The Good Wife "A Material World" Review: Moving On

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Apr 14, 2014

The Good Wife S05E17: "A Material World"

Getting over the loss of Will was never going to be easy for the three women in his life that The Good Wife actually cares about (poor Isabel). They each face their own challenges in dealing with the vacuum that Will's death created: Diane's is the loss of a partner and the professional complications it creates. Kalinda's is the loss of a friend in a world where she has no other friends who don't also carry the rider of "with benefits." Alicia's is the loss of a man she loved—a man for whom she changed her professional life as a means of avoiding her feelings for him. Their attempts to cope didn't go all that well for any them.

But they didn't go well in such an elegantly structured way! "A Material World" had The Good Wife's standard formula of multiple plots running at once, but they were all influenced by the actions taken by Alicia, Diane, and Kalinda. It wasn't like "The Last Call," where we had three separate, if thematically unified, stories. Instead, a post-funeral, day-drinking-fueled discussion of a merger between Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos set off a chain of events that were all connected while still highlighting the challenges I mentioned above. It wasn't the most exciting episode—up until the emotional shoot-out at the very end of the hour—but I love a sense of unity in my drama, and "A Material World" certainly had that.

Will's death made Diane vulnerable as the firm's sole managing partner, so while David Lee has had his time to almost-cry, it was time for him to put on his "David Lee is a power-hungry and money-grubbing jerk" hat and return to being himself. Never mind that Diane was probably correct about how the other partners would greet the return of Chumhum; it was the principle of taking those traitorous fourth-years back that likely rankled David and had him doing his damnedest to upset the feelings of goodwill between the two overextended leaders by playing as dirty as possible in the Mercer family case. David's actions there led to Alicia to reciprocate, and that helped to set off her emotional spiral and a marathon of Darkness At Noon.

While I've pitched the theory of Diane ending up at F/A—something I think could still happen by the end of the season—I'm not sure how I would feel about the firms actually merging back. Part of me would be dismayed at seeing much of the show's dramatic boldness undone in an effort to return to an earlier status quo, but another part of me would wonder—now that Will's gone, and with him the feud—whether the L/G side of the equation could stand on its own week in and week out. The politics of who controls L/G are something we're very familiar with at this point, and I'm not sure we need to see Diane fighting those fights, just with Kalinda at her side. It's organic that it's happening now, but it can't stay that way forever, so the show has a big decision to make.

Kalinda's issues this week focused on figuring out how to fill the void of Will's friendship in her life. One way was to shift her loyalties from Will to Diane, leaving Diane looking slightly confused as Kalinda volunteered to help stop David and Damian's machinations. Sure, she wanted to take out Damian, but given that the show has provided us with absolutely no reason to care about them as rivals, I'm just chucking that aside, and instead choosing to concentrate on Kalinda being a good ally to Diane. Kalinda and Diane have always had more of a business relationship than anything else, even if it was Kalinda doing non-law-firm work for Diane, so this should hopefully create a new and interesting dynamic between the two of them, especially as they have to deal with Louis's arrival next week.

After granting us access to Will's mind and memories earlier this season, The Good Wife provided us with some access to Kalinda's in this episode, which was interesting as she went to Cary's for sex and left as his presence triggered flashes of the corpse-Will from "The Last Call." That led her to Jenna, who only triggered blood splatter-y mess images in her mind. Kalinda's never been great with feelings, and seeing her turn to both of these people for sex wasn't surprising, but the fact that the sex didn't completely work wasn't surprising either. Will was her friend, full stop. It may be why Kalinda looked genuinely sad after Jenna slugged her: one less person to be a friend, let alone a sex buddy. Since she's not too interested in sharing her feelings with Cary, there's only one person left in her life who she can turn to, but I think Alicia's going to be a little busy.

So. Yeah. The Good Wife's just going to keep putting Alicia through the wringer, it seems, and that's a good thing. Will's death was obviously going to impact Alicia the most, and I don't suspect that she'll fully recover from it before the season's out, if at all. His death has raised all sorts of existential questions for her—including "What's the point of loving people if they're just going to die/are simply made of atoms?" and whether she even wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. If the sudden reappearance of Jennifer, Grace's ex-tutor/YouTube dancing sensation/the show's only legitimate free spirit, didn't signify that Alicia was about to make a big change, I don't think anything would have.

I know a few of you weren't on the "Peter was being insincere" train with me in "The Last Call," but can we all agree that he was a colossally insensitive jerk this week? Because, boy howdy, it's pretty awful when you know your wife is in mourning yet she's still showing up for some of your campaign events and you're all, "Yeah, I know, sad face about that guy that I hated dying. But you can speed things up and get to the 'acceptance' stage of the five stages of grief already?" I mean, telling your grieving spouse, "If this is your best, then we need to talk," well, that's pretty damn cold.

