This post contains spoilers for CBS’s legal drama, “The Good Wife”, up to Season 4 Episode 6 – The Art of War.
Maybe it was the passive title or the sensationalised promos, but for a long time, I resisted watching this series and came late to the party, so to speak. But I am all caught up now and am feeling compelled to write about each episode as it airs.
And the latest episode is a great place to start. With a title like “The Art of War”, I was expecting some references to Sun Tzu or his strategies. But there was none of that, none that I noticed anyway.
What this episode did manage to do was to make me forever associate Josh Charles with elevators. Who can forget the dreamy sequence of Will and Alicia kissing as the elevator doors open and close on every level. Then the farcical lift sequence on last season’s finale.
But this episode has Josh directing a whole slew of people, including himself, interacting as they revolve through the elevators and waiting area of Lockhart-Gardner.
The opening sequence was classic TGW, one for the the books. For a law firm facing bankruptcy, it sure is busy. And the litany of notable names that flashed across the screen was staggering.
Mary Beth Peil
Then throw in the names of the regulars:
Josh Charles (though he was barely in it)
Chris Noth (I consider him a regular, regardless of his billing)
Come on. I mean, seriously. Would anyone ever have expected to see so many good actors in a single episode of network television?
Kudos to Josh Charles for pulling off this rather meaty episode with such an intimidating cast and numerous plot threads to be weaved.
On the legal front:
Captain Laura Hellinger of the JAG Corps is suing an independent military contractor for attempted rape by one of its employees. Amanda Peet played the determined captain with a hint of fragility that was fascinating to watch.
The tight control she had over her emotions and nerves spoke of being stymied at every turn. She was almost desperate to not lose this last chance at justice, but was half expecting to be thwarted in civil court as well.
We see the captain go from a wary, sceptical acceptance of Alicia’s counsel, to serenely extracting and passing on materials during a cross-examination.
“Psst,” Laura ventured, followed by a soft whistle. It did not get Alicia’s attention but it sure got the judge’s, “Counsellor, I think your co-counsel wants you.” Priceless.
They were up against the inscrutable Bucky Stabler, attorney for the defence. Brian Dennehy’s measured gaze, his studied aggression, his powerful presence, belied a casual delivery of his arguments. This gave his exchanges with Alicia an unexpected levity.
And Denis O’Hare was the perfect foil for this contentious case as the uber liberal Judge Charles Abernathy, who casually slips in jabs at the military. But his best line has got to be, “Hope you’re staying cool in this unusually hot November day and I hope you don’t mind me saying: Global Warming – 1; Sceptic – 0.”
It is a testament to Julianna Margulies that even caught amid these three arresting characters, Alicia still managed to shine in court.
I am really liking the new Alicia this season. The hairstyle, the make-up and the stunning business suits. Her skilled juggling and handling of work and personal matters. And above all, her unruffled confidence, both in and out of court.
On the political front:
When Maddie Hayward finally disclosed her intention to run for Governor (against Peter), Maura Tierney was rueful and eager to make Alicia understand her position, “I’m sorry, Alicia. The issues are too important to delay.”
Curiously, her regret and desire to remain friends felt genuine. As Alicia said, she did not need to explain. She did not need to meet Alicia face to face and risk getting rebuffed.
But Alicia was not buying any of it. She kept her composure but you could literally feel her withdrawing from the other woman as she processed this new information.
“It’s not personal,” Maddie tried to explain, but Alicia cut her off with a firm, “Yup, just business.”
This rendered Maddie speechless, probably because she could not deny that her initiating this friendship was driven by business, not personal, motivations.
Oddly, this attempt at explanation reminded me of Kalinda’s words in the second season, when she related, as she called it – the facts, “I didn’t know you, I’ve never even seen a picture of you. To me, you were just the housewife.”
And to Maddie, Alicia was just the wife of her competitor, Peter Florrick. A wife who was gaining her husband traction with female voters. A wife she befriended in order to discover why Alicia was campaigning with a man who betrayed her, to see if Alicia would dish any dirt on Peter and if her support for him could be subverted.
In a way. Maddie and Kalinda did the same thing to Alicia. Though Kalinda’s motives were a lot less sinister, they both befriended Alicia while hiding a huge secret from her.
But the biggest difference between them is that Kalinda tried everything in her power to keep it a secret from Alicia, knowing how damaging it would be to their friendship. Whereas Maddie thinks that her initiating a friendship and subsequent betrayal of it were justified, even expecting Alicia to understand.
Peter hit it right on the head when he said to Maddie, “I can trust a cynic and a conman, but I can’t trust a hypocrite, because the hypocrite doesn’t know when she is lying and that is the most dangerous liar of them all.”
If Maddie is being truthful about wanting to remain friends with Alicia and thinks that it might be possible despite her duplicity, then she is seriously deluded.
And Peter gets serious about winning the election. Expect some nifty political maneuvering soon.
On the personal front:
Jackie has a new caregiver and he is male, courtesy of Alicia’s brilliant insight into her mother-in-law’s psyche. Watching Cristian (Yul Vazquez) handle Jackie is entertaining, but even more hilarious is watching Peter watch them. The look on Chris Noth’s face defies description.
But the only significant personal development on this episode was seeing a new side to the tempestuous Nick. A side where he was neither rude nor threatening towards women, but instead, as Mandy Post (Miriam Shor) said, gallant.
But more importantly, he was in the Coalition of the Willing? I was not even aware that Canada was part of that. Or was that before he settled in Toronto? Because he does sound awfully British.
I was trying to piece together his history with Kalinda based on bits of information dropped over the past seventy-odd episodes and this was a particularly juicy tidbit. Nick in the military? This would have to be before he went to prison, which was eight years ago.
There was this episode from way back in season one where Kalinda rattled off some running statistics. “How do you even know that?” Alicia asked in astonishment. “Would you believe me if I told you that I was a track coach in a previous life?” Kalinda responded mildly.
But what if she was not being facetious. What if by a previous life she meant life as Leela Tahiri. So picture this – Leela Tahiri, a track coach in Toronto, married to a soldier, Nick Saverese. After leaving the army, there were no jobs for a war veteran and he turned to a life of crime.
Leela, who likes danger and risks, goes along for the ride but gets a rude awakening when her husband ends up in jail. Deciding to start afresh, she leaves the country and settles in Chicago under a new identity.
Wow, that sounds really nuts. Cannot wait to find out the real story.
So far, the show appears to be taking on a more comedic bent over last year’s drama. Let us see if the trend continues next week and if anything can top this episode’s list of stars.