The Good Wife "Tying the Knot" Review: Mind Games

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Apr 28, 2014

The Good Wife S05E19: "Tying the Knot"

Can I be honest with you all? My notes for this episode are a friggin' mess.

But in my defense, I think that's what this episode was going for, at least as far as the cold open was concerned. It was a virtuoso sequence from both Josh Charles, directing his second episode, and editor David Dworetzky, who last edited "The Decision Tree" (I mentioned his work there, too). Even as a whole, "Tying the Knot" had a lot going on, and with all of it happening very quickly. It would've felt extremely rushed if the episode wasn't clearly having a bit of a ball with its zany "Whodunit?" and the State's Attorney storyline (okay, maybe the second aspect felt sort of hurried, but we'll get to that).

What stood out most about "Tying a Knot" was the issue of memory, as it obviously should have. It was a sticking point for figuring out whether Colin had gone and killed yet another woman. Alicia had to recall events and details of a bizarre situation while fielding distracting phone calls with Cary, Eli, and Zack (and then one from Shauna, of course)... and that was on top of trying to get Colin to sign a document and then having to get him to sign it again because he mucked up the financial disclosure by listing sexual therapy as a business expense. Because he's Colin Sweeney, so of course he did.

Who went up the stairs? Who was Morgan talking to on the phone? Did we mishear and misremember? Did Alicia mishear and misremember? We had to parse all the weirdness surrounding Alicia—why were all the waitresses made to look like replicas of one other? Colin would have glasses like those! What was in the sangria?—while also trying to keep track of what Eli was upset about this week (Zach being photographed with a bong) and hoping that Alicia would make the filing deadline for the court. There were insert shots of watches and documents, cuts to Cary, cuts to Zach, and cuts to Eli. "Tying the Knot" took advantage of its visual nature to confound and distract us when Detective Johnson wanted Alicia to recount events. It was also The Good Wife having a little bit of fun at our expense, as the show is known for doing more in its cold open than most others tend to do in an entire episode. "Yeah, we do a lot," it said throughout the hour, "but just how closely are you really paying attention?"

The show was also re-purposing its memory pops. Season 5 has excelled at using memory to provide insight into a given character's mental and emotional state, but in doing so, it's often revealed events that we hadn't seen before, making their context unreliable. How many of those memories actually happened as depicted? Were they influenced by whatever was happening in the present? Can we trust them? Can the characters even trust them? So "Tying the Knot" gave both us and Alicia a shared memory to try to work through later. 

None of this would've been possible, really, if The Good Wife hadn't previously established this technique throughout the season. If it hadn't set up the visual language and laid the foundation for how we read the memory pops as an audience, then "Tying the Knot" would've just been a showy—albeit fun—one-off for the show, a little experiment in televisual narrative on a series that already had very fine sense of its style. The memory pops, including Finn's flashes in court, are now just another tool for the show to incorporate into is repertoire.

"Tying the Knot" needed those memory pops to put a twist on the tried-and-true (and tired) "Did Colin Sweeney just kill another person?" narrative. Not that this particular recurring story from the show isn't always a pleasure—thanks in no small part to Dylan Baker's continued good work with the character—but I liked that question wasn't simply whether or not Colin or his new wife-to-be Renata (Laura Benanti, playing up the cocoa puffs without overdoing them) had killed Renata's best friend and occasional shibari partner. We knew that one, if not both of them, did it, and that it was just an issue of whether or not they'd get away with it. Which Renata did, because Diane is super-sneaky and did her job as Renata's lawyer, even if it did mean that Alicia was the one who gave the nice crazy-eyed lady her freedom. That, and Diane's quick research on shibari.

We probably need to talk about Finn and Jimmy Castro (Michael Cerveris). Finn's troubles at the State's Attorney's office probably feel all sorts of rushed since they're happening so rapidly after meeting both of them for the first time. Indeed, if I were feeling cynical, I would suggest that Finn and Castro's little war happened because the Damian and Jenna thing bombed horribly, and the show needed to fill in the narrative holes. That this storyline is already better than Damian, Jenna, and Kalinda says a lot about how stumped The Good Wife is with regard to Kalinda, but totally seems to grok two brand-new characters as movers and shakers in its story world. 

