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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Good Wife at the "Great Firewall"

     CBS's The Good Wife is having a stellar season. While their arcs play out slower than many other shows, they do it with such talent and intensity, that anyone who tries the same method may likely be put to shame. The show still does some case-of-the-week stories, but much of the concentration is on larger, unfolding arcs.

     Last week, the series tackled religion, teenage rebellion, introduced Natalie (America Ferrera, Ugly Betty, who will be doing several episodes), and brought back guest star great Gary Cole as Kurt McVeigh. A memorable effort. This week's episode, "Great Firewall," which will be the last for a few weeks, was also an excellent example of their best qualities. It provided a capper to one major plot, while developing a few others.

     At first glance, it appears that the case Lockhart / Gardner and Bond are trying is a stand alone story. They represent a dissident suing an Internet company for giving his IP address over to the Chinese government, resulting in his arrest and torture. Ken Leung (of Lost fame) shows wonderful range in the part of the dissident. Then Alicia (Julianna Margulies) discovers that her bosses really take the case at the behest of Edelstein (Jack Carpenter), a Mark Zuckerberg-inspired type who wants to move his own business into China and hopes that the case will hurt or force out his competition. While things are often not spelled out on this series, it appears that Edelstein gets his wish.

     For Alicia, things suddenly get more complicated. She is invested in the case because of the human rights abuse, and is turned off upon learning there are other motivations. Will (Josh Charles) points out to her that this is often the way things work. It's a gripping tale as Alicia goes on with the case, but begins to have doubts about what she's doing. It's also the way the world is. I am a little surprised this hasn't been a major plot point before, but applaud the show for the grace with which it was handled.

     The question raised here is, do the ends justify the means? One company suffers from not paying attention to human rights, but another company is just going to move in and do the same thing. Their case does nothing to address a systemic failure, so in the end, they do not really win, in my opinion. But the episode succeeds because it brings to light yet another problem with that planet that needs fixed. If it gets people talking about the issue, it is well worth it. Which it already is.

     But that is not all that is going on at the firm this week. Will, Diane (Christine Baranski), David Lee (Zach Grenier), and Julius (Michael Boatman) try to get the votes they need to oust Derrick (Michael Ealy) before he can make a move against them. Brilliant editing of the trailer for this episode, shown last week, as well as the way certain scenes play out, have viewers believing Julius has turned coat to Bond's side. Which makes the ending even sweeter when Bond is voted out and he realizes Julius was just playing him to get a better position at the firm, as well as to get rid of one of Bond's men.

     The entire fight with Bond shows expert writing. The twists have kept coming over the past months, including when Will teams up with Diane, betraying his previous deal with Bond. Each flows seamlessly and realistically. Never once did I feel there was a cop out or deus ex machina at play. Every choice each character makes gels with what we know about them, and their motivations do not change throughout. Flawless.

     Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) doesn't share in the elation of victory. Her future looks more and more precarious all the time, as a grand jury is now being built against her. I currently do not see how Kalinda has a chance of staying in her current position. Unlike the battle for control of the firm, there have not been positive signs for the good guy. I feel like Peter (Chris Noth) winning the election and calling off the investigation is the only chance she has. Which would also provide a number of headaches for Peter, and the appearance of favoritism and corruption. Saving Kalinda could send Peter right back to jail.

     On a personal front, Kalinda is becoming warmer. She recently moved, and gives both Alicia and Cary (Matt Czuchry) change of address cards. Neither had been given her old address. Kalinda is allowing herself to open up to people, or at least two of them. She has made fast friends. They are people that she trusts. And rightly so, as Cary is the one who warns her about the grand jury. While Kalinda maintains that era of mystery that makes her character so intriguing, she is showing a softer side, too. It is welcome.
 
     Now that the fate of Lockhart / Gardner is settled, does that mean Cary will soon be returning to the fold? While I would like to see Cary back among his old co-workers, I am less certain now than ever it is the path the writers will pursue. And I am seeing the wisdom of leaving him where he is. Cary isn't happy working for Childs (Titus Welliver). It is likely Alicia can convince Peter to keep Cary on if Peter wins the election. Plus, that would give Cary scenes with Peter and Eli (Alan Cumming) as he moves into their circle, a new combination that could provide fresh material, as well as more screen time for Czuchry, who deserves it. I think I am now in favor of Cary staying with the DA.

     That opinion is only made possible by the likely outlook that Peter will win back his former office. After Childs drops out this week, Peter is finally looking good in the polls. I feel like it has always been a foregone conclusion that Peter will rise back to his former heights. After all, why hire Eli as a full-time character this year if Peter, who isn't full-time, wasn't going to be around? There isn't any other plot to keep Eli moving. But now the arc backs that idea up.

   Last night, the victory became closer than ever as Zach (Graham Phillips) and Becca (Dreama Walker) uncover a harmful secret of Childs's. While Becca remains manipulative and untrustworthy, thus unlikeable, getting Zach involved in the politics is a good move. Zach has already shown an interest in his father's work, and I think it very nice that Zach deals the death blow to Peter's rival. True, Eli really had a lot to do with it, but it wouldn't have happened without Zach. This sets up a nice father-son dynamic that I hope will be featured more in future episodes.

       When the show returns in the spring, there are still plenty of questions to be addressed. What will Peter's win mean to his family? Will Alicia finally make a move with Will? How will Cary clash with Peter and Eli, should that be the route taken, as he will certainly not just fall in line with them? Will Kalinda salvage her job? How will Eli get with Natalie? Can we please have more Kurt? And David Lee? And Viola (Rita Wilson)? Will Grace (Makenzie Vega) abandon religion? OK, the last one looks like a pretty predictable 'yes', but there may be bumps along the road to that, as there are usually are on this series.

     The Good Wife airs Tuesday nights 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

Article first published as TV Review: The Good Wife - "Great Firewall" on Blogcritics.

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