The Good Wife Season 5 Finale Review: Watch This
The notion of surveillance has been a running concern of The Good Wife's this season, primarily with regard to whether or not it's an ethical act. Do the ends justify the means? Is it ethical? Is it legal? Is it okay, as long as no one finds out? At what point should you stop? We may not like being watched, but we'll accept cameras being posted at intersections to catch drivers who run traffic lights. We've turned surveillance into entertainment with The Real World and Big Brother—and all the connotations that accompany both titles—so it wasn't a surprise when Carey sat down to watch the Lockhart/Gardner & Canning teleconferencing feed with some snacks and a beer. At first it was just going to be fun to chuckle at the meatheads from the old firm who were too stupid to understand how technology works, and then it became something much, much bigger.
One of the differences between the NSA and the folks at Florrick/Agos is that the NSA contractors didn't care about the information they collected through their wiretaps. It was entertainment for them. David Lee and Louis discussing the destruction of F/A would've been a sudden plot twist for the NSA contractors; for everyone at F/A, it became a matter of survival, the same reason the government used to justify its many different levels of surveillance on its citizens, legalities be damned. It was also mined for humor as three lawyers apparently couldn't decide whether or not it was illegal to watch and listen to a teleconferencing feed that'd been left on.
The act of surveillance brought out the worst in the folks at F/A. Alicia, as the client, opted to keep the feed going, and she later manipulated Louis, Diane, and David to stay in the conference room by pausing to look at Will's office—thereby shamelessly using their sensitivity to her loss—in an effort shake the tree limb to locate potentially secretly kept documents in the adoption case she's being sued over. Five years ago, Alicia would've agonized over that. Now? Not so much. Urgency was added to the equation when they all suspected that Neil Gross's wife was there, under false pretenses, though they couldn't be sure it was her. But what if it was her? What if she really was a threat? Well, they'd have to keep watching to be sure, wouldn't they?
One of the other differences between F/A and the NSA is that, while the NSA has oodles of secrets, its secrets aren't about itself. Sure, it's embarrassing and compromising when knowledge of the organization's operations comes out, but it can keep chugging along. That wasn't the case for Cary, as everyone found out about his and Kalinda's relationship, and that Kalinda has only been using him for information, as a thing to be "exploited." I didn't read Cary's reaction to this as surprise or shock—he knew. Instead, he was horrified that this information was coming to light in front of his colleagues and his employees. Cary may not want doors and walls in the F/A offices, like the secret-keeping den of L/G had, but he still kept a few tidbits to himself.
The cracks forming in Alicia and Cary's partnership were decidedly unpleasant to watch. Lately, screaming matches have been much more common for The Good Wife than they used to be, with Will in Alicia's office in "Hitting the Fan," Peter and Alicia in the kitchen a few weeks ago, and now Alicia and Cary outside their building and then inside of it. Those scenes were intense, quickly bringing the pair to one another's throats as Will and Diane occasionally found themselves over the seasons, from that time Will was ready to force Diane out in Season 1 to that time Diane thought she was being forced out by Will and Derrick Bond in Season 2 to that time Diane was actually forced out in Season 4.
My quibble with all of this—Cary going to Louis, and those heated exchanges and icy glares as Diane had herself a Last Supper-esque sitdown with F/A to ask them to take her in along with her $38 million in clients—is that the plot essentially coasted on so much of the history of between Alicia and Cary. It relied on the construction of their positive relationship; there was no strife between them, really, up until this point. We'd never seen them really running the firm, dealing with employees or other colleagues, or displaying contentious differences in styles. Hell, Cary even gave her a day off! So either their partnership was always this fragile and neither of them cared to admit it—which seems false to me—or The Good Wife was so (understandably) focused on making sure that the momentum was there to carry us to and through Will death's that the nature of Alicia and Cary's partnership was given a comparatively shorter shrift.
It all landed quite hard, in no small part because I like Alicia and Cary as a duo that takes on the world and has one another's backs, and because Julianna Margulies and Matt Czuchry just brought it in their scenes. Czuchry, especially, was on fire, seemingly pleased to finally have something to sink his teeth into, while Margulies continued to relish letting Alicia off the chain of polite sainthood and releasing all of the emotions Alicia has kept in check for so long. Even if I had wanted more narrative to really ensure that the arc could succeed on that level, they both made sure it still worked on an emotional one.
The Good Wife has enjoyed a terrific Season 5. It shook itself up not just once with the law firm defection, but twice with Will's death. It didn't shy away from either of these events, tackling both of them head-on and allowing their ramifications. Yes, there were times when it seemed like we were dwelling too long on the Feud Between the Firms, but it ended up serving the Alicia-and-Will storyline in ways that were necessary for the fallout of Will's death to ring true. The show hit new heights at a time in its run when many other shows would be content to just settle in and cash the syndication checks. It further developed its visual language with its memory pop sequences, and in doing so, gave us new access to Alicia's headspace, something we'd previously lacked. It never felt like we lost any of the complexity as a result, either—a real feat. If anything, it only served to further enrich one of TV's best characters.
Season 6 seems poised to follow Season 5's lead, and we should all be thankful for that. The idea that Diane would end up at F/A has been floating around these reviews for a while, and given Canning's threat to destroy L/G & C if he can't have it all to himself, it seems very likely that Diane will ultimately join this little startup that reminds her so much of when she and Will were starting out with Jonas Stern. It neatly solves the divided firm problem while creating new tensions with regard to Diane's possible new role at the firm. Certainly, Cary's going to have feelings about bringing on the woman who fired him twice.
The bigger question is whether or not Alicia will run for State's Attorney. Elections always seem to be happening on The Good Wife, so I don't know how much time she has to decide, but my initial impulse is that she'll think Eli's suggestion—and how great was Eli while thinking through the idea? Epiphany, followed by dismissal, followed by "This could actually work"—is the dumbest thing she's ever heard. I love the idea of Alicia campaigning and getting into politics, and it certainly sets up a path for The Good Wife to follow, as no one stays in the State's Attorney's office all that long before running for something else. Alicia the mayor of Chicago? Alicia a senator from Illinois?
Here's hoping Season 6 is just as unexpected and exciting as Season 5.
– "I see where Alicia's drinking comes from." Oh, Jackie and Veronica. I'm sure that lasagna was delicious, what with all the passive-aggressive seasoning you added to it.
– Annnnd I just realized that Alicia is alone with Grace now. Oh no.
– "We're like a banana republic here."
– "Who's the replacement going to be?" "For Jackie? I can make up a list."
– The biggest delight to come out of Will's death, as this episode demonstrated, was the way Diane and Kalinda gelled so quickly. I loved it, and I want more of it.
– "I just want to build consensus and blah blah blah blah blah blah."
– No, Damian, we're not going to talk about you. The Good Wife pretended you weren't really there, so we're going to do the same. Season 6, you've got a great conflict between Kalinda and Cary now. Don't you dare waste it.
What did you think of "A Weird Year" and Season 5 as a whole? Where do you think Diane and Alicia will end up next season?
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