Popdose Reviews of the New Fall TV Season: “The Good Wife”

Written by Television, TV Reviews

Alicia certainly knows how her husband feels when he corners her in the bathroom and, um, demonstrates a winning oral argument while NPR’s “All Things Considered” plays in the background.

Before you read this review, you should know that it’s chock full of spoilers. So if you haven’t watched the episode, cue up the DVR or go watch it online here.

The Good Wife was my favorite new show of last season and, with its well-written, superbly-acted second season premiere, it is proving that it will continue to sit atop my list of must-watch TV shows.

The episode begins right where the season one finale left off – Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies) is waiting in the wings as her husband, the embattled former State’s Attorney, Peter (Chris Noth), gives a press conference announcing that he plans to run for re-election. As she listens to Peter speak, Alicia gets a phone call from her boss, and old flame from law school, Will Gardner (Josh Charles). Will and Alicia have been playing a will-we-or-won’t-we game since the beginning of the series and now it finally seems like Alicia will make her choice. Or not.

After telling Will, “I get the romance — I need a plan,” Alicia must hang up the phone to resume her role as the titular good wife. Then Will calls back. But before Alicia can answer, her phone is taken from her by one of Peter’s handlers and she is shoved onstage. Will then proceeds to leave two voicemails – one telling her that they should forget about what’s between them, whatever it is, because it’s wrong, since they’re boss and employee; the other a declaration of love and an impassioned plea to phone him, that he’ll meet her anywhere so that they can “make a plan.” Sigh – I wonder how much I would have to donate to charity to get Josh Charles to leave a message like that on my voicemail.

Of course, Alicia doesn’t get that second message. You didn’t actually think she would, did you? I mean, it’s the first five minutes of the season – of course the writers aren’t going to make this easy for them, or us. No, no – Peter’s smarmy campaign manager, Eli Gold (the brilliant Alan Cumming, who has moved from recurring status to series regular this season) erases it. But I think we all know that things between Will and Alicia aren’t ending with a deleted voicemail – if they did, a huge chunk of this show’s following would drop away.

Now that we’ve gotten the “who will she choose” portion of the program out of the way, we can get back to business. Peter is back on the campaign trail, and Eli is on edge about Alicia – particularly, about Alicia and Will. He goes to Alicia to warn her not to speak to anyone who might have a phone, camera or voice recorder because they may try to use whatever she says against Peter. Well, duh, Eli – she’s not new at this. Of course, he really just shows up to suss out the Will and Alicia situation, though he doesn’t really get many answers, considering all he witnesses is an awkward glance or two.

The show must also go on at Lockhart Gardner – now known as Lockhart/Gardner & Bond, after a merger with a “small, boutique D.C. firm” saves them from having to shut down. The new partner, Derrick Bond (Michael Ealy) is a slick, too-good-to-be-true kind of guy, who brings with him iPads for all the associates and a class-action lawsuit against BP (one thing I love about this show is timely its references are – this will come in handy a few years down the road when we’re in the mood for early 20teens nostalgia). From the start, you can tell there is a tad bit of tension between Will, Diane (Christine Baranski) and Derrick, but that’s probably to be expected. It’ll be interesting to see how the two firms manage to work together, what with Derrick’s more unconventional way of doing things (Mentors! Peer reviews! No offices!).

Of course, as much as we love the character and relationship development in The Good Wife, we also need some courtroom action. Alicia, while in court for another case, gets assigned by arrogant Judge Matchick (guest star Chris Sarandon) to be the standby council to a man known as Mr. Sally who is accused of murdering his business partner and who demands that he be allowed to defend himself. When he finds out that Alicia has been assigned as the man’s “wrangler,” current State’s Attorney, and Peter’s nemesis, Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), assigns Alicia’s former colleague and competition for her current job at Lockhart/Gardner & Bond, Cary (Matt Czuchry), as second chair to the prosecution.

Because the man she’s helping with his case claims that the Pentagon actually killed his business partner, Alicia asks Kalinda (Emmy winner Archie Punjabi) to investigate the claim to see if it holds any merit. While searching the apartment of a girl who was involved with Mr. Sally, Kalinda has a run-in with what turns out to be Derrick’s in-house investigator, the smug Blake (Scott Porter). When the pair meet back at the office, there is instant friction – which is exacerbated when Blake insists on calling Kalinda “Leela,” a name that makes Kalinda bristle – and eventually angry at Blake. Oooh, what’s up, Kalinda? What secrets are you hiding (other than that whole double-agent thing you’ve got going on)?

When the prosecution’s case against Sally takes a few hits, Childs eventually makes the ruthless Cary first chair, knowing he has the best chance to win against Alicia. And so the battle between these two lawyers continues. Once the prosecution starts winning again, Alicia brings in a witness who winds up pleading the fifth on the stand. When Judge Matchick tries to get her to testify anyway, Alicia defiantly tells him he has no right to try and pierce her witness’s Fifth Amendment right. Their confrontation culminates in Matchick threatening to hold her in contempt, a threat that doesn’t phase her at all.

What Alicia doesn’t know during all this is that Peter has slipped in the back of the courtroom and is getting all hot and bothered by her confident, indignant lawyerly behavior (“Put me in contempt!” Rawr!). But she certainly knows how he feels later when he corners her in the bathroom and, um, demonstrates a winning oral argument while NPR’s “All Things Considered” plays in the background. I’m not going to lie here – that scene made me blush a little. I’m kind of amazed I watched it happen on this show, and not on Mad Men.

The big wind up: Alicia’s client winds up taking a plea agreement, Will and Derrick start to forge a friendship – one that doesn’t look like it will include Diane – and Derrick declares himself to be Alicia’s new mentor.

This was definitely the season premiere I was most hotly anticipating and it did not disappoint in the least. I’m extremely excited to see what the second season will bring. With fantastic guest stars slated, including Lili Taylor and Elizabeth Reaser, as well as new and continuing storylines and tensions, it promises to be amazing.