A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
A significant roadblock with The Good Wife’s second outing this season is utter bemusement, as if the script was clobbered together in major chunks without any cohesion whatsoever. Thankfully the third episode is, pun intended, cooking with such brilliant tension, it restores The Good Wife to the best track it’s had since the first half of its sixth season. Suddenly the plot becomes engaging again and there’s truly a thrill to the episodes going forward, where the next installment is something I’m suddenly looking very much forward to. Alicia finding herself at the bottom of the law ladder in bond court was wearing thin, but by the third installment the cases actually become quite interesting and for the first time in what seems like an eon, Alicia’s cases tie directly into other plot lines. That that is such a breath of relief doesn’t reflect well on The Good Wife in recent memory, but I will take interconnected storylines when I get them, and when it especially involves Eli getting back at Frank Landau. Other characters, however, remain very much at the periphery, spinning their wheels and imagining if they would actually do anything worthwhile at any point in the near future.
A main reason that Cooked works so much better as an episode is that it gives so many characters on the periphery juicy dialogue and plot, whereas Cary’s main existence in Innocents, for example, is to bond with the junior associates to a degree that one of them assumes that he’s actually hitting on them. I’m not sure what Matt Czuchry has to do to actually get worthy material, but he might want to get on that train, because at this point when he shows up on screen, I’m genuinely wondering what that the purpose of his character is anymore. If he got killed off, next week, I’m sure that Twitter will go apoplectic but otherwise I simply wouldn’t care (I can’t imagine a good chunk of the show’s audience would, either) and that’s a problem. The same goes for Diane. Christine Baranski is a tour de force on the show and certainly embodies one of television’s best female characters with an unmatched ferocity, but she doesn’t seem to exist in the narrative, either. She feels bad for Alicia, then she attacks her over her advice to Howard Lyman and then she wants the firm to change. That’s essentially about it. Oh, and her suits are as amazing as ever, but an amazing wardrobe does not a good character make.
The case of the week in Innocents revolves around a mother who photographed her children during their childhood as art and then published a book with all of those photographs within it. The adverse effect is that it makes the son’s adulthood fairly miserable, but the case was interesting for a few minutes before it fell off the mantle. Alicia and Lucca’s case in Cooked is a lot more thrilling and not just because I’m currently taking organic chemistry. There’s a genuine suspense embedded into the case and the knowledge that it could be a political ploy against Alicia had thrilling promise. Certainly Peter, Alicia, and Eli have all ruffled enough feathers for that to be a plausible scenario. The answer was unexpected but in all the best ways. Turns out that Alicia’s client was an undercover FBI informant trying to get a corrupt judge arrested. Eli gets his hand on that info via a concerned Alicia and twists it around to get back at the man who cost Alicia the election and an veritable disaster for Eli to clean up: Frank Landau. Landau himself is as sleazy as expected and to see a potential showdown between him and Eli promises to be terribly exciting.
The most exciting set piece of the two episodes is Alicia and Veronica doing a mother-daughter campaign stop on a reality show called “Mama’s Homespun Cooking,” which is about as terrible as one would imagine, if not more so. It begins with Ruth wanting to put a family spin on the Florrick family that would help propel Peter forward to the vice presidency. Ruth is a formidable campaigner, but if there is something she is not, it’s a close associate of Alicia’s. Anyone with any close knowledge of Alicia would know that her relationship with her mother is something that never should be displayed on television, let alone live. Ruth, for all of her political acumen, simply doesn’t know who Alicia is, or even less, who Veronica is. Her strategy of the family dinner is tried but sound, but not with that specific pair. As soon as Eli tells her about the home cooking, Veronica’s mirth displays what every member of the audience can clearly tell; that this experiment would end in an apoplectic disaster. The sauce never simmered but the tension certainly did. It simmered quickly until it became so hard by baking that you could cut it with a clean knife, but with the adage of sending a myriad of crumbs everywhere. The tension between Alicia and Veronica, unlike the one between Alicia and Diane, actually feels authentic and that in large part is due to the show’s effort to actually display the the intricacies of their relationship, complete with the love and all of the bitterness. But the true question of the night is one all of us are thinking acutely: Eli’s a treasure, isn’t he?
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (Innocents):
+Eli is a fan of the horror film It Follows. Now, that’s an endorsement
+“You know Kalinda Sharma? You remind me of her.”
+“Did he just issue the easiest ultimatum in history?”
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above(Cooked):
+“You do have the face of an opera singer.”
+“It never pays to be conservative.” Well…
+Jackie and Howard?
+“So, what about this lasagna?”
+“My mother hated my laugh. She forced me to eat a garlic clover every time I laughed.” Oh goodness, did I just feel bad for Jackie?
Episode Title: Innocents
Written by: Craig Turk
Directed by: Jim McKay
Episode Title: Cooked
Written by: Luke Schelhaas
Directed by: Michael Zinberg
Image Courtesy: The Next Projection