Would some of this feel a little less pedal-to-the-metal if we'd at least met Castro sooner? I think so, but I like that the speediness of the storyline is also a part of it. Finn's ploy to keep his job worked, and now it's totally backfired and he needs a campaign platform, or for Eli to at least build him one from the ground up. Everyone's scrambling in the story, so at least the quick pace of events will impact the overall narrative. And, like Finn, I'm sure we're all wondering one thing: What the hell was Peter thinking? Because I don't have a damn clue.


– This wasn't the first time The Good Wife engaged in a little cross-racial identification riffing. Way back in the Season 1 episode "Conjugal," it was actually a big sticking point in the case of the week. 

– Owen swung by! Yay! I love Owen. "Peter's getting laid; you should get laid, too." It's great how much he really hates Peter.

– "I have a theory about women with three-syllable names." OOOOOOKAY.

– "It's not a torture chamber! Sometimes we put flowers there! In a vase! And pillows!" OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKAY.

– "You ladies are quite the team." Yeah, okay, that's too much foreshadowing. Something's going down with Diane and the firms before the season's out. OR IT'S ALL MISDIRECTION!

What did you think of "Tying the Knot"?

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  • Gia_P May 02, 2014

    I LOVED Eli's reaction when Peter said that his Chief of Stuff brought Finn to his attention. The actor is just superb.

    Second best moment was Finn's reaction. I think he is so much better than Damian because he is multi-dimensional.

    To be honest, I hope they keep the Florrick kids to a minimum.

  • alabalaport May 02, 2014

    Noel, you said you couldn't see why Peter would choose to endorse Finn's campaign. Is it possible that he sensed there might be a potential flame between Finn and Alicia? There was that moment in Alicia's apartment when the two met and I imagine Peter has a good radar by now to sense when someone else fancies his wife.
    Personally, I wish Matthew Goode will stay longer with the series and not exit at the end of the season. He and Juliana have insane chemistry, even better than what Josh Charles brought to the table. And it wouldn't be out of character for either Alicia and Finn to hook up; after all, they were brought together by Will's death, they have at least that in common.
    Someone commented here that Finn's character is married and thus unavailable. He never said he wasn't available. All he said was that his wife had a miscarriage. For all we know, they might be separated or divorced following the miscarriage, as often couples get.

  • Barossa Apr 30, 2014

    Who played the judge in this episode?

  • Mdjeanine Apr 29, 2014

    I disliked the ugliness of life being tossed in my face. I don't want to know about preverse sexual choices. Alicia does not need to stoop to sexual immorality as her brother suggested. No wonder our young people think sex is a way to be satisfied. Dishonorable.

  • JT_Kirk Apr 29, 2014

    The episode's 10-minute cold open felt like it was trying to be a spinoff of "Clue" (the film based on the board game).

    I was surprised that the victim wasn't the one whom Sweeney was claiming on his taxes as a sexual therapist, thought they were going to take it there as well.

    All you said is true, but this episode felt to me like a buffet asking us to sample a little of everything on the steam tables, and doing it too quickly. We got memory pops, imagination pops with characters who were originally on the phone, interruptions, distractions, red herrings, dead bodies, emotional flashbacks (outside of Alicia, no less), sexual murder talk, an improbable case, legalese, politics, intrigue, Diane and Alicia squaring off, Kalinda with the evidence and the rushing out, Colin Sweeney misleading... all that individually is fine, but here it was just a little sour. Characters weren't allowed to breathe enough, the timelines never really made enough sense, the aftermath never really felt honest because the pretrial motion was so rushed.

    I will give you that this did feel like an episode that could have been a clever little TV movie or one-off though, I also got that feeling about a third of the way in.

    Renata was cuckoo for the puffs, that ending where she's owning it to Alicia is crazy or crazy-dumb. She's not Alicia's client and she didn't just get a judgement with prejudice, so all Alicia has to do is swear to this woman's statement and the trial is back on. I doubt the writers intended it, but that makes Alicia look like she condones a murder so long as it keeps an important client.

