I usually write about The Good Wife once a year: when it comes time to compile my Best Of Television list for the annual Bitch Awards (2012 & 2011). Each year the CBS’ drama makes it into my top five, but that’s traditionally as much love as I give the best show on network TV. That discrepancy had to change with ‘Hitting The Fan’ – an episode that single-handlely catapults The Good Wife into the upper echelons of TV drama with what may be one of the best hours of TV I’ve ever seen.
Let’s bitch it out…
Holy effing crap. That was amazing.
The fifth season of The Good Wife has thus far had a particularly amazing run (maybe it’s something in the water?). Instead of playing things safe and continuing to have Alicia (Julianne Margulies) go on battling cases at Lockhart/Gardner indefinitely, series creators Robert and Michelle King elected to have their protagonist join her once-rival Cary (Matt Czuchry) in defecting to start their own firm in the fourth season finale. When the new season started up back in September, I fully expected the show to return with a time jump to see how things were going in the new digs.
The Kings had other plans.
Instead of defusing the situation by showing us the aftermath, they spent the first four episodes of season five cranking up the dramatic tension. Each episode was like watching characters jostle around on an increasingly swaying tightrope; the “when will they go?!” question hung over EVERY.SINGLE. MOMENT. It was nearly unbearable to watch (in the best kind of masochistic sense) because we knew that things were building to a head and we were that much closer to the moment that the truth would come out.
The trigger finally gets pulled in ‘Hitting The Fan,’ whose title is incredibly appropriate. The entire episode plays out like watching the scattered remains settle down to earth after the show’s basic infrastructure has been tossed into a fan. It’s like the aftermath of a bomb: from the opening scene when Diane (Christine Baranski) informs Will (Josh Charles) of Alicia and Cary’s plans all the way through to the closing minutes, everything in ‘Hitting The Fan’ is chaos. Beautiful, delicious chaos involving battle lines, heated telephone calls, restraining orders and more than a few absolute zingers (my favourite: Alicia’s defiant, warrior woman retort that she’s coming after all of the top clients after Zach Grenier’s David Lee calls her Judas. Shivers).
For fans of the show, this episode is catnip – it delivers on absolutely every single level by not only meeting, but somehow exceeding expectations (mine were pretty sky-high, FYI). For my money this episode is more satisfying than the other best episode of television this year, Breaking Bad‘s ‘Ozymandias’.
For those people who don’t watch the show:
- Why are you reading this review? And, more importantly,
- This is one of those instances when I wish that I could convince people that they don’t know what they’re missing by not watching this show (I often lament in the Bitch Awards how The Good Wife is dismissively categorized as a “lawyer” show).
It’s unlikely that my exhaustive superlatives will change any minds, but I can honestly say that after watching the show for five years, I can’t believe how satisfying it is to watch the Kings tear down everything they’ve built with such wit and confidence. I only wish that more shows had the ambition to make such a potentially risky, but ultimately rewarding chance with their creations. As it stands, ‘Hitting The Fan’ is the gold standard for TV and further cements the fact that we are indeed living in the Golden Age of TV. Bravo.
Questions to consider:
- That telephone call between Will and Alicia (filled with accusations and expletives, but ending with him passing a message from her daughter) proves that there’s still hope for a reconciliation between these two, right? Right? No? Just me? Okay, then…
- Will Alicia come to regret her decision to leave with a bunch of idiot frat boy fourth years?
- Will Diane return to her post as senior partner now that it appears her judgeship candidacy – put forward by Alicia’s husband, Peter (Chris Noth) – is on the rocks?
- Did Peter open himself up to all kinds of ethical issues by not-so-subtly using his Governorship to ensure his wife’s new firm secures a $35 million client, Chumhum? (This one seems like an obvious yes)
- Where do Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) loyalties really lie?
Where the Kings take The Good Wife next is completely open. The wounds between the two firms are still fresh, but this much is clear: there will be hell to pay in the courtroom when these former co-workers encounter each other. And judging by the semi-spoilery (and spectacularly well-edited) promo of what’s to come, it appears that there’s no end to the conflict in sight. Thank goodness for that