22
Oct
2012
The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 4
Don't Haze Me, Bro
Jordan
If Diane Lockhart isn't high on your list of favorite characters on The Good Wife, you and I should have a conversation. Played spectacularly by Christine Baranski, Diane is brilliant, gorgeous, and witty. She is a hyper-competent attorney, successful by any metric, and portrayed without any of the problematic shading that sometimes plagues the other strong women on the show. Diane is what every person on The Good Wife should aspire to be, and if the scene where she visits the now abandoned 27th floor and returns to the office, vigor renewed, didn't pump you up for what a Lockhart Gardner with nothing to lose will look like, then season four of the show may not have much to offer you. "Don't Haze Me Bro" was full of small, wonderful moments from Diane, and with Kalinda and Sex and the City but no Cosmos or shoes that aren't knee high taking the week off so Kalinda can do her real job (and the one we actually care about seeing), well, this was always going to be a fun episode.

The episode opens with a flashy return for Jackie Florrick, one of the show's ace schemers, albeit an incredibly annoying one. Jackie is a character who toes, and often crosses, the line between political scheming and mustache twirling, which means that she sometimes comes off as the Angela Landsbury to Peter's Laurence Harvey, and sometimes comes off like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. This inconsistent characterization has always been problematic, but tonight Jackie begins the episode believing she is in top form, and ends it discovering that her stroke may have more permanent effects than she previously realized.

Jackie quickly gets back to her old ways, ignoring the advice of everyone and trying to help Peter as she sees fit, even if her solutions are the exact opposite of what anyone with a shrewd political mind would want. She gives a speech to seniors about how women have always chased Peter that is perhaps the last thing anyone associated with a gubernatorial candidate with infidelities in his past would want said. This leads to a nice freak out from Eli (I can always use more of these), but mostly it seems like the inept side of Jackie creeping back into the spotlight.

Until those terrible CGI bugs show up, throwing off her speech at a place so dingy I wasn't sure the bugs were supposed to be fake until they disappeared. Jackie Florrick has been a problematic presence on the show for a while, but after Alicia developed an increased willingness to shut her down, and Peter showed he would stand up to her when she crossed the line, she has mostly become a tragicomic figure. I guess giving her Bug-Vision (which sounds like the sort of gimmick Nickelodeon would have done in the mid-'90s) is in line with that, though in this first outing, it feels a bit over the top. If the show can tie it in to a larger story about Jackie's longer road to recovery, it will be all well and good, but I hope this doesn't become Jackie in Bugland, a weirder, but no less horrible, distracting show within a show.

The case of the week lacked the legal pizazz of last week's, but it featured Diane facing off against some sort of half-lion attorney (the very capable John Glover. But seriously, how has no one mentioned that guy's hair choices to him?) over the hazing death of a water polo player. The victim's fellow player has already been convicted of killing him, but Diane represents the parents in an effort to sue the University for its complicity in their son's death. Her opponent comes up with the interesting theory that the death was a hate crime, but that quickly becomes unlikely, and then increasingly ridiculous, with a judge only allowing it as some sort of overblown cover for his own insecurities.

Compared to the last few weeks, "Don't Haze Me, Bro" is a lighter week. It isn't as busy as "Two Girls, One Code," which has its positives and negatives. The Good Wife always has a lot going on, and is never better than when it is humming along or bringing some of its many storylines to a head, but this slightly slower episode gives us a chance for some character moments with people who haven't had enough to do yet. Obviously, Diane is spotlighted here, but Eli also gets more to do, and Cary is actually allowed to speak and contribute, which is a nice change of pace. He and Alicia are sharing an office, due to the firm's current austerity, and while this leads to a lot of "everyone talking at once" gags that are cute, its mostly just fun to see him getting something to do after a slew of episodes where he may as well have been an extra.

There were a few low-lights tonight, though. First, The Good Wife's distaste for online media reared its ugly head again tonight as an evil blogger (whose blog name has "Anarchy" in it, in case you weren't sure he was terrible) decides to publish the completely ridiculous and obviously made up campaign sex scandal. I do not look forward to this story line next week, unless its just 45 minutes of Eli yelling into a phone (hey, a guy can dream, right?). Then there was the return of Maura Tierney's Maddie, who seems at this (admittedly early) stage to embody some of the show's problematic portrayals of strong, powerful women. The Good Wife is a show that should be lauded for its portrayal of a variety of strong, hyper-competent, successful women. Yet, as we've discussed previously, it also tends to introduce these women as fairly one-note stereotypes. Maddie is, so far, a lonely rich lady who has sacrificed her personal happiness for professional success, which is a simplistic and slightly insulting portrayal of professional women. I dislike this side of the show, but I also recognize that it tends to be temporary, a sign of the show stumbling out of the gate in a race it tends to eventually win. Alicia and Diane have become well-formed characters whose decisions make sense, and who aren't portrayed as having given up on their personal lives to find professional success. And Kalinda, too, became more than a caricature for a period of the show, even if now she's some weird mutant archetype of a femme fatale more than a living, breathing character. I still hope the show fixes Kalinda, and I have faith that Maddie will eventually become less stereotypical, but for the moment, it irks me to see a show that usually does well by its women throwing the capable Maura Tierney into such a regressive cliche.

All in all, "Don't Haze Me, Bro" was a mediocre episode of the show, elevated by the lively, downright sexy performance by Christine Baranski. Some of you may enjoy Kalinda's ice cream shenanigans, but for me, Diane kicking ass in the courtroom, then kicking off her shoes and sighing "I like the law" is the height of sexiness. With a solid case of the week, some fun Eli moments and an actual speaking role for Cary, this was an episode that gave me enough to walk away satisfied, even if I did have some minor reservations.

Grade: B+

Notes:

-Ugh. "Don't Haze Me, Bro" is another terrible pun of a title. Can we not do this, The Good Wife? I will have trouble arguing for your best episodes to be on a list of great television episodes if their titles are so cloying and terrible. I expect better.

-"I could kiss you." "Well that would give them something to write about."

-"Eli would like to talk to you. I'm supposed to tackle you if you say no."

-"At some point you'll realize I'm trying to save you from yourself."

-"Take what you can get, Eli."

-Alicia trying to say Pedro Almodovar while a few drinks in was funny.

-Somehow, Christine Baranski manages to pull off the usually annoying "I'll withdraw" moments. Also, can we just take another moment to appreciate her, "I like the law"? Yeah, she had a good week.

-All of the confusion caused by the office sharing was funny.

-"This isn't about a hate crime. This is about liability!" Way to stop being set dressing, Cary!

-Oh man. Lamont Bishop is back next week.
Tags: The Good Wife
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