The string of pre-Thanksgiving fall finales continues as Cary’s (Matt Czuchry) trial takes center stage in The Good Wife‘s last new episode of 2014.
Let’s bitch it out…
‘The Trial’, as the title suggests, centers around Cary Agos’ trial. This is a storyline that has played out since the sixth season began, although it hasn’t had quite the impact that that second episode suggested it would. After getting off to a strong start, Cary’s story faded into the background as his relationship with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) was more of a focus than the possibility that he would go to jail.
Part of this was likely strategic – after all Cary isn’t the main character, Alicia (Julianne Margulies) is. The other reason may have been a narrative red-herring since I can honestly say that I never expected Cary to go to jail. After all, even when bad things happen, usually we will see it righted eventually. We know that Cary is innocent, so there’s no way he would go away – that would be an injustice.
And yet from the opening moments of ‘The Trial’, it’s clear that things are not going to go well. Everything about this episode is structured to highlight the inane details that can make a jury-trial go pear shaped. We open with one of our favourite judges, the cranky Hon. Richard Cuesta (David Paymer) desperately trying to get Neil Diamond tickets for his anniversary. Cuesta’s needs prompt him to favour expediency, which creates a domino effect throughout the trial: the jury selection is rushed and a sympathetic juror (Zak Orth) with a stress-induced hearing disability slips through the cracks. Once he discovered and recused, the loss prompts Kalinda to over-extend in her threat to Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) who responds by ensuring a material witness offers damning testimony, thereby metaphorically slitting Cary’s throat on the stand. At the start of the episode Cary denounces a plea deal because he has done nothing wrong. The final image is Cary changing his plea to guilty. Fade to black. Bam – in the space of an episode we’ve seen his entire case go down the drains. Just like that.
What’s interesting about the structure of ‘The Trial’ is how it takes time with each player in the trial. We’ve never spent time with Cuesta in chambers by himself, or seen how the collision of current and former lovers affects ASA Pine (Renée Elise Goldsberry), or what it is like to be seated in the jury box watching Diane (Christin Baranski) argue. It’s a fascinating bit of insight, even if at times the pay-off doesn’t exactly merit the amount of screen time required (Orth, a refugee from the canceled Revolution, does well with his time on screen, but ultimately it feels like a lot to dedicate to a minor character that would have been exposed and dismissed in seconds in another episode).
Still, there are any number of highlights as a result, particularly another electrifying kitchen scene with Lemond Bishop. I praised his scene with Cary last week, but that was a cake-walk compared to his scene here with Kalinda. Thanks to Bishop’s increased prominence this season, Mike Colter has been able to turn an engaging cameo into a magnetic role this season. He is truly a force to be reckoned with when he realizes that Kalinda isn’t threatening him, she’s threatening his son. He goes from wary to blinding rage in seconds and It.Is.Terrifying. I may have literally gasped aloud when Bishop asks Kalinda if anyone knows she is there. (Side Note: At this point, people need to stop meeting Bishop in his kitchen. That place has murder/death/kill written all over it).
The other individual that deserves substantial praise is the man of the hour, Matt Czuchry. ‘The Trial’ finally gives the young actor the chance to shine and he runs with it. The look on Cary’s face as the case falls apart in court is perfect. He looks like a sad little boy, his world completely destroyed, particularly when he sees Bishop threatening Kalinda. It’s among the best acting that Czuchry has done on the series and successive scenes build on that emotion, particularly Cary’s teary-eyed look in the Florrick/Agos/Lockhart conference room as Geneva offers him the new 4 year deal. The number of times the number 37 is bandied around – the age he’ll be when (if?) he gets out for good behaviour – is tough to swallow considering we are continually reminded that Cary is innocent. The agonized looks on Diane, Kalinda and finally Alicia as the truth sinks helps carry the episode to its final moment as the golden boy finally accepts his fate.
It’s a hell of a send off and leaves the future of the series in a lurch until we return with new episodes in 2015. Happy freakin’ holidays.
- Unfortunately the Alicia election stuff is nowhere near as strong. In fact, it’s nearly insulting that the writers expect us to believe that Alicia would ever be so dumb as to write down dialogue from the fictional Darkness At Noon on a note that Grace (Makenzie Vega) takes the school. This storyline smacks of the show’s need to create drama in the States Attorney race and ensure that Eli (Alan Cumming) and Elfman (Steven Pasquale) have something to argue about with body woman Marissa (Sarah Steele). Ugh.
- As a result of the note, Alicia gets blackmailed by the civics teacher for her patronage. Alicia’s bristling response, her refusal to be like Peter is great, especially when Peter eventually solves the problem by winning theteachers over…by offering them patronage.
- Prady (David Hyde Pierce) and Alicia end their truce after Prady makes comments on school violence at a very convenient time and Alicia’s team leak rumours of his homosexuality. On the plus side, at least they’re equal in the polls. The question is whether the gloves are truly off. Surely the oppo research on Alicia is too good not to come out, no?
- Alicia and Finn decide to stop avoiding each other and meet only in brightly lit diners over pancakes and accordion music. The reality turns out to be pretty unappealing…until a power blackout finds them sitting in front of pancakes lit by candles, being serenaded by an acoustic guitar. Clearly these two are just meant to be together!
- The Grizzly Mom story on Buzzfeed Politics certainly carries a ring of truth. Although it could have skewed closer to reality if it had been a list of all of the ways that Alicia is a Grizzly Mom, since everything on Buzzfeed is a clickbait-driven list (Caveat: I hate those damn Buzzfeed lists. Get them out of my news feed!)
- Eli (clarifying how much he hates teachers): “I trust assassins over teachers.”
Your turn: did you enjoy the alternative points of view we don’t normally see? Did you anticipate Cary’s case was going south? Do people need to stay out of Bishop’s kitchen? Did Alicia’s note require too much disbelief to buy into? Should Alicia and Finn open a sexy candlelit pancake diner? And what will happen when the show returns in 2015? Sound off below.
The Good Wife has finished airing its fall episodes and will return sometime in January 2015 on Sunday night on CBS. Thanks for reading!