Peter's right that he can't compete with a ghost, but without this conversation, it's possible that Alicia might've compartmentalized things enough to sincerely continue playing the role that gave this show its name. Even as she's drawing up the new boundaries of their now strictly professional relationship, she's going to continue in that role, to continue to wear that mask—but the difference now is that she suddenly seems fully aware that that mask benefits her, and she's prepared to exploit it.


– Will someone with a law degree please assure me that the ridiculousness of that custody case would've been shut down at some point? Because oy with the empirical materialism already.

– Finn Polmar is so getting fired. 

– I feel like Alicia and Peter always have big moments in the kitchen, but I could be just singling out a Season 1 moment that's lodged in my brain.

Darkness At Noon on morality: "People just think there are black hats and white hats, but there are black hats with white linings and white hats with black linings. And there are hats that change back and forth, between white and black. And there are striped hats. Evil rests in the soul of all men. It haunts them like ghosts haunt a graveyard, and there is nothing you can do but curse God." On human beings: "Pigs in mud, that's all we are. God looks down on us and all he sees is mud and more mud." While this episode felt like a real jab at it already, I swear, if Darkness at Noon doesn't utter some variation of the "Time is a flat circle." speech from True Detective in Season 6, this is all for nothing. (Slight update: The whole discussion of black hats and white hats feels like a Scandal jab as well, but such a weird target for this show, and in the context of Darkness at Noon.)


What did you think of "A Material World"?

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  • jennifermazzucca Apr 15, 2014

    I personally side with Peter. I don't like it when people play the victim and that is what Alicia is doing. Fish or cut bait, don't play mind games and manipulate.

  • Dupp24 Apr 15, 2014

    • I noticed many people on here has been calling Peter a jerk but I have one question how many of you would be okay if your Partner was loosing control over another dead man or woman? Please be honest with your self.

  • MarlboroMagpi Apr 16, 2014

    You guys are probably right but Peter is the one who cheated first.

    And even though Alicia loves Will she had to suppressed her feelings to make things work with Peter.

    If Peter wants to make things work now, he would have to calm his own feelings and let Alicia work things out herself. I know it is easier said than done.

  • maryannsnow Apr 15, 2014

    I agree that Peter was consistent. You get in the first show(s) that maybe Peter strayed because Alicia WAS the Good Wife. It showed one scene where they were making love and she was dressed. So maybe she was a bit buttoned up. Not that that makes it ok for him to cheat. She put him through the wringer and he deserved it. But it's been 4 years of him doing everything she has asked of him (as far as the marriage goes) and believing that they were working on their marriage. Perhaps Peter didn't recognize exactly how much Will meant to Alicia. I also agree that Will did NOT fight for Alicia. And when they were "off" on their on again off again relationship he had no problem whatsoever moving on to someone else. Again and again. And for Alicia to fantasize about Will telling her he wanted to be with her forever is a bit "too much". I get it that Will died a terrible death. But please, the man was no Angel so quit making him one.

  • gingerbreadmpj Apr 16, 2014

    Having watched this episode I really don't feel any sympathy for Alicia (at least for the last part of the episode). Her hurt and turmoil over the loss of Will is understandable and for that I can empathize. However, her entire relationship with Peter the past few episodes felt contrived. Unless I've missed a couple episodes where there was a falling out between them, her sudden fixation on Will was merely poor story writing. That coupled with her explosive confrontation with Peter didn't help my perception of the character. I followed the show because she was a good person... now she's just as bad as any one of the over-the-top characters in Scandal.

    Some will argue that's empowerment, that she's taking charge of her relationship but that would have only worked if she did something earlier in the entire show. At this point, I don't feel any sympathy for her current plight.

  • MarlboroMagpi Apr 16, 2014

    Alicia had always loved Will all this while. Her leaving Lockhart/Gardner was due in large part to her trying to forget Will so she can mend her marriage to Peter.

    I think Alicia already stopped loving Peter after his cheating. She tried hard to love Peter back but Will enter her life and she fell for Will. Since leaving LG, her relationship with Will is rocky but inside her heart, she still loves him.

    IMHO, she always envision a day where they will at least be friends again. Then the sudden death happens so she is definitely affected. She needs time to deal with her grief.

    From Peter's point of view, Will is not family and thus he wanted Alicia to move past grieving quickly. Alicia is already facing enough work pressure plus she has to deal with pressure from him therefore she breaks and explode in front of Peter. We always explode in front of our family first before friends, colleagues or clients.

    Added to that, it is human nature to value and fantasize about the one who got away especially one that will never return now.

