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TV Review: The Good Wife – “Closing Arguments”

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For the second season finale of CBS’s The Good Wife, the series combines an important case with a number of personal developments. Will (Josh Charles) works to clear a man of murder. The odds are against him, even though the prosecution has a shaky case. Alicia (Julianna Margulies) is forced to work with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) to assisst Will, even though Alicia still isn’t speaking with her on a personal level. Meanwhile, Eli (Alan Cumming) wants to move his consulting business into Lockhart / Gardner, a development that could mean a big promotion for Alicia. Cary feels frozen out by Kalinda, who has taken up with Sophia (Kelli Giddish), a married woman. And Owen’s (Dallas Roberts) dinner out with the kids is interrupted by Jackie (Mary Beth Peil).

The case of the week is more than a simple affair, as the life of an innocent man hangs in the balance. Stakes are raised for the season finale. What is interesting, and is a common occurence on The Good Wife, is that the facts of the case aren’t necessarily the most important element in the jury’s decision. New evidence that could exonerate L/G’s client surfaces, but instead of immediately halting proceedings until it is examined, the judge tells Will he needs to get his findings in before the verdict is delivered, or he’s out of luck. Bureaucracy is clearly not beloved by the writers of the series.

The defense team are the heroes here, as they valiantly try to get DNA samples and tests done as time ticks down. The District Attorney, Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), is a lame duck and cares more for his reputation than the truth. This is completely in character for Childs, but disappointing to anyone who believes in the American justice system. Luckily, the new DA, Peter (Chris Noth), is a bit more honest, and his new right hand man, Cary (Matt Czuchry), has also shown a willingness to let justice prevail, even when it doesn’t suit them. While neither Cary nor Peter are completely noble, neither are the attorneys of L/G, so what results is a murky, yet realistic, system, that gets it right as often as it can.

Complicating matters further is the most obtuse character, Kalinda, who has friends on each side, and who can be a wild card. In “Closing Arguments,” Kalinda calls upon an old friend to assist L/G with the tests that need to be done. Sophia helps, but more out of an interest in getting Kalinda into bed than helping the client. Once Sophia accomplishes this goal, Kalinda realizes Sophia is married, something that doesn’t cross her mind earlier, and she feels a profound sense of guilt. Kalinda isn’t good at vocalizing these things, but Panjabi is an expert physical actor, able to show a lot with just a facial expression.

Guilt is not an emotion often associated with Kalinda, and it seems to have come about only after Kalinda betrays her best friend, Alicia. It doesn’t matter that Kalinda didn’t know Alizia when she slept with Alicia’s husband, Peter, because Kalinda keeps the secret these several years until it comes out on its own. Clearly, the nearly unflappable Kalinda has been deeply shaken by losing her friendship with Alicia, and an act that she once may not have thought twice about suddenly takes on whole new meaning. With Kalinda’s judgment and moral compass changing, it’s hard to tell how that will impact her future work, which frequently crosses a line into illegal territory.

The love triangle between Alicia, Will, and Peter has only been danced around until “Closing Arguments,” but is now erupting into full blown drama. With the Kalinda revelation, Alicia kicks Peter out. When Will wins the trial, Alicia goes with him to celebrate. Old feelings from their involvement in college resurface, mixing with alcohol consumption, and the pair decide to act on them, seeking out a hotel room. While timing has never been their strong suit, they decide that now is the right moment, and go for it with gusto.

Some people listen to signs from the universe, and some do not. Will and Alicia fall firmly in the “not” category, at least in this episode. Everything that can delay them in getting upstairs and stripping their clothes off does occur. From a lack of rooms, to a full elevator, to all the buttons being pushed so their elevator makes frequent stops, to trouble with a door key, everything seems to point to their hookup being a bad idea. But hormones do not listen to such things, and they keep perservering until they make it into the room. The two want it to happen so badly, it must happen.

