The Good Wife, “Wrongful Termination”

I couldn’t really bring myself to write about last week’s episode of The Good Wife. Since I watched the first 33 or so episodes in a week-long binge, I can’t really be sure, but I’m mostly confident in making a claim for that to be the worst episode of the series. This is such a good series that even in a poor week with an episode fully confused in what sort of tone or direction it wants to take, things are mostly entertaining, but let’s just go ahead and pretend that episode didn’t really happen. Thankfully, Michael J. Fox and a talking lion phone puppet are here to wash away the sins of that episode!

SERIOUSLY, this is the best thing ever. I know The Good Wife is well-respected for its ability to handle so many different, sprawling stories about politics, social change, etc. at once, but I’m not sure the series understands that it will never be as good as it once in that one 30-second sequence with Titus Welliver’s voice coming from a stuffed lion. There’s really no going back at this point. I will forever remember TALKING LION PHONE.

But for real, this was a really fantastic episode. I am less interested in the Kalinda-Peter bombshell than I am the inner-workings of the firm and the return of Michael J. Fox’s Louis Canning that were highlighted here. I’m a total Michael J. Fox mark, but I think we can all probably agree that he’s fantastic in his role as the antagonistic and manipulative, but still likable and kind of honest Canning. There’s always a danger that recurring characters played by big-name actors and actresses will wear out their welcome at a certain point, but after three episodes, there’s absolutely no indication of that with MJF, at least from my perspective. In fact, I think I would actually say this is the episode that makes best use of Canning. I particularly enjoyed the conversation he and Alicia had in the drive to his home, wherein he tried to sell Alicia on coming to work for him and not-so-subtly pointed out Alicia’s biggest weakness (she’s not only idealistic, she’s unable to separate work ideologies/beliefs from what happens at home).

I’m really interested how the series uses Alicia because there is so much good stuff happening around her that it would be — and in some cases, already has — become easy to let her fade to the background while the flashier, more interesting things take precedent. I want to see more episodes where Alicia’s moral code is screwed with a bit and while I think season two has done a solid job of showing us that she’s actually easily influenced into disobeying her beliefs for Will, there needs to be more of that moving forward. We know Will isn’t pure of heart and if Alicia’s going to strongly consider him as a love interest, she’s going to have to face those  kind of questions. Canning tends to bring those kind of things out in her, both because he’s so good at manipulating the jury that she tends to be more aggressive or out-of-the-box in her thinking and because he tends to be a lot more direct in his questioning to her about personal matters. Part of that is probably because you don’t bring Michael J. Fox on your series and then just have him interact with characters in the court room, but nevertheless, it works. I’m 100 percent positive that MJF couldn’t do it because of his health issues, but I think bringing Canning on as a series regular would actually be a great idea — especially if Alicia took a job with him.*

*Interesting that so many opponents want Alicia to come work for them. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve it or knocking that as a plot device because we in the audience need to believe that Alicia is a good litigator, but at a certain point, it seems like the series needs to actually do something with it. She can’t just stay as a junior associate forever because she may or may not be in love with Will or because she’s scared of any even bigger change now that her life *appears* to be steady. And of all the suitors, I think working for Canning would be the most interesting choice for Alicia. Again, that could just be my Michael J. Fox adoration.

Even though it’s not a particularly big deal, I found this week’s case to be well-crafted and executed, totally separate from the returns of MJF and Denis O’Hare as the most amazing judge of all time. The case itself was compelling and had a number of believable, interesting turns to it that made for an enjoyable hour of procedural-like television. After so many gimmicky cases in recent weeks, it was nice to have a mostly straight-forward one where Alicia, Kalinda, Will and Diane were all working together trying to figure out the perfect class action defense. Like I said, this isn’t necessarily a major check-mark for the episode, but sometimes the little things go a long way.

Finally, while I said I wasn’t particularly found of the Kalinda-Peter story, I did like how “Wrongful Termination” addressed it without letting it swallow the episode (and to be fair, last week’s weak episode mostly did this as well). This is a big narrative bomb waiting to go off, but putting Alicia indirectly into contact with it provided some material for both Marguilies and Alan Cumming. Similarly, Cary’s discrete investigation to protect Kalinda and save his own ass has become one of my favorite parts of the season, for whatever reason. The early part of the season didn’t make Cary out to be a spectacular asshole or anything, but recent episodes have done a very good job of reminding us that he’s actually a pretty damn good guy. He seems both legitimately concerned for Kalinda and sort of upset at her for doing what she did. I’m not totally sure if he’s sympathetic towards Alicia, but there are hints of that.

All in all, good stuff from The Good Wife and certainly much better than last week.

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