This post contains spoilers for CBS’s legal drama, “The Good Wife”, up to Season 4 Episode 9 – A Defense of Marriage.
Boy have we hit the mother lode of snipes and loaded looks with this episode.
Brian Dennehy is back, but now as a federal prosecutor and he serves the first volley by keeping score, “So, we’re zero-one.” Alicia bemusedly takes up the challenge, “Well, we’ll have to change that, won’t we.”
Back as well is Bebe Neuwirth as Judge Claudia Friend, who precides over a tax fraud trial that tranforms into a quest to overturn DOMA. Enter Bruce McGill as Supreme Court lawyer Jeremy Breslow, who offers to help Lockhart-Gardner with the case.
“This is my right hand,” Breslow states to Will, Diane and Alicia, “Look at it.” And they do, look at it, then askance at each other, thrown by his heavy-handedness. They huddle and discuss his offer. “He’s full of it.” Will says. “He’s a liberal lion.” Diane argues. “He’s also free.” Alicia adds.
Back in court, Diane and Alicia exchange increasingly alarmed glances as they watch their esteemed co-counsel hijack and torpedo their case. When they finally had enough, they take turns to fight back and reclaim the case.
“It’s not over yet,” Diane says, “We have one option left.” Alicia considers and hazards an answer, “Winning?” Diane affirms smartly, “Yup.” These two teaming up is fun to watch. It does not happen often, so it is a nice treat.
Out of court, the sniping continues, first with Cary and Nick staring each other down and trading barely-veiled threats. “I used to work for the State Attorney’s Office,” Cary informs with a sharp smile, “As your lawyer, I’ve looked into everything there is to know about your business.”
“As your client, I take this stuff very seriously. It’s life and death to me.” Nick gets in the last line. This is obviously a lead up to more dramatic confrontations in later episodes but I was too relieved that Cary escaped the beating with only a black eye (and some hidden bruises) to care.
However, the real bombshell this week is the introduction of Stockard Channing as Veronica Loy, Alicia’s mother. Flighty in manner and indecorous in speech, she even managed to render David Lee speechless.
Returning to Chicago to bury husband number three, Veronica hands Alicia her late-husband’s will. “Mom, this is a subpoena. For yesterday.” Alicia reads in confusion. “Oh?” Veronica replies in surprise, but quickly follows up with, “I got you this book, you have to read it. Vagina – a new biography.”
As Alicia holds the subpoena in one hand and the book in the other, shooting her hapless brother an exasperated look, the dynamics between these three become hilariously clear. Poor Owen, caught between two headstrong women, the polar opposites of each other.
But it is not all barbs between mother and daughter. “I’m sorry,” Veronica apologises in a rare moment of seriousness, “I love you. You know that, don’t you?” Alicia simply nods and just as she prepares herself for a heart-to-heart, her mother falls back on frivolity. It hurt to see how Alicia covers her momentary vulnerability with casual smiles and words.
However, the highlight of the episode was the priceless battle of the in-laws at Thanksgiving dinner. “I’m so glad you decided to visit. Zach and Grace were wondering about their other grandmother.” Jackie jabs, oh-so-politely. “I heard you nearly died, Jackie.” Veronica shoots back in mock concern.
When Veronica finally confronts Alicia about staying with Peter, things turn serious again. “You can’t let go, even as a little kid.” Veronica states, “There’s this person at work, you want him but you won’t let yourself have him, because then you’ll be like me. I’m happy, are you happy?”
“I’m living the life I want and there are a lot bigger things…” Alicia retorts, voice tinged with tears. But Veronica interrupts with, “No, there aren’t. The older you get, the more you realise, there is only one thing. Happiness.”
Faced with her mother’s conviction, all of Alicia’s insecurities and uncertainties bubble to the surface. Unable and unwilling to argue, she walks away. Then Veronica drags Peter aside and accuses him, “You’re exploiting her, leading her on. Let her go.”
“What if I don’t want to let her go?” Peter protests. “Then you’re just being selfish.” Veronica says with finality. When Alicia appears behind them, obviously having overheard their conversation, I understood the slight uneasiness in Veronica and the anger in her daughter.
Having just been told that she had a problem letting go, then hearing her mother say that not letting go is being selfish, it must have been like a slap in the face for Alicia. Did her mother think that Alicia was selfish by not wanting to let go when her parents wanted to divorce?
But even more galling was hearing her absentee mother criticise them for their choices, when she had no idea of the pain and struggles they had gone through, in order to reach this new peace with each other.
A mother who would rather gallivant round the world instead of being there for her daughter in her time of need, had no business belittling the sacrifices they had made, the mistakes they had forgiven, in order to rebuild this new life together.
When Alicia dragged Peter off to the bathroom and proceeded to take him, with the door unlocked, I finally understood one thing. All along I thought that her affair with Will was her rebellion against a life of obligations and commitments. But I was wrong. I had it backwards.
Peter was the rebellion. Her life with Peter – being a faithful wife, a responsible mother, raising her kids in the suburbs, putting her family before career and self – that was her rebelling against a childhood dominated by messy relationships and irresponsible people.
The affair with Will – that was Alicia letting go, her finally allowing betrayal to make her give up on her dream of an honest life, a happy family, a commited marriage. This explained why the normally controlled Alicia cried when she told Peter they were separating and unexpectedly broke down when Grace said, “Mom, you need to protect us more.”
Ironically, this also explained how Alicia managed to forgive both Peter and Kalinda. When Grace went missing, Peter was a pillar of strength and support, while Kalinda was the one who found and brought Grace back home.
Without being asked, without expectations, they were there for her and Alicia realised that despite the lies and deception, these two were people she could count on when it mattered. People who were not afraid to take responsibility, people she could depend on when the going gets tough.
This also brought to mind something Alicia said in the show’s pilot, “Jackie, I don’t know if I have said this, but thank you. For stepping up.” And her little laugh when her mother-in-law replied indignantly, “Of course I would. Why wouldn’t I?”
But Alicia was not about to take that for granted because her own family did not step up. For all her sanctimony, Jackie was ultimately the only family member who stepped up to help and ease her burden when Alicia most needed it.
When Peter asked, “Is this about your mother?” Alicia admits candidly and a little fiercely, “Yes.” And he is more than happy to oblige. This symbiotic relationship really highlights how well they complement each other, in temperament, both intellectually and emotionally.
What is in store for us next week? Cannot really tell from the promo.