BWW Recap: Darkness at 9PM on the Mid-Season Finale of THE GOOD WIFE
Forget "Darkness At Noon". The mid-season finale of THE GOOD WIFE just served up enough darkness at 9pm to make me almost glad we get a few weeks respite before we pick up again next year. Almost. Come tomorrow, I'll be sufficiently recovered to re-watch tonight's episode, and I'll no doubt resent having to wait until January 4th for THE GOOD WIFE to return.
Right now, though? Well, right now, I feel like I need an Alicia-pour of red wine to get over "The Trial".
It's odd to be on this side
We begin this stressful hour with Cary alone in an empty courtroom. It's a room that will soon be filled with people deciding his fate. But now, in the quiet before his trial begins, it's a dark place; the only thing it is full of is a sense of foreboding. The scene calls to mind the aftermath of Will's death; the eerie stillness is in such contrast to the pace we normally experience in the various courtrooms of THE GOOD WIFE. It is almost as if Cary is walking toward his own future demise here. A death, if not literal, then certainly in terms of life as he knew it.
Here's a confession. Until this very episode, I preferred life as we knew it before Lemond Bishop came along. I've generally found Bishop's storylines a little too generically crime-drama-ey (real word!), and devoid of the humor THE GOOD WIFE is known for (Eli would no doubt approve). So though I have always acknowledged the brilliance of Mike Colter in his pitch-perfect portrayal of Bishop, I haven't enjoyed the intense Season 6 focus on his character.
But now - now I get it. Bishop is terrifying. He's terrifying because the devil you know can be far scarier than the one you don't. We know what Bishop is capable of. We've seen what he does to people. We know that he could do those same things to Kalinda, and to Cary. And so we believe that Cary would rather go to jail than cross Lemond Bishop. We know the real terms of the deal he is being asked to make.
Tonight, we also get to see the terrifying banality of just what can go wrong for an accused on trial. We get Judge Cuesta - distracted by his quest for Neil Diamond tickets and an inability to set off motion sensors - trying to speed up the process by pushing, off Judy's record, for Cary to take a plea before his case has even been heard.
We get Juror #11, who wants to be on a jury more than he cares about actually hearing the truth - or anything at all really, thanks to his hearing disorder. And yes, at the 19:27 mark I did have to pause and replay Geneva's pronunciation of Florrick, Agos & Lockhart to make sure there wasn't something going on with the sound in my own head!
Sidebar on Geneva: She's back. She's got a back-story. She needs to stay. I really, really like Renée Elise Goldsberry, and I really, really like Geneva Pine, even if she's doing the work of that other devil, Castro.
Evil Castro, the real string-puller in this whole Cary nightmare. The current State's Attorney wants revenge for the Florrick slights against him more than he wants any kind of justice for Cary, or for a Chicago under Bishop's rule. He knows Cary won't testify against Bishop. It isn't about Bishop, and it isn't about Cary. And it's certainly not about justice.
In "The Trial" we learn that all sorts of personal motivations can tip the scales of justice.
That was a joke. You can't joke
To lighten the episode, we get a sub-plot around Alicia threatening to stab a teacher and play with their intestines. Or at least that's what she wrote down in a note excusing Grace from gym class. This macabre, mother-daughter bonding session over "Darkness at Noon" backfires on every level after the dimly-lit Grace shows the mock note to her Civics teacher as evidence of satire.
Grace clearly forgot that the age of satire is dead - it went the way of irony, years ago, and now everything must be taken literally, and very, very seriously. Which is why Alicia finds herself in the Principal's office, hilariously defended by Jackie ("Alicia would never stab a teacher!"), and why Eli heads toward apoplexy when the damaging note is leaked online.
Alicia's new inner-circle of Eli, Johnny and Body-Woman Marissa go into damage control mode, and she is strictly forbidden to ever joke again. Ever. Because even her joke notes give Frank Prady ammunition against her. As State's Attorney, he would prosecute someone who wrote such a note. Of course, he didn't know the someone in this case is his opponent, Alicia. Or so he says. I can't tell. I really can't get his measure. Still. No wonder Alicia herself is confused.
At least she knows she's not going to be like Peter, and take bribes when things go wrong. Which leaves the door open for Peter to be Peter, when he bribes the teachers at Grace's school to trade their indignation for political favors.
Again, those scales can be tipped in all sorts of ways.
Pancakes, not drinks
Alicia and Finn. Alicia and Finn. I can't write much else about them tonight because I'll go all fan-girl, and then I'll feel disloyal to Will, and I'll resent my inability to love a show without a ship, a show this good, that deserves to be loved without a ship.
Ah, screw it. I love them together! I love the fact that they kind of talk things out, which is a serious progression for our Alicia. I love that they've acknowledged that something is happening between them, and I love that they want to put barriers between themselves and that something. Barriers like florescent lighting, and pancakes. Their accidental "fellow lawyer" candle-lit moment was a cute, screwball comedy moment, and I loved that the most.
Also, Finn helped Cary by handing over evidence that might help prove his innocence, a fact so few seem to care about presently. It was a good moment, all round.
From one nightmare to another
These lighter moments never once detract from the heart of tonight's episode, which is the descent of Cary into his personal hell. It can be no accident that the final blow comes from a character named Dante, the last of the three young men present when Cary was caught on tape supposedly advising Bishop's crew on how to avoid the law. Kalinda tracks Dante down (more on that in a moment) because he's already admitted that the recording was doctored, but he flips on the stand, saying that Cary is in fact guilty. People perjure themselves for Lemond Bishop, and to be fair to Dante, the two other witnesses have been definitively silenced, but it is still a shock to have that last hope for Cary go down in flames.
Especially since we know what it cost to get him there.
Which brings us to Kalinda. And tonight's reminder that Archie Panjabi is a brilliant, Emmy-winning actress who has so fully brought Kalinda to life that it is not worth thinking about THE GOOD WIFE universe without her in it. Loyal, fierce, brave Kalinda who took a deep breath in Bishop's kitchen and exploited his one vulnerability, his son Dylan. Bishop will not forgive her for the thinly veiled threat to jeopardize his custody of Dylan. It's a bold, heartbreaking move from Kalinda to save her friend - she's essentially sacrificing herself, declaring herself Bishop's enemy, and Archie Panjabi had me every second and every emotion of their confrontation.
As for Matt Czuchry, Season 6 has been a revelation. Every week he has taken us further into Cary's head, and now we're right there with him at every dark turn. The descent of Cary has seen Czuchry turn in a brilliant performance week after week. Tonight, near the end of the hour, it actually hurt my chest when he saw Alicia standing there, waiting for him. You could see his relief, and his fear, and the genuine bond that now exists between these two former opponents.
Cary and Alicia never really got a chance to get their Florrick Agos adventure going before life stepped in, all over them, and all over their dream.
And now the nightmare continues to trump the dream. Turning on Bishop, working for Bishop, pleading guilty and going to jail. These are the options facing Cary, each one bringing with it consequences for the people he loves. Tonight's episode ends with a decision made. A guilty plea. But if THE GOOD WIFE has taught us anything, you never, ever know what's coming next ...
So now we wait. Until January 4th. Happy Holidays everyone. Maybe don't re-watch these first 10 episodes of Season 6 on the break. The holidays can be stressful enough as it is, okay. See you next year!
Photo credit: CBS