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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"The Last Call" From Will on THE GOOD WIFE

Article first published as "The Last Call" From Will on THE GOOD WIFE on TheTVKin

In my review of last week's installment of CBS's The Good Wife, I mentioned Will's (Josh Charles) bond with the three main women in his life, and how his connection to each is served. This week's followup, taking place in the immediate wake of Will's death, centers on that trio, as each confronts their grief in a different manner.

The overall tone of this episode is a powerful one, remniscent of Buffy's mother's sudden death on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the gold standard for great grieving programs. There's a general feeling of sadness and numbness, enhanced by the lack of the soundtrack that usually lifts the dramatic moments. Instead, there's a feeling of nothing, a vacuum sucking the air away. It is sure to evoke an emotional reaction in any viewer with a heart.

Alicia (Julianna Margulies), being the main character of the show and the woman Will actually loved romantically, is the most important, as one would expect. "The Last Call" picks up exactly where the previous installment left off, with Alicia getting the call about Will. Not long after, she finds a voicemail from Will on her phone, interrupted and incomplete, and spends the day obsessed with putting together the last moments of Will's life, tracking down Judge Politi (Vincent Curatola) and the prosecutor, Finn (Matthew Goode, promoted to main character now), to help her fill in the blanks.

Alicia keeps flashing to things Will might have been trying to tell her when he died. Was Will angry with her? Was he remorseful, wanting to repair the bridge between them? Was it something else? These are powerful glimpses, a look into the chaos of Alicia's mind on this pivotal day, and the last one she envisions is the right one for her to choose.
For Alicia, is this about closure, or about mourning what might have been? The latter seems to play into it, since Alicia dodges phone calls from Peter (Chris Noth), her husband and the other man who shares her heart, though she'll answer Eli's (Alan Cumming) communications. This is dangerous territory, tossing aside what you have for something you can't obtain. Now that Alicia knows the truth about what transpired, will she be able put things behind her, or will she stay fixated on Will and his tragic demise?

There is a telling moment when Alicia rejects her daughter, Grace's (Makenzie Vega), attempts to comfort her with thoughts of god. Alicia may just be a realist who doesn't buy into religion, which is valid, but she's a little cold in shutting Grace down. Maybe Alicia doesn't want to be comforted. Maybe she doesn't want to be happy, even if she says she will be eventually. This could be a sign that Alicia is spiraling.

Diane's (Christine Baranski) reaction to Will's passing is without reproach. She welcomes Alicia into the office to wallow together, no animosity left between them. She cancels professional engagements. And she not only fires a high-paying client that oversteps, demanding a meeting on the day Will died, but also makes sure to poison every well said client might now seek to sip from. It's beautiful revenge, passionate, justified anger, and a mark of just how strong Diane is, even in the tough times. Will could have had no better partner, and Baranski's performance is award-worthy, even more so than usual.

This anger and righteousness is echoed, albeit in a smaller way, in Cary (Matt Czuchry), who is forced to take up a deposition the other side demands not be postponed, even though Alicia cannot attend. Cary and Will weren't friends, but Cary's loyalty to Alicia (and Diane in going along with her shut down of the terrible client), is commendable, and proves he deserves the esteem many fans hold him in.

David Lee (Zach Grenier) is an interesting character. He's softer than we've ever seen him when insisting to Diane that he call clients, taking the task off her plate, but being realistic that it needs to happen. Even so, most would have probably thought him callous if we hadn't gotten to glimpse a mini break-down by him first, proving he is moved by Will's passing, and just dealing in his own way. He's not as bad a guy as he sometimes seems. One might even like him in "The Last Call."

The third woman after Diane and Alicia is Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). With enabler Jenna (Jordana Spiro) at her side, Kalinda gets the detective, Doug Young (Will Chase, Nashville, Smash), and the coroner to give her unfettered access to the case. Kalinda is diving into work to cope, her own way of processing grief and a dedicated tribute to Will.

See, Jeffery Grant's lawyer, Alma Hoff (returning guest star Becky Ann Baker, Girls), plans to plead temporary insanity. What's more some will argue that it's hard to tell if the fatal shot came from Jeffery (Hunter Parrish) at all, considering the cross fire. But Kalinda knows Jeffery is guilty, and she is not about let him get away with it.

Kalinda's taunt of Jeffery in his cell, offering him an opportunity at suicide, then yanking it away, is cruel. However, it's no more cruel than she thinks Jeffery deserves, and she may be right. Kalinda is a determined woman, and with her sights set on bringing Will's killer to justice, Jeffery likely will be punished.

Yet, there's still a lingering doubt that Jeffery does deserve to be locked up forever. Hoff's belief in him is an understandable one. The case was not going well for Jeffery, and he was innocent. He genuinely might have gone a little crazy, and certainly didn't intend to shoot Will. Jeffery does need help, to be sure, but a mental hospital might be more appropriate and humane that prison. And that's coming from someone who deeply misses Will and is very sad about his death (me).

I like "The Last Call" notably more than last week's "Dramatics, Your Honor," and that's saying something because "Dramatic, Your Honor" is an excellent episode. This one is just so much more character-driven, giving the actors a new side of their roles to work with, and each one more than rising to the occasion. Margulies, Baranski, Panjabi, Grenier, Czuchry - these are all fine performers, and they get to prove to everyone their skill set in this showcase. Add to that terrific writing, editing, directing, and everything that goes into the style and tone of this show, which has to match the actors and does so perfectly, and the result is very impressive. Awesome job, all around.

The Good Wife isn't done with its fifth season yet, airing Sundays at 9 p.m.-ish (varying because of the network's inability to competently schedule sports) on CBS.

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