Another jokester judge (this time played by the droll John Michael Higgins). Another unconventional “courtroom” discomfiting our lawyer heroes. Another twist in Peter’s jittery gubernatorial campaign. And another look into Alicia’s personal life – but an extensive one this time. No new themes, but they help make “A More Perfect Union” one of the season’s best episodes, climaxing with a double whammy of faintly dark spousal loyalty.
First, and without explicit prompting, Alicia does a campaign interview with Charlie Rose (playing himself) in which, without having been explicitly prompted, she goes negative on Kristeva, Peter’s opponent. It’s naked politics, red – or blue, actually, since Peter’s the Democrat in the race – in tooth and claw.
Second, after much consideration, and extraction of a solemn promise of future fidelity, Alicia accept’s Peter proposal that they renew their vows. Yes, a big diamond is involved, but so is calculation on both their parts. Peter’s severely tarnished image as a family man can use a boost, of course; he even tries to maneuver Alicia’s dubious brother Owen (the extra-excellent Dallas Roberts), who had never warmed to Peter, into putting in a good word, this in spite of dire warnings from their mother Veronica (Stockard Channing). Julianna Margulies continues to amaze, handling both these big moments with such delicate skill it’s positively exciting to watch. She has such subtle moments even in weaker episodes, but here, with a thoroughly absorbing story web, they pack all the more punch.
All this takes place around a cleverly designed case-of-the-week plot. A labor dispute between a software company – represented by Nancy Crozier (a delightfully snippy Mamie Gummer) – and its code monkeys co-led by Eugene (Joss Whedon favorite Fran Kranz) and Charlene (Cara Buono of The Sopranos and Mad Men), inspires the assistants at Lockhart Gardner to take some action of their own. (Tony nominee Da’Vine Joy Randolph is especially good in one of these roles). Of course, a snarling David Lee is on hand to browbeat the overworked assistants, with the support of Diane and Will and against the objections of a sympathetic Alicia. In the end the partners, sans Alicia, find a way to defuse the rebellion, one that doesn’t involve firing anyone but nevertheless feels coldhearted.
In the related margins, a small funny bit arises when Kalinda discovers that new hire Robyn gets health coverage. Kalinda doesn’t because, valuing her independence too highly, she doesn’t offer her investigative services exclusively to the firm, making her, I suppose, an independent contractor. But everyone has her price, and Cary is hoping to meet Kalinda’s and abscond with her when he and the other fourth-years break off to start their own firm.
It’s all highly entertaining, but thoughtful and subtle too. This is one of those episodes in which the writers succeed in weaving together the show’s personal and corporate strands without a missed stitch.