We’re only days into the new year and already The Good Wife is turning up the heat with its return.
Let’s bitch it out…
I’ll admit that after the holiday food coma and the 10,000+ words I wrote for the Bitch Awards, I was a little fearful of jumping back into the regular TV season. And then within seconds of ‘Hail Mary’s dramatic cold-open, I was completely back on board and on the edge of my seat.
It’s D-Day for Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry). He’s just six hours away from his sentencing arraignment following 6×10 ‘The Trial’s guilty plea, which will send him away to prison for four years (two for good behaviour, we’re continually reminded). With this time deadline in the back of everyone’s minds, Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) discovers the titular hail mary opening that may buy Cary more time. And with that, we’re off!
The episode, like so many Good Wife episodes this season, is divided into sections: the first centers on Kalinda and Diane’s (Christine Baranski) quest to find a Brady violation for tempermental Judge Cuesta (David Paymer) before 5pm. The second depicts Cary’s six hour meeting with prison consultant Bill Kroft (Domenick Lombardozzi) while the third highlights Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) debate prep with a rotating stable of sparring partners.
The first section contains the most urgency, which makes sense since it is the one with a concrete deadline. We’ve seen these “all hands on deck” cases before (season 2×09’s stay of execution episode, ‘9 Hours’, comes memorably to mind) and they’re good for producing tension, tight editing and high octane interactions. Consider Kalinda’s discovery of the Canadian authorities’ email as depicted in a West Wing-style kinetic walk down the hall to Diane’s office.
If we’re being honest, ‘Hail Mary’ is basically Kalinda’s show – she may be acting on behalf of Cary, but from the moment she steps into Lemond Bishop’s (Mike Colter) kitchen it’s her episode to drive. And drive it she does. ‘Hail Mary’ hinges around Kalinda’s deep, desperate desire to do anything to keep the man she loves out of jail. Her devastation in the hallway after her ‘memory’ making romp with Cary, when the only Grady option appears exhausted, is palpable. It feels like the good ol’days for the character back in S1 & 2 when Kalinda was vitally important to the series. If nothing else, ‘Hail Mary’ is a reminder of how powerful Panjabi is when she’s actually given something to do, especially the closing court scene when Cuesta angrily shuts down Geneva (Renée Elise Goldsberry) and dismisses Cary’s case.
This final scene is masterfully constructed. It’s clear as soon as Kalinda learns how to fabricate the meta-data that it will be used, but it’s the editing that gives this emotional climax its strength. Cuesta’s delay (thanks to Chris Noth’s Peter), Diane’s snooping into Kalinda’s computer and, finally, Kalinda’s late arrival at the courthouse after Diane has used the meta-data, all combine to seal Kalinda’s fate (just as we knew it would). Naturally this is also the moment that Bishop calls in his favour – narratively this is the happiest moment for most of our characters since Cary was targeted back in the season premiere, so dramatically undercutting that joy is the best way to generate conflict. For Cary this is the end of his nightmare. For Kalinda this is only the beginning. Panjabi conveys such horror and dismay on her face when Cuesta dresses down the DA for their incompetence; she knows that she’s effectively ruined a cop’s career and that her own future is in grave jeopardy since she was warned that the evidence won’t be difficult to trace back to her. Add to this Bishop’s phone call, which reminds us that she’s now indebted to a drug-dealer whose every interaction carries the threat of intimidation and violence.
Yes, folks, in these closing moments it certainly does suck to be Kalinda Sharma. At least we can say that in the eleven remaining episodes before she exits the show (and her character, in all likelihood, dies), Panjabi will have plenty to work with as an actor.
- It’s a relief that Cary is no longer facing the terrible situations Kroft spent the previous forty minutes preparing him for. Oh sure the two years fly by, but aligning yourself by race, finding “a boyfriend” to protect you, guarding the way you look at others and watching for glass in your food? Sounds like a tough way for someone with $200, 000+ grand in their bank account to live.
- The Alicia storyline feels less substantial than the other two parts, if only because it is so far removed (especially once Diane refuses to take her calls and Eli confiscates her cell). Still, there’s a lovely little progression as she moves through partners: first there is comedy Dr Adrian Fluke (Chris Elliot), who is found unsuitable due to glaucoma-related marijuana use; then we move onto sexual compatibility with Finn (Matthew Goode) who proves a complementary partner and, finally, real tension and combative anger with Peter (Chris Noth) after he refuses to help Cary. The reaction of the latter two is hardly surprising given how The Good Wife has positioned Alicia’s relationship with Finn and her ex.
- And yet, Cuesta’s delay is due to Peter (unbeknowst to Alicia presumably?). I wonder if this interaction will infringe on Alicia’s and Diane’s future interactions with Judge Cuesta moving forward, as he not-so-subtly threatens?
- Also unsurprising – and long overdue – is the meltdown between Eli (Alan Cumming) and Elfman (Steven Pasquale). Elfman applauds Alicia’s gusto when she battles with Peter, suggesting she’s “graduated” while Eli frets about the state of the Florrick marriage and reminds Johnny that he’s worked with them for 5 years. These two have always seemed like an awkward marriage to me and it is true that Eli has a dual interest in protecting both Alicia and Peter’s reputation. In the long run, Elfman is probably the better (or at least more objective) choice.
- Side Note: I was not prepared for Alicia’s celebratory kiss with Elfman in the show’s final thirty seconds. Smiles, cheers and car alarms? Yes. But as my notes read, the kiss = WAAAAAHHHH??????
- Finally, it’s good to have The Good Wife back. If you missed the 2014 Bitch Awards over the holidays, the show came in at #4 for the year (for good reason). You can read my dedication to the show’s 2014 seasons here.
- Bishop: “A lot of things about Cary end up being about you, Kalinda.” This guy is so intimidating, I would never be in a kitchen with him!
- Diane (deadpan, as she subpoenas access to Detective Prima’s email): “I do, your Honour. It’s very dramatic.”
- Bill Kroft (when he overhears Kalinda and Cary talking): “Less talking, more sex!”
Your turn: are you glad to have the show back? Is there any way that Kalinda walks away from all this or is the evidence that she’ll be bumped off mounting by the episode? Are you happy that Cary’s case has been dismissed or were you hoping to see him in jail? Did Alicia’s interactions with her Prady stand-ins illuminate anything, or was it a given that she would be amorous with Finn and standoffish with Peter? Sound off below.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS. Next week = we’re back to focusing on Alicia as we arrive at debate time!