The Good Wife is known for casting guest stars in roles you wouldn’t expect. It was no surprise in last night’s episode to see Bebe Neuwirth returning as a no-nonsense judge, and Audra McDonald is superb as an old law-school nemesis of Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies), who turns up as an Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting drug lord Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter, returning in the role).
But last night’s main surprise was Wallace Shawn as mild-mannered, shadowy lawyer Charles Lester, whom Bishop insists on bringing on to work with the firm on his defense. Lester works for Bishop alone and embodies the scariest kind of evil: the quiet, indirect kind. He’s one of the most remarkable in the show’s long line of memorable weirdos and villains.
When the steely prosecutor’s own family is threatened, McDonald, not to be outdone, gives us a titanic Good Wife scene, pleading with tearful, shuddering anger for some kind of relief from the judge. But though Neuwirth brings her trademark small-bore power to the role, the judge can’t do much under the circumstances.
Peter’s (Chris Noth) gubernatorial campaign is pushed completely aside for this episode, but there’s plenty of office politics to enjoy. With the firm safely out from under the threat of bankruptcy, Will (Josh Charles) is gung-ho to invest in expanding, while Diane (Christine Baranski), who had to do most of the hard work of saving the firm during Will’s suspension, pushes for caution.
In addition, as a new partner and steering committee member, Alicia takes a big role in deciding whether to hire a second investigator to assist a thin-skinned Kalinda, and whom to hire. Since this a TV show, the partners choose a quirky young woman with relatively little experience over a batch of wizened ex-lawmen, but the newcomer shows early signs of a sharp mind and hidden depths.
And all the while, Cary continues to nurse dreams of starting his own firm and swiping some clients. As you can see, even as Bishop’s case dominates the episode, several other storylines receive careful attention.
Coinciding with Alicia’s elevation to partner is a hardening of her armor against the moral ambiguities that frequently come with her job. This is more evident than ever in her capitulation to the unprovable but obvious reality of Lester’s intimidation of witnesses on Bishop’s behalf. The tension mounts as the hour skitters on, and Alicia and Lester can easily seem one terrifying team. The development of her fascinating and complex character continues here in the fourth season of this very good show that’s only getting better.
The Good Wife airs on Sunday nights on CBS.