What do you do when everything you plan to do falls apart? ‘Don’t Fail’ aims to answer just that.
Let’s bitch it out…
It’s been a long, tough slog for Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) this season. The whole State’s Attorney race didn’t exactly work out the way she planned and then, to add insult to injury, she got booted from the law firm she helped to create. ‘Don’t Fail’ finds Alicia in limbo in an episode that reminds us how Alicia has persevered throughout her various challenges: she picks herself up and finds a new path.
This is a fascinating episode in The Good Wife canon because it accomplishes a lot in seemingly very simple fashion. The use of flashbacks allows us to once again revisit first year Alicia Florrick and remind us of just how far she has come. The Alicia we met back when the series premiered was meek and timid, but she had the strength of her convictions and a great work ethic. The latter qualities remain, and the former have been replaced with a savvy knowledge of how to get things done. Juxtaposing Alicia with Amber (Aya Cash), a relatively inexperienced lawyer, makes the difference as clear as day – Amber is who Alicia used to be and someone Amber aspires to become (a good first step would probably be no selfies in court).
The case itself in a relatively straightforward affair: a former client is being brought up on new charges for the same crime and Alicia has to find the holes in her original defense. The fact that the case itself is simple isn’t a negative, however – it’s the details that make ‘Don’t Fail’ one of the best episodes of the season. Seeing old versions of all of our favourites, including overly competitive first year Cary (Matt Czuchry) and brusque and strappy Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) are delights. Retaining the tape recording audio during the flashbacks is a great way to connect the past and the present while simultaneously reminding us that Alicia is listening to these recordings on her own (in this sense she’s her own Kalinda – a first for the show).
Alicia actually spends the majority of the episode by herself, which is important at this transitional stage in her career/life and ultimately results in her decision to (once again) start her own firm. There’s an intimacy in ‘Don’t Fail’ that results from setting a large part of the episode in her home; keeping her chats with Grace (Makenzie Vega) and Cary situated within the domestic sphere complements her decision to convert Zach’s (Graham Phillips) old room into her new office. I especially liked the use of the door as a desk: all of Alicia’s projects have merit and reusability (also evident in how she reuses the leg work from the case six years ago), the door acts as a metaphor for the unification of the public/private persona she has cultivated and it calls back to the period when she and Cary started their firm using her house as a home base following the events of ‘Hitting The Fan’.
On the surface, ‘Don’t Fail’ looks like a simple episode. In reality, it’s an elegant, masterfully composed reboot that suggests a new direction for the series as it heads into its season finale and, presumably, one final season.
- Along the way Alicia reconnects with those most important to her: her children and Finn (Matthew Goode). After spending a good portion of the season sidelined to make room for the State’s Attorney race, it’s nice to see Finn brought back from the periphery. He and Alicia have such a lovely, easy-going chemistry that it’s no surprise when she asks him to join her upstart firm.
- In an episode filled with callbacks to memorable moments from the series, the one that burned most brightly for me is the return of Alicia & Kalinda’s bar chats. It is, however, still a little disappointing that Margulies and Panjabi weren’t actually in the scene together (the entire scene is edited to make it seem like they’re in the same space. They’re never seen in the same frame and there is no medium establishing shot, which is a dead give-away that their dialogue was shot at different times). Still, it’s a nice call back to those chats from the early seasons of the show.
- There’s also a quick discussion about Kalinda’s sudden departure last episode between Alicia and Cary that makes it clear it is weighing on them both. I appreciate the continuity, however brief.
- It’s good to see Aya Cash (You’re The Worst) as Amber, the novice lawyer on the case. She’s got the right kind of fun moxie that helps make the character memorable, despite only appearing in a few scenes. Ditto for Kurt Fuller as the less persnickety than usual Judge Peter Dunaway.
- So is Alicia going to try and fit a pull-out in Zach’s room if he comes home or will she just cop to the fact that she converted it into an office and make him sleep on the couch?
- Finally: was anyone else monitoring Alicia’s alcohol consumption? I got a little concerned there. At this rate, she could go toe to toe with Liv from Scandal (which is a crossover I would love, by the way).
- Kalinda (when a witness asks her last name): “Kalinda none of your business”
- Judge Dunaway (when Chris Butler’s Brody loudly insists Alicia’s recent SA scandal won’t be held against her): “Of course that’s why you brought it up, so it won’t be held against her.”
- Alicia (surveying former site of the Pink Sapphire): “So it’s not a strip club anymore.” Amber: “No, it’s a charter school.” Isn’t that kind of the same thing?
Your turn: did you like the blast from the past format of the case? Which flashbacks carried the most emotional weight for you? Do you have any other feedback about the way Kalinda’s exit after seeing how the fall-out is handled in this episode? Are you excited to see Alicia start again from home? And will Finn accept her offer? Sound off below.
The Good Wife airs its season finale next Sunday at 9pm EST on CBS