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Thursday, March 27, 2014

THE GOOD WIFE Shocks With "Dramatics"

Article first published as THE GOOD WIFE Shocks With "Dramatics" on TheTVKing.

This week's installment of CBS's The Good Wife, "Dramatics, Your Honor," begins like any other. In fact, two thirds of the way through the hour, it sure seems like this will be one of the more boring episodes the series has produced, providing a few nice character moments, but focusing too heavily on Will's (Josh Charles) current case. Which is likely why it's so surprising when (SPOILER ALERT!) gunshots ring out and Will Gardner is killed.

Those behind the surprise twist, not even airing as a sweeps stunt or season finale event, should be commended for keeping this under wraps. No leakage occurred that I am aware of, making for a truly shocking turn of events for unsuspecting viewers. Especially considering that the show airs on CBS, a network not known for taking big chances, and coming during a stellar year when The Good Wife has already allowed so much upheaval, its impact is maximally delivered. If only CBS didn't screw up the air times with stupid sports overruns they apparently still haven't figured out how to schedule for despite having decades to solve the problem, this would be perfect.

Will Gardner's death comes at an opportune time for a major story arc. The ballot box stuffing scandal is in full swing and Nelson Dubeck (Eric Bogosian, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) is putting the pressure on Alicia (Julianna Margulies), Peter (Chris Noth), and others hard. His key witness, who he is trying to blackmail into stepping forward is Will. Will's demise might end up saving Peter's career and the Florricks' lives as they know them if Dubeck doesn't find a new trail to pursue.

More importantly, though, is the emotional impact losing Will will have on the cast. Will has not one significant woman left to mourn him, but three, each getting their own special scenes in "Dramatics, Your Honor," and each will need to deal with the punishing blow in their own manner.

Diane (Christine Baranski) is Will's partner. They haven't always seen eye to eye, but they are in a good place right now. They had to pull together when their employees rebelled and split off, and Will offers comfort and support when Diane loses a cherished career opportunity. Diane's role in this episode is to offer Will advice on his trial, but also to let him know that someone has his back.

Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) is Will's platonic close friend. She is pondering a change in jobs (again), and Will is sympathetic, but also knows Kalinda better than she may even know herself. The drink they share is warm and comfortable, showing there is much more than a professional relationship between them.

Both Kalinda and Diane happen to be in the courthouse when Will's client, Jeffery Grant (Hunter Parrish), pulls the weapon and fires. While I'd still like to see those events at some point, it's very effective to get the terror from the women's point of view, down the hall. We see the horror in their faces, subtle, because neither character would panic. And we see what this immediate danger does to them, especially when it becomes apparent that Will is not only in the room with the shooter, but a victim.

The third female whose boat is rocked is Alicia, the former lover. I won't say that either Will or Alicia still hold a torch for their relationship, especially after the ugliness of the past year, with Will feeling Alicia betrayed him, but neither are they just friends. They have a complicated bond that is hard to pin down, but it's clear that Alicia will take Will's demise roughly.

Thank goodness Alicia reaches out an olive branch to Will earlier in the episode. At the time, it seems like a small thing, the first step on a long road to reconciliation. In retrospect, it means everything, the thaw that will keep Alicia from being stricken immobile with regret, a lifeline to cling to. Kalinda and Diane's decision to call Alicia from the hospital proves that Alicia is still an important part of Will's life, no matter has happened between them, and this will come into play now more than ever. If nothing else, shared grief will help heal the lesser rift between Alicia and Diane.

The scene in which Alicia is called is a fantastic, though small, moment for Eli (Alan Cumming). He respects Kalinda enough to answer the phone when she calls twice, valuing someone who should be valued. His initial resistance to pull Alicia away from her event is expected, but the way Eli shrinks and becomes immediately obedient upon hearing Kalinda's words is not something he would have done a couple of years ago. This is the human, compassionate side of Eli, and it's very well displayed.

By the end of "Dramatics, Your Honor," one is left with a deep sense of unease and sadness. Will didn't do anything wrong and didn't deserve to die. Jeffery may have been innocent of murder before, but he's not now. His helplessness, an act of desperation leading to tragedy, only makes Will's passing more senseless and regrettable. There is no winner in this game, even when the perp is brought to justice. It's just a broken, messed up situation that will have far-reaching consequences, and one that is handled authentically.

This drama is anything but trivial, a dark tale with real emotion. The acting is superb, the set up is one of the most interesting and unique turns on network television, and the series continues its trend of delivering higher quality programming than its genre, channel, and premise would indicate. Terrific job by all involved.

The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET (when CBS isn't being stupid and screwing up their schedule at the last minute, so keep an eye out for this).

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