THE GOOD WIFE “Closing Arguments” Review

THE GOOD WIFE “Closing Arguments” Season 2 Episode 23 – Back when Scott Porter dropped the series’ big bomb-that Kalinda slept with Peter Florrick-the suspense began to climb, and climb until it finally reached a climax last week, cresting with Alicia’s emotional dismissal of Kalinda, and Kalinda’s decision that she really does not need anyone.

Television season finales have been permeated with big explosions, gunfights, will they-won’t they get together/survive cliffhangers. Just yesterday I reviewed an episode of Chuck called “Chuck Versus The Cliffhanger”. It’s a reasonable television cliché: leave the audience with a question, and fingers crossed they’ll return in droves in the Fall for the answer.

The Good Wife, whilst certainly leaving a few loose ends, rises above the cliffhanger. In fact, this episode lowers the stakes. No, Alicia and Peter don’t sort things out “Mr & Mrs Smith” style. No, Will doesn’t have a hostage crisis in the firm to suddenly deal with. Diane isn’t faced with Sarah Palin’s shotgun-toting clone seeking revenge for her all too brief tryst with Gary Coleman. And Kalinda is not facing down a meth gang (at one point in this season, that might have looked like an option on the horizon. But I did not make the Sarah Palin clone thing up. I’ve seen previews of season 3. Trust me.)

Instead of giving us a cliffhanger, The Good Wife‘s A-story focused on a case involving a man accused of murdering a judge for dismissing his lawsuit against a hospital. This man was seeking damages for the death of his son during a standard surgery. Things do not look good for Lockhart/Gardner as the jury head in for deliberations-until Alicia is handed an envelope with the crucial piece of missing evidence inside-a bloody glove worn by the judge.

The Good Wife didn’t fire up the guns, and if I weren’t such a huge fan of the show I might be frustrated by this. After all, I’ve been raised believing that a finale without at least a gunshot and/or tragic death/near death is no finale at all. But as a giant fan of the show, I can’t help but admire what creators and showrunners Robert King and Michelle King have done.

If last week’s episode had been the finale, and this the premiere in the Fall, I think it would have been very disappointing. What? No emotional meltdowns? No tempers flaring? Instead, this is the finale, a low key episode filled with small story arcs: Kalinda’s one night stand with yet another spouse, this time a woman who is either bisexual or a lesbian in the closet. Alicia’s promotion within Lockhart/Gardner as Eli Gold’s liaison. Alicia’s relationship with Will finally coming to fruition. Nothing to tear the roof down, but then there’s no need to build it back up in season three.

Also, the writers really have not constrained themselves. No one is in a precarious position, everything at this point is completely malleable. We might return in September to find Alicia and Peter are back together living in suburbia; we might return and find Alicia engaged or even married to Will, we might return to see Kalinda has finally packed away her boots and become a lesbian nun assassin (do I smell a spinoff?) There’s no telling where the third season will begin, and what the Kings and co. have in store. That’s far more alluring to me that guessing whether or not the main character/love interest will survive (how big is his/her salary?)

The Good Wife has pretty high standards for its third season: season one was very good, season two was great. I think The Good Wife has the potential (certainly the writing and the cast) to become one of the all time great procedurals (though I think its already there) and maybe even dramas. I may be blinded by my love for the show, but with the exception of The Social Network rip-off and the Chavez episode, this season was stellar.

The Good Wife sometimes slips into a dark comedy. This episode was no exception. Here are some of my favorite dark comedy moments of the episode:

Alicia’s eye rolling as Kalinda examines the glove on her desk.

Kalinda’s conversation with the ignorant (but in the best way!), racist Italian American construction worker on the cherry picker: “Are you Persian? How would you like it if I called you a terrorist.”

Every scene with Owen, and, just for the sake of it, the few scenes with Jackie and Eli Gold. Gotta give those two a shout out.

The awkwardness between Kalinda and Alicia as they greet a suspect.

And, of course, the youthful, inexperience, clumsy and cringe worthy way Will and Alicia tried to get it on. So many stop-starts, so unsmooth, but definitely worth it. And I’m not even a shipper!

“It would be funny, but not ‘laugh out loud’ funny.” Peter Florrick to Will on meeting each other in court.

This episode was directed by Robert King, who did a great job. I don’t think the elevator scene worked out as well as it probably appeared on paper, but there were a dozen other things I liked, such as the scene transitioning from Kalinda realizing she slept with another spouse, to her at a bar swigging down a shot, to her standing in the halls of Lockhart/Gardner. I also liked the camera work, which kept some of the close ups in the center of the screen instead of to the side.

I’m totally fishing blind here, because, as usual, I was too engrossed by the story to let the style distract me. The directing on this show has always been so subtle as to feel virtually non-existent, which is a style I particularly love as I feel it’s the most effective way to see the viewer lost in the story.

I’m sure there are plenty of flaws with this episode, but The Good Wife is a show I love, and when I love anything-from Harry Potter to Pan’s Labyrinth to Power Rangers: Time Force (and the earlier seasons of Lightspeed Rescue-by the end the plotting got just too convoluted for me)-I see the flaws but they don’t impede my enjoyment of the show.

To clarify, this episode is not one I loved so much as I admired: I admired the courage of the creators to step back let the show breathe back to normal after so many weeks of intensity with the Kalinda/Alicia relationship. That was some pretty damn fine storytelling, and The Good Wife has a pretty damn fine story to tell.

As I write this, CBS has not given the go ahead for a third season for The Good Wife. Apparently the target demographics in the 18-49 year olds is too small. If CBS cancels The Good Wife (and the one network hope of snatching the Best Drama Emmy from AMC’s Mad Men), well, then they’d be the most blatant money whoring douche bags. Of course, if they renew The Good Wife, as every sane person knows they should (insert fist wagging here) then they’re awesome. Or at least as awesome as a network with Two And A Half Men can be.

What did you think of the series finale? Sound off in the comments below!

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