Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THE GOOD WIFE Good "Source" For Drama

Article originally written for Seat42F.

This week’s episode of THE GOOD WIFE on CBS, “Open Source,” raises a timely debate in a very intriguing case-of-the-week, reminding us why this show alone has the talent to make formulaic stories feel like they’re not so. It also has one of the worst things a person has ever done on the series, and a rocky go for two couples. Needless to say, it is immensely enjoyable.

Let’s start with the case. Diane (Christine Baranski) and Finn (Matthew Goode) take on Nancy (Mamie Gummer) in a battle of wits over a tragic accident that occurred because of a 3-D printed gun. The courtroom battle in front of liberal Judge Abernathy (Denis O’Hare) goes back and forth, with the first and second amendment rights debated. THE GOOD WIFE doesn’t seek to answer whether such a gun’s designs should be freely available online, even though I believe it leans towards no, but instead lets both sides play out in an intriguing manner. When this show is at its best, it makes the audience think, and I hope last night’s episode did that for more viewers than just me.

Because this is about guns, Diane’s seldom-seen husband, McVeigh (Gary Cole), enters the picture. The two disagree vehemently on the politics of the issue, and there’s also the ghost of Will, who saved Finn’s life from a courtroom shooter, hanging over “Open Source.” Diane and McVeigh’s marriage is tense as she oversteps her role as a wife in order to do her job as an attorney and honor a friend’s memory. But again, rather than tell us exactly what each character is motivated by, the writers let the show speak for itself, presenting issues, then stepping back.

Diane and McVeigh are a terrifically delicious pairing. Their spark is strong, and even when Diane wrongs McVeigh, he understands why. As long as she is willing to apologize and promise not to do it again, which she does without prompting, he is willing to forgive and forget. Besides making for good drama, this is an inspirational look at how to make an on-paper mistake of a marriage work beautifully, both expanding their worldview for the other.

Alicia (Julianna Margulies) also has a romance with a man that is threatened by a tough decision. When Johnny (Steven Pasquale) urges Alicia to attack Peter (Chris Noth) alongside Prady (David Hyde Pierce), Eli (Alan Cumming) threatens to take away a promising next campaign from Johnny. At first, he caves, but once Alicia brings up their personal connection and Marissa (Sarah Steele – promote her to the main cast already!) scolds him, he rallies, sacrificing possible professional advancement for the woman he has feelings for. He is rewarded at her apartment later, so I guess his actions pay off, but it will be anything but smooth sailing for them. Though, this might open the door for Alicia to finally leave Peter, especially if she wins the election and they are both in the offices they want.

Sadly, on the other end of the spectrum, Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) acts in the most despicable of manners. On his possible death bed, which ends up not being so, he plays on Alicia’s sympathies to hurt her reputation. That David Lee (Zach Grenier) is complicit is even worse, making me think this wolf in the firm will have to be dealt with sooner, rather than later. Still, Canning is the main instigator, and after Alicia rushes to his bedside, I can’t believe he’d be so callous as to do this to her. Hopefully, the results won’t be too big a deal.

“Open Source” is yet another example of an excellent episode of THE GOOD WIFE, of which there are many. Most of its arcs are fairly self-contained, other than some relationship stuff, and yet it never feels that way. The show has done such a great job of building this world that even stand-alone cases seem like part of a larger fabric, rather than procedural. If the show relied too much on them, it would suffer, but the writers never do, making it much more about the characters than any short-sighted stories. THE GOOD WIFE deserves its high esteem as the best regular-season show currently airing on the broadcast networks (Hannibal may arguably beat it, but it’s a summer series).

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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