SPOILERS FOR THE GOOD WIFE up to S07e16
The current season of The Good Wife will likely be the last and I’m going to miss it. Personally I’d like to see a Good Wife spin off called Lockhart and Associates, because who remembers the name of that law firm except for Diane Lockhart anyway, centred around Christine Baranski as Named Partner, keeping Cush Jumbo as junior associate Lucca Quin and bringing back Archie Panjabi as investigator Kalinda Sharma. There aren’t enough female dominated TV shows, although I love Lena Dunham’s Girls and Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black, and the women have been one of the best parts of Good Wife since the start.
I was introduced to it in early 2015 and binge watched it immediately so that I saw seasons 6 and 7 as they came out. It’s had moments of real brilliance and also terrible lows. What annoys me about it even when I love it is missed opportunities and under used characters.
I loathed Chris Noth in Sex and the City but he was excellent as slippery political machinator and lovecheat Governor Peter Florrick and in early seasons he and Julianna Margolis’s Alicia Florrick had a fascinating dynamic. She was standing-by-her man, desperate for a job to bring in some money after being out of the workforce for over a decade but far too busy for Peter’s clawing himself back into power and his demands for her forgiveness and her emotional energy. But although Peter was a schemer and a manipulator, that Florricks had a connection and a relationship which was a lot deeper and meaningful than the casual hook-ups Noth had as ‘Mr Big’ with Sarah Michelle Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw. I would have liked to have seen more of Peter Florrick but he seemed to move further away from the core narrative as the series developed and something of that defining relationship after which the show was named was lost as he receded further into the background. It seemed to happen almost between episodes that one of the Florricks’ endless rows proved the final one and they barely interacted afterwards.
I think another mistake was to bring Alicia on to the political stage. If Peter had continued as a major character he could have occupied that space and the series could have continued to explore more of the tension between Alicia’s role as wife of a ‘great man’ and an independent professional entity – a Cherie Booth story if Cherie had continued to work during her Downing Street tenure. But as Peter moved down set, Alicia occupied the political ground and moved further away from the law firm and that left Lockhart and Associates in the shadows as the show’s camera moved with Alicia and she was never at work. Seasons five and six concentrated on arc plot to the detriment of the ripped from the headlines law drama of the week approach that had been the strength of the early seasons.
I think the writers are deliberately moving towards a point at the end of season seven which leaves everyone more or less back where they started. Diana Lockhart spending more time scheming how to cement her power than actually working but still head of a successful partnership, Alicia working out what kind of lawyer she wants to be, and Peter Florrick back in prison as the misdeeds that have been following him from the start finally catch up. That’s fine as far as it goes – but it means it was a pity to move the focus away from Peter en route.
Also lost on the way was a truly great character in soft-spoken badass Kalinda. It’s quite clear that Margolis had a problem with Sharma and a great girl buddy relationship was lost there. There was the subtext that Kalinda was quietly crushing on Alicia with the complication of their mutual history with Peter and different moral codes. The shambles of their final scene together in which the two actresses weren’t even filmed in the same room was just depressing – although Archie Panjabi gave it her all until the end.
I somehow get the impression Juliana Margolis might be quite difficult to work with but I found her interesting and believable as someone who’s defined herself in a series of ways that turn out not to be based on truth and is trying to rebuild her personality from the ground up. I’m not completely comfortable with the way her enjoyment of a glass of wine after work seems to have transitioned into a running gag about her incipient alcoholism which must be medicated with sex. That’s a disservice to the character and to any woman who likes a drink. And Alicia’s sex life has always been cringingly badly presented. Actually, that’s not quite true because I found her occasional encounters with her husband credible. But her high school crush on beaky-nosed blowhard Will Gardner was just inconceivable to me. I’ve never been a fan of will-they-won’t-they romantic entanglements so it was almost a relief when they finally consummated all that office flirting. And it was a double relief when Will was tragically shot and the character was erased for good. But then the show made one of those weird misteps where Alicia immediately fixated on Finn Polmar (remember him?) the dashing young state’s attorney who tried to save Will’s life as her new romantic interest – as though somehow Will’s dying soul had passed into Finn and with it that a bizarre sexual attraction that I could have done without. I could also have done without the release of the text of Alicia’s private emails to Will in the email exposure episode, did anyone else freeze frame and read exactly how embarrassingly graphic and horribly written those sexts were? If you did hit the pause button you’d have been stunned at the gullibility of a press who were prepared to believe that was an ‘office flirtation that was never realised’. And Alicia’s latest romantic entanglement this season with an actor who will forever be known to me as Denny Duquett from Grey’s Anatomy has just had raw/roar sex accompanied by lion attacks. Maybe if I’m lucky Alicia will pull an Izzy Stevens and discover that all her sex with Denny was just a brain tumour.
Quite apart from the excruciating content of Alicia’s sex emails, I’m convinced that the endlessly changing name and ownership of the lawfirms she’s belonged to has led to some deeply weird continuity issues. It was the email system of Lockhart, Florrick, Agos that was hacked but the emails the hackers acquired included emails from Lockhart Gardner although the two firms were independent entities. ‘Stern, Lockart & Gardner‘ became ‘Lockhart, Gardner & Bond’, became ‘Lockhart Gardner’, became ‘Lockhart Gardner Canning’ became ‘Canning and Associates’. It doesn’t make sense that the other firm which was ‘Florrick, Agos and Associates’ then ‘Lockhart, Florrick, Agos’ then ‘Lockhart, Agos, Lee’ would have all the email of the original firm just because they had recovered the lease of the building. Email access isn’t a utility in which previous messages get backed up like hair in a drainpipe. Plus I’m convinced that the sole black male associate of Lockhart etc went off to start a New York branch office for firm A and returned to what he believed was firm A but was actually firm B with very similar staff occupying the same office – and he never noticed. Running payroll for the firm must be a nightmare although they keep the sign writers and branding consultants in business.
Continuity of character was also increasingly untidy. Alan Cumming was initially impressive as wily campaign manager Eli Gold but his buttoned up neurotic personality became increasingly caricatured into a figure of fun whose idea of cunning is listening at doors. What were his motivations. One moment Eli was vowing revenge on Peter for demoting him the next he was begging for his old job back. He broke down in sobs over deleting Alicia’s voicemail from her late lost love before remembering along with the script writers that the voicemail actually came before Alicia’s torrid affair and it’s deletion had no actual effect.
The in-fighting about who got to be named partners left me reeling. Within months Alicia goes from forming a lawfirm with Cary and mortgaging her home to save him from prison to distrusting him and suspecting him of plotting against her with Diane. And Diane’s slide from liberalism into gun-toting right-wingery was less of a surprise than her determination to always jump to the worst possible conclusion about everyone else’s motives.
Still, I only get annoyed with the show because of those moments which showed how clever and funny it could be: the rigged search engines of Neil Gross’ ChumHum, the campaign support video by Peter Florrick’s ex mistress, the ever watchful CIA analysts spying on the protagonists, and the copyright suit that gave us the pop and rap versions of Thicky Trick. I also enjoyed Mary Beth Peil as Alicia’s judgemental mother-in-law, Makenzie Vega as in her teenage transition as Grace Florrick, Zach Grenier as greedy divorce lawyer David Lee, Michael J Fox using his disability for evil, Carrie Preston as the eccentric savant Elsbeth Tascioni, Mamie Gummer as a folksy but cutthroat corporate lawyer, and Sarah Steele as Eli’s insouciant daughter. Oh and the parade of eccentric judges and the occasional appearances of psychopath billionaire Colin Sweeney. I hope we see him again before the show ends.