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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

No "Loser" With THE GOOD WIFE

Article originally written for Seat42F.

CBS’s THE GOOD WIFE was one of the few broadcast network shows airing on Easter Sunday, but those who ignored this installment, “Loser Edit,” because of the holiday missed out. Alicia (Julianna Margulies) grants an interview to Petra Moritz (American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe), who is doing a profile on her. But when Petra gets a hold of the firm’s hacked emails, which reveal Alicia’s affair with Will, it becomes a race not to hide the truth, but to deflect and minimize damage.

The persona of Saint Alicia has always been an interesting one. Those who know Alicia know that she’s not a saint, but in general, she’s a very respectable woman deserving of much of the praise she gets. Still, she is human, and there are temptations. Will is one of those temptations, and while we viewers, who witness what Peter (Chris Noth) does and how their marriage is basically over before anything happens with Will, understand Alicia’s choices, the public, who only see that packaged image, will not.

Is spin the best way to handle this? Eli (Alan Cumming) and Josh (David Krumholtz) think so, having Alicia deny as much as possible, admitting only to a flirtation, while scooping Petra in a petty way by distracting her and setting up other interviews in the meantime. But this dodging, this outright lying, while it does protect Alicia’s public image to some degree, also sends her further down the path of a politician. Alicia doesn’t settle in naturally to the role, but the more she compromises herself, the more she seems like Peter and others we’ve seen in that arena, and the further detached she becomes from Saint Alicia.

Even as “Loser Edit” finds Alicia weathering this storm OK, it spins up an even greater one as accusations of election tampering are lobbied against her. It’s certain that Alicia is not at all involved in voter fraud in her own election, but because there have been strong suspicions that Peter has rigged results in the past, this story carries a lot of potential damage for THE GOOD WIFE. The show is great at pulling skeletons out of closets, picking up threads long forgotten about, and this is the latest continuation of a story from an earlier season. It should be quite exciting.

While Alicia undergoes all of this, Diane (Christine Baranski) gets to work for her new client, R.D. (Oliver Platt). R.D. brings her into a mock trial on civil protection for homosexuals versus religious rights. It’s definitely another ripped-from-the-headlines case, this being a contentious issue of our day. After being given permission, nay, orders, to take the kid gloves off, Diane fights hard and wins the day, though seeing how she does so gives R.D. ideas on how to fight for the other side in a real court of law.

What I love about the way that THE GOOD WIFE handles this is that we get to see thoughtful opinions on both sides from nuanced characters. I agree with Diane, as will many viewers of the show. Her position is well known and, I think, well understood. What’s interesting about R.D., though, is that he approaches the issue from an argument I haven’t heard very well-articulated, someone who respects people who keep consistent values, and who can separate the individual from a widespread practice. He may not be doing right by his nephew (Wesley Taylor, Smash), nor the country in general, but one would be hard-pressed to argue that R.D. is stubborn or hate-filled. Very well done articulating a position that is so often misunderstood or miscommunicated.

The third subplot brings back Andrew (Tim Guinee), who is able, without much effort, to expose Kaldina’s (Archie Panjabi) data falsification. Even if the intention behind it is correct, Kalinda does something very, very wrong that will have bad ramifications for her, Diane, and likely the firm as a whole. Finn (Matthew Goode) tries to help a bit, because he apparently is the most understanding, nicest guy in the world, as anyone else in his place would be furious, but it won’t be enough. Kalinda is about to leave the show for good, and she will not be going quietly.

These three threads, all of which continue serial stories on THE GOOD WIFE, are all excellent, as is par for the program. It always impresses me how THE GOOD WIFE can churn out twenty-two high quality episodes a year, a feat that seems to elude practically every other broadcast network drama, staying timely, engaging, and surprising. Only a few weeks remain this year, but I am ready for the ride!

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

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