04 May 2011

A Good Wife Doesn't Make a Good Husband

The Good Wife, in case I haven't mentioned it often enough lately, is one of my favourite TV shows (OK, one of my favourites out of the four or so that I watch), some weeks I even prefer it to Mad Men and like Mad Men, TGW is a real slow-burner. In fact, it feels even slower because its seasons are twice as long and still the main, overarching plots taken forever to develop (or, just as often, not develop).

Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies, whose performance in the latest episode may well put her on track for another Emmy) has spent 1 9/10 seasons being the eponymous good wife, standing by her husband Peter, the former State's Attorney for Cook's County, when he admitted to sleeping with a prostitute on 18 occasions and served half a season of jail time for alleged abuses of his position. After more than a decade as a stay-at-home mom, Alicia got a job as a junior associate at the firm of her old friend/could-have-been romantic interest Will, and does all that she can to protect her children from the ensuing chaos, and to keep calm and carry on lawyering. She supported Peter in his campaign for re-election after he was released from prison and cleared of the charges against him -- grudgingly, sometimes, but still. She pushed aside the torch she may carry for Will. And on the night before Peter's election, she finally agreed to do a TV interview and told the world (well, Chicago, at least, because, let's face it, presidential election this ain't) that she forgave Peter.

And then it all goes horribly wrong. It turns out that as well as the prostitute, Peter slept with an employee of his at the state's attorney's office in exchange for helping her change her name and her identity. The woman now works as the investigator for Alicia's law firm -- the awesome but evasive Kalinda -- and has become Alicia's best friend. The ever-tactless investigator for the incumbent State's Attorney's office lets this cat out of the bag just seconds after Alicia finds out that Peter has won the election, and this is where the previous episode ended.

This week's episode opens in the same place and then we see Alicia in her apartment, pacing around with structure and purpose. She packs all of Peter's things into boxes and, having made an appointment with a realtor and signed the lease on a new apartment (even though it's late at night), she arranges to have his stuff taken to the new pad. Then she tells him to meet her there. He thinks the place is for the family at first but no, he soon finds out that this is his place, she's leaving him and he's no longer welcome at home. She found out about him and Kalinda, she says perfectly calmly, and although she doesn't want to talk about it, she won't change her mind. Then she goes home and finally she breaks down. But not for long. She plays some loud music from her son's iPod, puts on some make-up and starts to prepare for a court case she has to argue the following day (or, a few hours later, given that it's pretty much morning). She doesn't tell Will or Kalinda about her news (although both of them must have guessed something was up from her professional but brusque tone). She just goes and kicks ass on behalf of her client.

Peter's mother Jackie tries to persuade her to change her mind (Alicia is "just being selfish") and his campaign manager Eli just wants to understand what's going on and whether it is permanent. When she tells the children their father has moved out, she breaks down again and the kids are shocked to see their calm, cool mother in such a way. Also, if anyone asks them what's going on with their parents, they have to lie, she tells them, because although the family shouldn't lie to one another, it's sometimes OK not to tell the whole truth to people who want to hurt them. Through her tears, she tries to reassure them that everything is going to be OK.

Peter tries again to reason with Alicia. He'll see a marriage counsellor, he'll resign from his newly won state's attorney position, he'll do anything she asks. But she doesn't even want to talk about it. It's amazing how quickly Peter changes from a heart-broken, begging tone to someone much crueller. "You're sleeping with Will," he says, "that's what this is about." Alicia doesn't justify this with a response but she takes her gloves off too; when Peter tells her Kalinda is blameless, she asks, "Why, did you rape her?" Exit Peter. As he leaves, Alicia makes a final, heartfelt plea: "Say something to make me fall in love with you again." But all he says is goodbye. Then we see him in his campaign office, very Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, telling callers he's not the same Peter Florrick any more. And when Cary, Alicia's former rival at her law firm (who was fired and went to work for the incumbent State's Attorney), comes in to find out whether his job is safe, Peter is highly ambivalent until he discovers, with devilish glee, that Cary is a nemesis of The Good Wife. You can practically hear him say, "mwahahaha," and it isn't pretty.

For The Good Wife, this is quite a lot of action for one episode (there was also Alicia's case involving a former rock chick being denied a vital organ transplant going on, of course) but so little resolution. Will Alicia ever discuss what has happened with Peter? Will she let him see how much he has hurt her? I'm hoping that in her conversations with Will and Kalinda about this will be more informative (come on, Alicia, it's OK to let people see your feelings sometimes!). Knowing this show, though, the implications of Alicia's separations for her relationship with Will might be dealt with somewhere around season five -- which is fine, although not good for people who like resolution.

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