to let Peter have it before leaving, but a few scenes later, he is jockeying for Alicia to recommit to him. This feels weird, since Owen is usually on Team Will, and since I sincerely doubt that Peter basically saying "I want you to like me so you'll say nice things about me to my wife" would really turn Owen around.

But the flaws here are mostly papered over by Veronica's speech to Will, which is the sort of thing that will always make me happy, even if it comes mostly out of nowhere. She tells Will he has one last chance to win Alicia over, and as a fan of rom coms, I get swept up enough in the idea to overlook some of the obvious flaws in the plotting that got us there, and to get excited about the potential for something to actually happen next week (though really, it probably won't). Either way, "A More Perfect Union" had its ups and downs, but it certainly primed me for a solid finale. Here's hoping The Good Wife delivers.

Grade: B

Notes:

-"Tell her 'hi' for me." David Lee, just bein' creepy.

-"You are really amazing, you know that?" "I do know that."

-"We don't want you to lie. We want you to tell the helpful truth."

-"How to split that baby?" "By...not..."

-"I can buy cigarettes." "And porn." "Oh good, a healthy conversation."

-Alicia's descriptor when she is being interviewed is "Politician's Wife/Lawyer/Mother." That is both an idiotic description and an offensive one.

-"Do you love my daughter? Because if you do, its time to stop being polite about it."

-"You bought off the ringleaders." "We handled the problem in a way that protected us and satisfied them." "Its what management does."
Tags: The Good Wife
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