The Good Wife Season 5 Premiere Review “Everything is Ending”

Just in case you guys forgot, other television shows were on Sunday night. At least one of them happened to have a fantastic premiere.

For a long time, The Good Wife was a show that seemed uncertain about the show it wanted to be. There was the story of Alicia Florrick’s tumultuous love life. It came complete with cheating husbands, affairs with name partners, and 2013’s version of the Dylan vs. Brandon decision. Plenty of people were invested in this story, but it was not the most interesting direction for the show to go. Julianna Margulies went out of her way to say as much during the show’s stop at the summer TCA press tour. Still, the ‘shippers are out there, and they’re sure to be disappointed by the direction things are headed this season.

Meanwhile, the other story surrounding the law firm (now law firms!) always seemed more dramatically satisfying. The show juggled an endless string of strange judges, courts, and legal proceedings with their case of the week while managing to balance long term arcs revolving around the firm. These people are no doubt immensely pleased by the decision made by the Kings to end season 4 and begin season 5 where they did. The show could have taken the easy way out with the love triangle. They would have still made money and extended their run for as long as people were willing to stomach it. Instead, The Good Wife choose to stay true to its core, and that’s a positive thing for fans of the series. The show had a very successful four season run, but a lot of the long form stories over the previous few seasons have been clunky at best (Will/Alicia/Peter) and just dreadful at worst (Kalinda’s ex-husband anyone?). The formation of Florrick-Agos has the chance to give season 5 some real legs if they play this right. The creators and stars have promised us fireworks. Here’s hoping they deliver on that promise.

While the premiere did a lot of setup for the season to come, the case of the week was simply fantastic. There was no fancy legal proceedings to understand or foreign languages to speak. Instead, it was some high-quality lawyering blended with a really strong performance from Malik Yoba as the gentleman on death row. Everything was well measured and handled with a dignity and soft touch the show occasionally lacks. It would have been so easy to speechify on the death penalty, but the episode never went in that direction. Even the judge (played excellently by Jeffrey Tambor) was surprisingly devoid of strange maladies or quirks. It was fast-paced, entertaining, and well acted by all involved. The show definitely can’t do cases of the week like this every week, but here’s hoping the straight-forward craft is a sign of things to come.

The Good Wife was a show threatening to become stale as it begins its fifth season. Now, the show is on the verge of a full-fledged reboot with Alicia’s departure and Diane’s possible judgeship. In a network landscape filled with shows plodding along with multiple seasons of the same thing, The Good Wife has to get extra credit for trying to keep it interesting.