    Then there's good ol' Finnley Polmar, the man who loves his own damned name. God how I'm sick of this show cramming "Finn Polmar" down our throats as a name, we get it, he's the new guy and he's someone we should keep an eye on, he's the letter 'E' that Sesame Street is being brought to us today by.
    Still, if it means keeping Damian and Jenna away, I'm all for Finnley "Finn" Polmar, the most important new character on the show ever, who gets feelings and memory pops and PTSD and scars and everything a little boy could ever want. And it gives Nick the chance to use "grok" in a sentence, ya nerdhippie.

    Kalinda is a problem for the writers, they have this great character but part of what makes her great is her mysterious past, so they define her almost exclusively as a sexual character when she's not busy being an effective plot device and it limits everything they try to do with her. Why don't we see Kalinda's downtime that doesn't involve someone's genitals? Why don't we hear her opinions on SOMETHING so we can take her somewhere new? Why don't we get her back on someone's good side so drinks and sly smiles can be had without visions of lesbian sex dancing in the writers' heads?

    Peter dislikes Castro's doucheiness and probably doesn't like his attacks on Peter's record as State's Attorney, mister State's Attorney. I loved it, especially putting it all on Eli at the press conference.

    Owen should have caught more flak for his role in this week's shenanigans, that was out of character for Alicia and Peter to let slide. And whose dope is it, Zach?

  • anonlaw Apr 29, 2014

    I noted the same thing about Renata's confession. Jeopardy never attached, so she can be tried for murder again. Alicia does not owe her any duty of confidentiality, and they have no attorney-client relationship. If Alicia does not report the confession, we are left to conclude that she is keeping it to herself for business reasons. Maybe she'll report it, though.

    I didn't like this episode, either. I was hoping for more from the Owen-Alicia interaction.

  • JT_Kirk Apr 29, 2014

    I can't say I disliked this episode, but I didn't like it as much as other recent episodes either, so I'm not as down on it as some folks in the comments here.

  • anonlaw May 02, 2014

    It is probably more accurate to say I didn't enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed other episodes of TGW. The show has gotten a little too dark and cold for me this season. I appreciate smart writing and subtle, adult story lines, but the characters seem more disconnected and lonelier than ever, and it is getting to be a bit much for me.

    Anyway, my issue with this episode is that it didn't seem to move the stories and characters forward very much, but maybe I'm not being fair. The issues with Zach and the Peter/Finn are significant, and this whole situation with Sweeney could cause Alicia to rethink her client list. Renata's confession was unusually clumsy and obvious for TGW, which makes me think that it was purposefully over the top. Maybe Alicia will report it and drop some of her more compromised clients.

  • ben45tpy Apr 28, 2014

    A strange episode but a good one.

  • Grumpyclown Apr 28, 2014

    I loathe Owen and Alicia's mom - which could possibly be why I wasn't really feeling this episode.
    Neither of them really support Alicia, but always supposedly do so out of love.

    Also, we now have another storyline involving one of the kids - sigh.

    Finn running for States Attorney didn't really make much difference to me - probably because the position has had so little impact on the show itself.

    If I had to guess, they are setting him up as a future possible love interest for Alicia - the fact that she seems to think Peter will be off dipping his wick in the not too distant future makes me think this.

    I did like the interactions between Alicia and Diane - the fact that Alicia now owes Diane a favor is interesting.
    But I was surprised there was no follow up to the NSA stuff from last week, or the politician Peter outmaneuvered - which is strange, considering the amount of time they spent on that plot this season.

    Same thing for the friction happening at Lockhart/Gardner, (or whatever its called now), - I was surprised such a big plot was left out instead of "Alicias son held a bong!!"

  • carolhlavaczekaj Apr 28, 2014

    A truly "jump the shark" episode. Horrible! Individually the stories could have been decent. This was just a garbled mess.

  • Vicky8675309 Apr 28, 2014

    I like the character Finn but he still seems very "clean" and underdeveloped. Overall it was an enjoyable episode.
    How much time has passed story-wise since Will's death? Alicia seems to be in slow motion which I assume reflects her grief.

  • gruddick Apr 28, 2014

    I think Alicia is really off base about Peter right now. He hasn't been with anyone is in years and she's implying that he is. She's the one who made the latest relationship decree. And out of grief I might add. He wanted to renew their vows.

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