CBS had a hit last year with The Good Wife. A smart new legal drama, the story centered around Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies in a Golden Globe winning turn), the wife of a disgraced state’s attorney. She took a job with a law firm, and had to compete with another junior associate for one open slot. The first season dealt with her adjustment to the work force, and reluctance to do everything that it took to do well. We also saw her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), beat his charges and get out of jail, although the reality was that the he did cheat on her. However, the main focus of most of the episodes of the first season was the case of the week that Alicia worked on.
I’m not a big fan of procedural shows. There are plenty of them on television, and while they can be entertaining, they don’t seem to add a lot to our country’s storytelling lore. And before you protest, yes, I believe there are plenty of excellent writers out there contributing to this new medium, rather than books, at this time. There are some really awesome stories being told on television, and that’s what eventually drew my interest, as I was an avid reader all my life, but only an avid television watcher for the last five years or so. Happily, so far the second season of The Good Wife spends much less time in the courtroom and much more time on the characters.
Even when the show was delivering a similar story every week, a great cast played some really interesting, layered characters. These people have only deepened in season two. Alicia and Peter are living together, but it’s far from a storybook happy ending. Peter is running for office again, but sleeps in the maid’s quarters. Some fans of the show wonder why they even remain married at all. Alicia has choices; she could easily be dating her boss, Will Gardner (Josh Charles), whom she was close with in college. This past week gave us a little more insight into that situation.
In last Monday’s “Breaking Fast”, Alicia’s brother, Owen (Dallas Roberts, Rubicon, The L Word) came to town. Not at all shy about speaking his mind, he was the first member of Alicia’s family that we’ve seen, other than her husband and children. He talked to her about their parents’ screwed up marriage, and how their mother had just broke it off with husband #3. He speculated that perhaps Alicia just didn’t want to be her mother, and that’s why she refused to consider divorce as an option. Although Alicia denied the charge, learning that about her background, combined with what we’d already seen of Alicia’s character, seemed to connect a few dots for me. It just made sense that she wouldn’t want to end up like someone she had little respect for, as she clearly does her mother.
Another great character is Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry). He was Alicia’s competition in season one, and now works for the State’s Attorney’s office, often squaring off against his former bosses and co-workers. He is bent on revenge this season, although he likes to claim a moral clarity. Cary had a touching moment with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi, who won an Emmy for this role) recently, where she admitted that she missed having him around. Although Cary was originally suspicious and competitive against Alicia, they seemed to form quite the friendship over last year. To see the anger radiating off of him whenever they now encounter each other (which is often, as he remains a main character) is a bit heart breaking. It’s fully realistic, but I yearn for the day where he can go back to his old firm. If he’d even want to, as their relationship continues to be poisoned the longer he is away.
Alicia’s bosses, Will and Diane (Christine Baranski), are also an interesting pair. So far Will’s plot has mostly involved his feelings from Alicia, but his interactions with Diane are fascinating. There is some camaraderie between them, but it is often tossed out as they pursue their own interests. I’m not really sure how they ended up as partners. I know that’s been covered in the show, but they are just so different, and they don’t get along all that well. Things came to a head when Diane asked Will to vote with her against their new partner, Derrick Bond (Michael Ealy, Flash Forward), but Will was persuaded to side with Bond. It’s hard to see how Bond will ultimately affect the leadership, but as he did bring Lou Dobbs (who guest starred as himself) along as a client, someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum as Diane, surely there will be change.
Diane has been fascinating all on her own. Besides adopting Dobbs as her own client… well, I assume, although the last we saw on screen, she said she’d think about it. The fact that she’d even consider it says something about her. Also, she dated a ballistics expert last year who was an avid Sarah Palin fan. Diane is an avowed liberal, but she is sanely open to the other side when the person representing it is reasonable. I’m not saying Lou Dobbs is reasonable, but his discussion with her about representing him surely was. I just can’t predict what Diane will do, and that, along with a long-time adoration for Baranski the actress, keeps me fully engaged with the character.
There are plenty of other people on The Good Wife I could talk about, but I’ll end with just one more: Kalinda. The unflappable, possibly bisexual, always daring investigator has been thrown for a loop with the introduction of someone else who also does her job at the same firm. Bond brought along his own man, Blake Calamar (Scott Porter, Friday Night Lights, Caprica). I would have never suspected Kalinda could be shaken, but for some reason, Blake has that affect on her. She still does her job with excellence, but her anxiety in his presence is palpable. It’s something I’m still trying to figure out, but is surely contributing to the renewed vigor the show has brought to season two.
Bottom line, if you stayed away from this show last year because you were tired of legal dramas, it’s time to jump on board. This series presents character studies as often as it does lawsuits, and there is plenty of meat on the bones. I myself did not watch it last year, but devoured the DVD in the past month. It’s definitely worth watching. The Good Wife airs Monday nights at 10pm on CBS.