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