MONDO EXTRAS

Good Timing

by Jacob Clifton September 23, 2011
The Good Wife: The Story So Far

THE BASICS

I mean, obviously I could do little capsules of every episode, but I don't see the point of doing that with a procedural. You're not watching it to find out that Hugo Chavez is in enamored of Courtney Love, or exactly how many wives Colin Sweeney is going to murder. And the show does a great job -- and I say this with a disinterest in most procedurals -- with those things, on an episode-by-episode basis. Even when you have no idea what they are talking about, the show guides you through the case effortlessly, and I can't think of one that wasn't fun to watch, or wasted. But the show's not really about the cases anyway. I don't think anybody would argue with that. And if you care to find them, most episode synopses tend to focus on the details of the cases, the window dressing, and this recap would be even longer if we included them. So let's see.

The first season ended with two phone calls and the universe -- in the person of Eli Gold -- making sure that Alicia made her decisions for herself. No goopy awesome speech from Will could ever be allowed to take her away from her husband, because this is Alicia's story. It provides excellent yearn-bait and excitement and all those things, narratively, but as a hard-and-fast moral to the story, Alicia can't be allowed to let other people make her decisions for her. When she tries -- and she loves to do it, on the rare occasions when she lets herself -- the universe fucks it up.

Because as much as the show is about testing Alicia's convictions -- she was protected, in a way, for those fifteen years, from the cynicism that has worn down everybody else on Earth -- it is adamantly not about breaking her will. There are some shapes she absolutely will not assume; there are compromises Alicia will not make. Where the story gets its power, then, is in watching her find ways to negotiate without losing herself; without going backwards. Her belief in herself is a continual triumph. Even in cases where her rage comes through -- awkward and horrible and completely relatable, but still stutter-shocking when it bursts out -- she's always been able to say it's about her family.

She's not a Bad Girl, an Angry Girl, she's not hard like Diane or closed-up like Kalinda, and in fact it's one of the things she loves best about herself (as her madcap brother Owen loves to point out) even though she has it in her to bring the whole bookcase down on everybody (as Owen also loves to point out). Her vulnerability and her compassion are, through the operation of her brilliant mind, strengths. Which is how they get you.

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