Poor Peter, though. Sure, he has done some horrible things, and deeply hurt his marriage to Alicia. But he has also been working very hard to repair their relationship, and has shown no signs of straying recently. His help with the case, sending L/G much needed evidence, happens anonymously, and Alicia doesn’t realize what Peter has done for her. Just when Peter starts to be worthy of Alicia, she moves on. His timing is terrible. However, the fact that Peter is trying so hard signals that Peter and Alicia’s story as a couple may not yet be over.

Is Will really any more worthy for Alicia’s affection? After all, he is involved with Tammy (Elizabeth Reaser), and they have gotten quite serious. Will assumes Tammy has left him for a job in London because he has been too wrapped up in his case to stop her, but that is an unconfirmed theory. Will should check with Tammy before acting on anything with Alicia. Chances are, Tammy could have chosen Will over her career, and may be wondering where he is as he has sex with another woman. In this scenario, Alicia suddenly is the interloper.

Should The Good Wife pursue this line, it may be enough for Alicia to begin to forgive Kalinda. After all, when faced with a situation of infidelity, Alicia is choosing wrong. Perhaps she can start to see things from Kalinda’s point of view, instead of judging her so harshly.

For awhile, it looks like Cary might return to the Lockhart / Gardner fold, but that is not how this season ends. Instead, Cary cannot bring himself to work with Alicia instead of having her work for him, a bit of personal bitterness that is now hurting his career, and Cary makes himself invaluable to Peter instead. This may be a sign that the DA stories are not going anywhere, since Cary remains a main character, the only one outside of L/G. Cary’s continued stay with the DA office also opens up the door for more scenes for Peter, keeping him firmly in the series, even if his name remains out of the opening credits. The Good Wife likes to shake up who interacts with who from time to time, and Cary staying put introduces a new relationship that might prove quite interesting. Either Peter and Cary will bond over an anger towards Alicia, or Cary’s feelings could stunt his job goals even beyond L/G.

Eli, on the other hand, is going deeper into L/G, moving his main occupation to their offices. This is a welcome development, especially if Alicia accepts the liason position, because Margulies and Cumming have impecable chemistry. She brings out the best in him, and their interplay during Peter’s campaign provides some of the best moments of the series. Alicia resists Eli and what he represents over and over, but that only makes him more determined to prove himself worthy in her eyes. Long term, might Eli be a serious love interest for Alicia? It would certainly be a development worth pursuing.

Most confusing is Jackie’s continued presence on the show. She seems to be at an end to any real arcs when Alicia asks her not to be Grace (Makenzie Vega) and Zach’s (Graham Phillips) primary caregiver any more. Alicia doesn’t cut Jackie off from her grandchildren, but does reduce her role in their lives. Jackie’s determination to stay involved comes with a ferocity that is surprising. Inviting herself along to their dinner out, one which Alicia misses so she can get it on with Will, only further strengthens Jackie’s ties to the kids, while weakening Alicia’s. What is shaping up is a very interesting battle for hearts, if not custody. Jackie is poised to create some major waves in Alicia’s home life.

It is disappointing there is no big reason to talk about Diane (Christine Baranski) in a review of “Closing Arguments.” Diane is one of the best written characters on the show, but rarely gets strong, independent stories. She has had one love interest, but her firm political games involve Will and others, and she argues fewer cases than the other primary attorneys. Hopefully, going forward, The Good Wife will find more reasons to feature Diane. Baranski is proving formidable all over again, a career renaissance, and deserves good material.

The Good Wife will get a third season, returning to CBS this coming fall.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • ainhop

    as I told you before, it’s a great analysis. I have to disagree on that you said about Eli being a potential love interest for Alicia. I don’t see it and I hope they don’t even try to go there because this was too much already about her love life. Eli is going to be a good friend, like the one she lost a couple weeks ago. That said, I don’t see Will and her together either even when I can’t explain why. She will understand Kalinda a bit better from now on, something that happens to everybody involve in a situation like that… I have many theories but they are on hold until the new season comes back!!