April 30, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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The title “Best Drama On Network Television” used to mean a lot more than it does these days (what’s the competition?  Parenthood has lovely moments but also its share of contrivances; Fringe and The Vampire Diaries are terrific niche shows), but for whatever it’s still worth, THE GOOD WIFE continues to own the crown.  
This was, in truth, not the strongest season of Good Wife.  When the show started 3 seasons ago, it had 2 great underlying narrative engines:  the havoc wreaked on Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies)’s life by her husband Peter (Chris Noth)’s sex and corruption scandal, forcing her to go back to work at the firm of Lockhart & Gardner; and the simmering potential romance between Alicia and senior partner Will Gardner (Josh Charles).  In Season 2, the series successfully rolled the first storyline into Peter’s release from prison and campaign for reelection as Illinois State’s Attorney, but here in Season 3, Peter was back in office and his scandal was old news.  Even worse, once Alicia and Will finally got it on, it turned out they weren’t a terrifically exciting screen couple, and showrunners Robert & Michelle King (wisely) broke them up quickly.  Much of this season has been biding its time with interoffice politics at the State’s Attorney’s office–welcome back to Lockhart & Gardner, Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry)!–and many episodes spent on Will’s suspension from the state bar due to some irregularities in his past, not to mention a lot of back-and-forth about just who would repurchase Alicia’s and Peter’s old house. 

That hasn’t kept Good Wife from being addictively entertaining week in and week out, thanks to reliably superb writing and a marvelous cast regularly augmented by the best guest stars on TV (yes, better even than 30 Rock‘s).  But this season, the work it takes to keep the series in forward motion has been showing.  In a show that prides itself on its cleverness, tonight’s season finale, written by Supervising Producer Corinne Brinkerhoff and Co-Producer Meredith Averill, and directed by co-showrunner Robert King, may have been a little too clever for its own good.  There was a hell of a lot going on during the hour, but in the end it felt like less than the sum of its parts.
The episode’s determination to be a Season Finale Event began with the joining-up of Lockhart & Gardner’s most vicious adversaries, Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) and Patti Nyholm (Martha Plimpton), as what they kept self-consciously referring to as a “dream team” (also the episode’s title) and “super posse” as though they were doing their own promos, for what appeared at first to be a killer lawsuit raking up all of Will’s and Peter’s scandals, but turned out to be a distraction while they stole away the firm’s (off-camera) biggest client.  This big revelation wasn’t terribly exciting, and didn’t it seem like with all Canning’s and Nyholm’s brain power, they could have figured out an easier way to steal a client?  (However, as always in Good Wife, the team’s appearances were dotted with delightful details, like Patti’s toddler wandering around the firm’s offices in a tinkling walker, and Canning’s usual ploy of using his illness to provoke sympathy derailed by the week’s judge himself being in a wheelchair.)  
We also got Kalinda’s storyline ramped up into a virtual Bourne Identity sequel, with Kalinda knocking down her walls with a sledgehammer to reveal bags of money and what might have been passports, then deciding not to flee and waiting with a very loaded gun for her yet-to-be-cast ex-husband to come through the door.   And the house-buying plot wouldn’t go away:  the fun of a great Eli (Alan Cumming) vs. Jackie (Mary Beth Peil) confrontation was dampened a bit by Alicia’s realization that Jackie might actually be sinking into dementia. 
The Good Wife chose to go the cliffhanger route with this season’s finale (Kalinda waiting with that gun, the firm on the brink of bankruptcy without its biggest client, Alicia trying to decide whether to go back into the house and implicitly try again with Peter), and with the show already renewed for next season, anyone who cares about the endurance of quality network TV will want to find out what happens next.  The hope, though, is that with Peter running for Governor next season, the series will find a way to recapture its full measure of mojo.  

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."