Reviewing The Good Wife is surprisingly hard. The show has been so consistently wonderful from its very first episode that it’s a real struggle to find anything new to say 112 episodes later. I’ve already spent many paragraphs gushing about the cast, the guest stars, the stories, the characters, the humour, the issues and even the clothes that I really don’t have much more to say. Still, that’s never stopped me blathering before.
One of the few changes in season 4 was that the writers seem to have at least made some effort to tone down Kalinda’s crazy story lines. For the most part she was ‘just’ a supporting character to the other storylines and by moving her into the background a bit, she actually shone. Here (as is so often the case) less is more. People are generally a lot more subtle than television writers like them to be, but if you can write and act accordingly (which the Good Wife writers and Archie Panjabi most certainly can) that’s where all the power is.
Kalinda’s one thread of continued insanity was tied into the one plot this season that really didn’t work – Damian Boyle the mob lawyer. The story never quite felt as committed as it needed to be, and was a waste of Jason O’Mara who can do better than that terrible accent and over the top caricature. Again, it’s a character that was made too dramatically large. Subtlety and misdirection are far more interesting. The same problem befell Melissa George’s character who seemed just slightly out of synch with the world around.
One element of the season that I really struggled with was Will’s streak of viciousness and ambition that drove the hiring of Damian and several other dubious acts. I trust the writers enough however to realise that my dislike of those storylines is more about me wanting the character to be unrealistically perfect, that I’m falling for his charms and refusing to see his flaws. I want characters I like to be right and pure, it’s one thing when they make mistakes, but when they deliberately take action to satisfy darker motives like greed, jealousy and ambition, that’s harder to accept and it’s very easy to blame the writers and say they’re making the characters do things that they wouldn’t do.
But that’s not reality and this show is so good, that they have characters that, like real people, are basically good but have threads in them that are less admirable. The audience and characters close to her know that Alicia herself is far from the saint that those further away perceive her to be. She too is proud and ambitious, using her intelligence and charm to manipulate those around her, and (even worse) being somewhat smug about that power. Just as some of those traits start to overwhelm the character however her plotting and manipulation are completely derailed by events that are entirely out of her influence.
Much as I’d love to write a review without having to mention Will’s death, as much as I want it to have not been true, it would do a disservice to not mention it. Like some of the most powerful character deaths in television (Buffy’s mother, Leo on the West Wing, Kate on NCIS) it came like death does in reality, completely out of the blue. Will’s story wasn’t finished but suddenly he’s gone and all of the plans and dreams of those left behind slam into a brick wall. The way that each character deals with that and regroups is entirely unique and once again a masterclass by writers and cast alike.
There isn’t a single weak link in this cast and I would cheerfully give every one of them an award if it were within my power. Everyone down to the briefest guest star or the most background recurring character is superb. Alan Cumming as Eli Gold quietly (or sometimes loudly) plays the master manipulator and often comic relief, but he never lets you forget that this man is fundamentally very lonely, solving everyone else’s problems with no one asking how he is. His reaction to Will’s death, pushing aside his own shock and grief to help Alicia and Peter was heartbreaking. Matt Czuchry as Cary is fighting to be Will to Alicia’s Diane, (or is it the other way around), he’s got everything he wanted – his name on the letter head, Kalinda in his bed, and yet he still doesn’t seem to have anyone’s respect (Canning’s failure to even remember his name…). Dallas Roberts as Alicia’s brother, the only one who really treats her like she’s a human being with feelings and fears. None of these characters or actors are written like they’re supporting characters, it just happens that most of their lives happen off screen make the cut.
I adore this show. It’s hands down the best thing on television at the moment. Breaking Bad is likely to win all the awards, but remember, that will be awarded for just 8 episodes. Good Wife produces 22 episodes of complete perfection every single year.
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