TV Review - The Good Wife: Season 4
It might not get the ratings of its October counterpart, AMC's The Walking Dead, but that is certainly not an indication of its quality. This show is superior in its acting, writing and direction in every single way. All of it is led by Emmy-winner Julianna Marguiles who plays Alicia Florrick, the wife of a powerful politician named Peter Florrick, a man who is brought down due to a sex scandal. In fact, Peter Florrick is loosely based on Eliot Spitzer who was caught using a prostitute. The show starts out showing this scandal explode leaving Alicia to deal with the aftermath, which means her having to go back to work in order to continue raising her two teenage children, being that Peter goes to prison and Alicia can't afford to live in the upscale home that she had for nearly decades.
Before getting married, Alicia went to law school, so she decides to become a first-year associate at a firm, 15 or 20 years after most people would. She's able to work for a major Chicago operation because one of the firm's partners is Will Gardner, played by Emmy-nominee Josh Charles (Sports Night and In Treatment). Alicia and Will used to be romantically involved in college. They still have feelings for each other that are evident but they try to keep it professional.
By the second season, Peter is released from prison and the question of whether he and Alicia will get back together becomes a strong undercurrent, but all that seems to be abandoned. In the third season, a twist that occurs puts Alicia and Will in bed together. They have an affair, but it doesn't last. The show doesn't focus on the affair. Somehow, the writers have it happening in the background, but still are able to thoughtfully depict the passion and the poison of it with great skill.
Each episode focuses on one case and usually one client that the law firm is defending. The firm deals with all kinds of cases from criminal to civil cases that range from murder to divorces, and everything in between, which allows the show to explore so many areas. However, one area that is clearly a favorite of the writers is the area of computing and technology. One of the best episodes from Season 2 was called "Net Worth" and it involved a Facebook type of company filling a defamation suit. The first episode of Season 3 called "A New Day" addressed online gaming and the third episode of this season, Season 4, called "Two Girls, One Code," was all about a lawsuit against a Google-like company.
Each episode is smart in how these cases are argued and over the course of the show we get a sense of the various personalities who argue them, but what is so well done is how the show is able to give personalities to all the other players, not just the opposing side but also the judge and in the case of the second episode of Season 4, the jurors as well. We feel like we know all these people, even in the course of just a few minutes. The acting and writing is so strong that these characters, even ones you never saw before, become distinct and memorable, and characters who you could easily follow home.
And, these are just the guest stars. The Good Wife has great guest stars. Some of whom got Emmy nominations like Michael J. Fox and Dylan Baker. Some of the great guest stars come from serious backgrounds like Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell) and Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights). Others come from comedic backgrounds like Matthew Perry and Sarah Silverman. Yet, all of them knock it out the park. We've gotten an amazing mix so far for Season 4, including Maura Tierney (ER) who plays the wealthy new landlord of the building where the law firm resides as well as a feminist political contributor. There's also Nathan Lane who plays Clarke Hayden, a trustee who is new to the firm and works on behalf of the firm's creditors to alleviate its $60 million debt.
Obviously, politics has been and will be a key component of the show. Chris Noth (Sex and the City and Law & Order: Criminal Intent) plays Peter Florrick and was only a Special Guest Star. As of this year, it seems his character is now a regular cast member. Whereas the past two seasons were all about Peter's rehabilitation and redemption in some ways. This season has him returning to the campaign trail in full as he runs for Governor of Illinois. He and Alicia never divorced. They only separated, so the question, which was the essential question from the start, is if she is going to help him and stand by him as so many wives have to decide.
One thing we got last season were flashbacks that gave us a glimpse of what life was like for Alicia prior to the scandal. This was beautifully told and heartbreaking in the episode "Blue Ribbon Panel," but this season has the show doing something brilliant. It's doing a circular move that allows us to experience what life was like for Alicia without putting us in the past. It's still forward-looking.
Another circular move that the show is doing that has gotten the most criticism centers on the character of Kalinda, played by Emmy-winner Archie Panjabi, who is the law firm's chief investigator. She's basically a detective who does all the leg work and digs up all the dirt. She's also very tough. She knows martial arts. She knows ballistics. She knows how to fight and possibly how to kill. Given that she used to work on dangerous criminal cases, it makes sense, but it was hinted in the past two seasons that there might be some other reason and that maybe she knows how to use deadly force because of something in her history from which she barely escaped.
We've been distracted because Kalinda has been walking sex appeal. Almost every interaction she has outside the law firm is so sexually charged. She is basically able to seduce everyone she encounters. At first, her major flirtations involve another associate at the firm named Cary Agos, played by Matt Czuchry (Gilmore Girls), but, it's quickly revealed that Kalinda's preference is to jump into bed with women. Despite Cary and Alicia being somewhat aware of it, her lesbianism still is something that Kalinda hides.
How that circular move happens is introducing what it was that Kalinda escaped. Much like Alicia, Kalinda is a wife that separated but never divorced a man who went to prison. Unlike Peter, Kalinda's husband, Nick Saverese, played by Marc Warren (Hustle), is a much more sinister and much more abusive man. The scenes between Kalinda and Nick have been criticized as silly, but to me, it's not that far flung from how Kalinda has been portrayed thus far. If you watch Season 2 and the scenes between Kalinda and Blake, played by Scott Porter, what we see in Season 4 is very much analogous.
Five Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Airs Sundays at 9PM on CBS.