The Good Wife is on fire.
The first five episodes of this fifth season have been some of the most consistently strong of its entire run. And Sunday night’s “Hitting the Fan” was perhaps the greatest episode the show has produced.
A kind of episode like “Hitting the Fan” could only work this far into a show’s run. By this time, we have become so accustomed to the characters. So used to the idea of Lockhart & Gardner pulling through the hard times.
But this fifth season of The Good Wife – actually, starting much, much earlier – has begun to dismantle that well-oiled machine. And after “Hitting the Fan,” there will be no turning back for the show.
Ethical dilemmas have always been at the heart of The Good Wife, but while watching this episode, even though I was firmly on Team Florrick/Agos, I couldn’t decide who was in the moral right. Lockhart/Gardner’s assertion that Florrick/Agos were stealing clients gave themselves the moral high ground, but then Alicia pointed out that that’s how Lockhart/Gardner was created in the first place, pushing Will over the edge.
He sternly reminds her that he fought to hire her when no one wanted her. And that’s true. But Alicia is more than aware that she’s never been treated with the respect she deserves. Like how the offer to become partner was to help get the firm out of financial trouble and because of Peter’s position.
But Alicia is relieved of her duties and escorted to the elevator. And after the door closes, she begins to cry.
Oh, elevators on The Good Wife. There was the now-legendary Will and Alicia elevator scene at the end of Season 2 and the hilarious “surprise party” scene at the end of Season 3. But the Alicia scene was a perfect complement to the scene of Kalinda breaking down in the elevator towards the end of Season 2.
Symbolically, an elevator can go up or down, which makes it the perfect visual metaphor for transition. Kalinda crying in the elevator – and the events that precipitated it, namely, Alicia finding out that Kalinda had slept with Peter in the past – fundamentally changed the course of the show. Alicia and Kalinda haven’t really been friends since, and that relationship was a major element of the first stage of the show’s run.
And now, after the meltdown between Alicia and Will, I have the feeling that that relationship will never really heal, either. As Will walked to Alicia’s office after he heard what she’d been planning, we got flashbacks to when they were involved in their own illicit affair. But those memories crack into a thousand pieces with the circumstances under which Alicia is relieved of her duties.
And I’m sure the show will never be the same.
Will will never be the same, either. He lashed out at everyone left and right Sunday night, but I had to remember that he had been subjected to Julius Caesar levels of betrayal the past few episodes. First Diane and now Alicia and Cary.
But he vows to Kalinda that he will come out on top.
“Hitting the Fan” emphasized the role of trust in any professional or personal relationship. Kalinda battled through her own moral quandary, seemingly playing both Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos. Twice, Will asked Kalinda if he could trust her, and twice, she responded in the affirmative, even if the first time might not have been so truthful. And it’s the betrayal of Will and Diane’s trust in Alicia as a partner that set this whole civil war into frightening motion.
In this rapid-pace episode, it was clear that both sides would be fighting the dirty fight. Of course, there were both firms’ restraining orders to prevent the other from talking to top client ChumHum.
But most surprising – or perhaps, it should have been unsurprising – was Peter’s personal involvement. Peter claimed that he would be running an ethical governor’s office during his term. And now, even before his inauguration, he’s already using his power for personal reasons.
From flat-out threatening Will to not-so-subtly blackmailing ChumHum into going with Florrick/Agos, Peter made all sorts of ethically-dubious decisions last night. But they were all in the name of protecting his wife’s professional future.
And it’s only thanks to his involvement that Florrick, Agos, and Associates will have life. What the ramifications of his actions will be for the show, we’ll have the wait to discover.
But I’m sure it won’t be all sunshine and daisies for the new firm. They’re at war with Lockhart and Gardner, and it isn’t going to be pretty.
The Good Wife and Breaking Bad
I was thinking a lot about Breaking Bad, particularly its masterpiece “Ozymandias,” while watching and reading the reactions to “Hitting the Fan.”
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I’m firmly on Team Florrick/Agos, actually Team Alicia. I’ve never been a big fan of Will (but I love how Josh Charles plays him), and as much as I like Diane, I like Alicia a whole lot more, even if she isn’t, as some character like to call her, “Saint Alicia.”
Through the course of the show, I’ve seen Lockhart/Gardner through Alicia’s eyes. I bore witness to her becoming increasingly jaded with some of their decisions, particularly in Season 4. And when Alicia opened the door and told Cary, “I’m in,” at the end of Season 4, I stood up and cheered.
But who knows what the future holds for Alicia. As Will tells her, “You’re awful. And you don’t even know how awful you are.”
Couldn’t the same have been told to Walter White? Up until the last episode of Breaking Bad, he didn’t understand how awful he had become. Just as Walter had his own image of himself, is Alicia deluding herself (and audience members like me) into thinking she’s in the moral right when her ethics are just as shady as Will’s?
As I wrote a few weeks ago, Breaking Bad created sympathy for Walter from the very beginning, making it difficult for some members of the audience to root against him, no matter how dubious his choices. Similarly, The Good Wife created sympathy for Alicia, and maybe I’m giving her too much of a pass at the time being.
As of now, however, I am still a member of Team Alicia. But if she goes further down a morally murky road, I may have to shift my loyalties.
But I’m sure it will be riveting television.