Article originally written for Seat42F.
As soon as this week’s episode of THE GOOD WIFE opens on CBS with Alicia (Julianna Margulies) working on her memoirs, it’s clear that she isn’t ready for such a tedious, end-of-career task. Alicia is a lawyer, a do-gooder, restless and in need of a project. So when she stumbles upon a former client of hers, Brett Tatro (Dorian Missick, Southland), who needs assistance, though she does try to pawn him off on others at first, it’s no surprise that she ends up taking the case herself. She “Don’t Fail.”
THE GOOD WIFE is never one to grow stale, constantly changing up the structure of the characters’ lives in the series, but that doesn’t mean they don’t stay true to who they are. Alicia isn’t about to start a new career path, outside of the law, at this stage. She has her calling, what she’s meant to do, and despite major setbacks, she is going to find a way to do it. Even if her idea to do so may not be financially feasible, something Grace (Makenzie Vega) asks about and Alicia doesn’t have a good answer for.
This revelation comes to her when revisiting a story set in season one. The events of “Don’t Fail” are not recycled from the freshman run; the case has not been seen on screen before, it just takes place during that time period. This is a really poignant time to evoke the past, though, with Alicia feeling aimless and Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) gone. It’s with a certain amount of nostalgia that flashbacks show Alicia and Cary (Matt Czuchry) working for this client, and reminds both Alicia and the fans of the tone of those early days, which is long gone. Alicia thinks it’s time to get it back, at least sort of.
As usual, the courtroom is well-stocked with talent. You’re the Worst’s (an excellent FX sitcom) Aya Cash plays the naïve, young attorney who needs Alicia’s help to defend Brett. Kurt Fuller returns as cranky Judge Peter Dunaway, who hasn’t been seen since late 2013. The prosecutor is Matan Brody (Chris Butler), who appears much more frequently in past seasons than of late. These people make “Don’t Fail” a great episode as much as Alicia herself and what she’s going through.
I think Alicia is also nostalgic for her family, evidenced by the way she calls Zach (Graham Phillips) after hearing an old, taped conversation he has with Jackie (Mary Beth Peil), another recurring character whose frequency has majorly dropped off. But Alicia isn’t stuck in the past either, proven when she converts Zach’s room into her new office with nary a thought about him coming home, which of course he says he wants to do as soon as she has cleared the space. She is evaluating what she can get back and being happy with what she chooses to do now.
Will Alicia embark on this latest adventure alone? Well, she does ask Finn (Matthew Goode), the dispenser of the advice “Don’t Fail,” to join her. I don’t know if he will. He certainly likes Alicia and she is starting something he can get behind, so that leads me to believe he will accept. But he’s also practical and already has a job. It’s too bad Cary is in no position to leave the firm, as it’s awesome to see him pitch in and help Alicia, sharing a glass of wine together. But I don’t think he’d join a new startup with Alicia again so soon. And Grace offers to intern for her, but Alicia doesn’t jump at her daughter’s words, so I don’t know if that’ll happen.
My wish, and this is purely a wish, with no basis in any inside information, is that Cary and Diane (Christine Baranski) will acquire Alicia’s little office in the near future as a pro bono segment of their own organization, which solves everyone’s problems. It gives the firm a positive win that might even overcome R.D.’s objections to having Alicia there, helping repair the image caused by the leaked emails, and it means Alicia wouldn’t have to worry about money. This twist would make sense to come about mid-season next year, but we’ll see. I’m no fortune teller, and I’m sure whatever happens is something the writers are deciding or have already decided independent of whatever anyone says on the internet.
“Don’t Fail” is an inspiring hour that gets back to the roots of THE GOOD WIFE and the character of Alicia. It ends one chapter and begins another, while acknowledging that these people do not exist in a vacuum and cannot separate their lives into actual, stand-alone chapters. This is far from the procedural format that dominates so many broadcast networks, especially CBS, and truly has a special place in the television landscape.
THE GOOD WIFE’s season sixth season finale airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET and will feature the return and final appearance (at least as a main cast member) of Kalinda!