28
Oct
2012
The Good Wife: Season 4, Episode 5
Waiting for the Knock
Jordan
Lemond Bishop is a character who holds a potentially interesting place within the narrative of The Good Wife, though one perhaps even the writers have overlooked. Bishop is a quietly intimidating man with a seriously dark past that isn't even a little bit secret, but he's also a skilled businessman looking for legal help as he tries to get his ducks in a row to become completely legitimate. What I think the show has missed, of yet anyway, is the clear line they can draw between the fact that Bishop's past stands in the way of his future just as Peter's prior indiscretions scheme to keep him from achieving what he wants both politically and personally. The past never goes away entirely on The Good Wife, but it is more of an irritant in "Waiting for the Knock" than the portent that forbidding title implies.

At heart, the episode is about a fairly salient legal dilemma for Alicia. Taking place over the course of one day, as it becomes increasingly inevitable that Bishop will be arrested, the episode sets itself up to be about the conflict at the center of every Bishop story: the struggle for the firm between zealous advocacy on behalf of their client and defense of a criminal with blood on his hands and the possibility of more on the way. This is never stronger than in the moment when Alicia struggles with whether to tell Bishop the Feds are on their way with a search warrant. If she tells him, she can be reasonably certain he will destroy evidence; if she doesn't, she is letting her client down when he most needs her help. This is a fascinating conundrum that could have driven a much tighter, and better, episode of the show. Instead, "Waiting for the Knock" gets bogged down in various subplots and an overly sappy story about how Bishop loves his son a lot. Its less interesting than the ethical dilemma it eschews, and its lazy to boot.

The "client sees Alicia as motherly" story isn't exactly new, and it isn't done particularly well here. Sure, Bishop's son is cute, but there are a lot of cute kids out there, and at this point the "cute kid makes things sad" gamble only works if done very adeptly. Here, its mostly Bishop being sad about leaving his son, which is relatable, but not shocking or fascinating. The show seems to think the fact that the father loves his son will make the whole thing heartbreaking, and it is sad, a little bit, but mostly its just predictable, and it gives Julianna Margulies very little to do except distract a young kid for 45 minutes.

Another potentially fun plot line that went largely nowhere was Will's attempt to poach the illegitimate side of Bishop's empire, a $20 million a year account, from Annabella Sciorra. Again, there could have been interesting ethical questions here, but instead it was quickly determined that $20 million is a good idea for the bankrupt Lockhart Gardner, and so Carrie and Kalinda were off, doing things that mattered in theory but mostly existed for two purposes: to help us understand why a dead woman was in the trunk of a car (a fact that, considering we know Bishop is shady, is ultimately fairly irrelevant) and to remind us that Clarke is amazing. He uses his super accountant brain to uncover some of the untoward aspects of the Bishop empire, and he loves it. Nathan Lane plays the hell out of the character, from his fuddy-duddy aspects in the opening moments to his killer instincts when talking to Bishop's lackeys, and finally, to his quiet, sad, and heartwarming admission that he liked being helpful and wanted to do more. Lane is great, and Clarke is becoming a favorite character. I hope to see more of him, and hopefully in stories that are less shoddily put together.

Over in Two Girls, a Guy, and a Time Suck, Kalinda pretends she and Lana have no history, pissing off the incredibly tolerant Lana in some misguided way to protect her that makes absolutely no sense. For one thing, Nick already broke into Lana's place. For another, it isn't like he is there to see her shutting Lana down. The show tried to humanize Nick this week (see, but he loves Kalinda or something) but it didn't work. At this point, I'm only half watching when Nick is on the screen, and the best thing I can say about this is there is an end in sight. Creators and showrunners Robert and Michelle King have admitted this story isn't working and announced they are wrapping it up sooner than expected, and that can't be soon enough for me. I hope Nick is boiled alive and Kalinda spends her subplots for the rest of the season drinking Earl Grey and knitting quietly in a room without any ice cream (but maybe with something relevant to investigate?).

Over on the political side of things, Peter wins the straw poll by a shocking 96%, but his campaign is ultimately damaged by the blog post about his non-existent affair. Maddie's decision to stop supporting Peter really doesn't make much sense other than as a plot machination, which means it only matters if it takes her story somewhere interesting. I get that she's a super feminist who feels like her face is being rubbed in an alleged affair by a man she has stood beside, but really, what's her alternative at this point? Peter will get the Democratic nomination, and I seriously doubt Maddie is going to get any traction with Matthew Perry's Republican, who probably believes in uterus fairies that control pregnancy or vaginal centaurs that can stop rape (that's the GOP platform at this point, right?). Sure, it sucks there's no woman for her to support, and yes, it looks bad for Peter to have another sex scandal looming, but she's thrown her support behind him already, and he's really her best bet right now. Plus, I'd like to think she supported him in part because she trusted him, at least a little, and this scandal is so obviously trumped up out of lies that she could be convinced in 30 seconds. But she refuses, for reasons that aren't clear yet except that they are necessary for the plot. Again, its a little messier and lazier than the show I love.

Look, I'm reasonably certain Maddie is going to challenge Peter for the nomination, or at least find a woman to get in the race. I think Maura Tierney is a good actress, and this could be a fun plot line, but this is a really sloppy way to get us there, and I'm not sure that anything building to it has been worth the silliness and lack of logic that have lead us to this point.

"Waiting for the Knock" is an episode that never settles in comfortably to its case of the week or its serialized plot lines, which means everything feels lazy, underdone, and sort of shoehorned in. There is no larger story to this episode. Things happen, mostly because they need to for the next development to happen, and its not clear that this episode is anything more than a writer's room idea cloaking some basic piece setting for future weeks. The fall of Lemond Bishop could have anchored its own very good episode of the show. Many of these plot points could have been interesting or at least neater than they were here. Hopefully all of this will pay off next week.

Grade: B-

Notes:

-"Check the footnotes. That's where accountants dispose of mistakes."

-"I thought that was a joke." "Why would I joke?"

-"What are you standing there for?"-Eli Gold, to a child

-"These things die on their own." Famous last words in politics.

-"I enjoyed it. Helping." Clarke is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, if all of the quotes here don't make that clear.

-Those closing moments were beautifully devastating. If the rest of the plot had earned that weepy ending, this would have been one for the ages.

-Uh oh. Guest star glut next week. Sweeps are upon us. It could be amazing, or it could be overstuffed. Only time will tell.
Tags: The Good Wife
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