    I don't see anything wrong with the writing. I think the kings of TGW are one of the best writers on TV !

  • Annie_604 Apr 16, 2014

    "...her sudden fixation on Will was merely poor story writing."

    Hi ginger,

    To answer your question regarding this, there was a recent episode (I think it was the one before Will's death occurred) where Alicia was preparing a speech about how she came to work in law again after 15 years out of work. Alicia has a series of flashbacks where she recounts all the rejection she experienced when trying to get a job as a lawyer. Several of these flashbacks involved Will and how he (fought for) gave Alicia a chance to get her career as a lawyer back on track. IMO it kind of painted him as her knight in shining armor (as cheesy as that sounds).

  • c07111 Apr 15, 2014

    I know I'm in the minority, but Peter reaction was consistent. I get Peter created all this, but Alicia chose to stay with him in spite of it and she did it thus rejecting Will (whom to me didn't fight very hard). I don't know of any man or woman who would feel okay with their spouse mourning their lover to the point of checking out on her kids and her family. Some say it's insensitive, maybe so, but at least it seemed real. There is no need for a faux marriage, just end it. I get she's grieving, but the entitlement to treat people rudely is annoying to me. She seems dismissive of Cary in all aspects. And why isn't Cary being used more, I fear for his character; some kind of way I think he's going to get screwed. Don't get me wrong I love the character of Alicia, but now I fear we're not going to see a soft side to her which was a side that made me root for her character.

  • hurtlocker10 Apr 15, 2014

    I love it when Alicia's pissed (both meanings). Diane had some epic moments too but Alicia kept stealing it, in my opinion.

    Also, I'm really warming to that Finn Polmar guy, glad he's sticking around. I'm not sure I'm ready to ship him with Alicia but give it a few more episodes and I probably will.

    So many great quotes this week but I think my favourite was just a word.
    "Give me the non-simplistic view", "Do you have three hours?", "Yes"

  • Gonzai Apr 15, 2014

    I so do not want an Alicia/Finn romantic involvement. Alicia of all people should know married people carrying on outside marriage makes one heckuva big mess.

    However, if the idea is for Finn to replace Will as a friend/professional comrade, that I could go with. Don't know that Cary would, however.

  • Dupp24 Apr 15, 2014

    sure you do she's the good wife she could cheat with a married man and its ok. Finn is married

  • Nat6386 Apr 15, 2014

    Just amazing. That scene between Peter and Alicia - I was enthralled. When she FINALLY said OUT LOUD that she had CHEATED and it was because she I was flabbergasted! And what ensued just showed this huge character leap on Alicia's side. She finally recognises she can benefit from this too. She is no longer fighting to not just be seen as "the governors wife" but embracing it in what it can mean for her! Really powerful moment. LOVED when she told him to leave her house!

    Two further points - I immediately thought of Scandal with the white hats/black hats darkness at noon thing - I thought that was just me. Glad to see its not and...


  • marlonjones Apr 15, 2014

    Also, as good as TGW still is, it does feel like there's something big missing without Will Gardner...eventually we'll get over that, but for now, I do miss the character...just like Joss Carter on Person Of Interest...

  • marlonjones Apr 15, 2014

    No mention of Michael J. Fox in the notes Noel? That was a pretty bright spot in an otherwise 'dark' episode no? Can't wait to see how that turns out...

  • paris_slim Apr 17, 2014

    It's great that TGW has a bag of tricks and Michael J. Fox is one of the best. I find these death of Will episodes less compelling and sometimes even confusing, but I hold a hope that it will reach a cruising altitude in a new season - or will there be one? Up until Will's death, TGW was in my opinion the best show on TV and one of the best shows ever to be on TV. It's weighing down now, but hopefully it won't sink.

  • noelrk Apr 15, 2014

    It's not like it was a big surprise. Fox was all over the tail end of the season trailer they released not long after Will's death, so David Lee calling him, and to have one or two lines of dialog was pretty much, "Here's how we get from Point A to Point B."

  • marlonjones Apr 16, 2014

    This is why i don't watch trailers for tv shows, ever...i actually was surprised ;)

  • wheezell Apr 15, 2014

    Peter was a straight-up dick without a clue.

    Suggesting that Alicia was scheming so she could see other men was the biggest "jerk" moment I've seen in a long time.

  • ChicN Apr 15, 2014

    When Alicia lit into Peter in the kitchen I let out a, "Gurrrrrrrrrrrlll!" And I give no shits about Alicia/Peter or Alicia/Will. Peter could catch a bullet or walk in front of a train in the next ep and I would roll with it, but I'd fear we'd lose Eli in the process (and I love Eli).

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