The Good Wife "The Trial" Review: Another Nightmare

The Good Wife S06E10: "The Trial"

Cary's been my favorite character on The Good Wife since Season 2. I liked that the show made him an antagonist of sorts following Diane and Will selecting Alicia over him, despite the fact that Cary put in more hours and more effort. He was bitter about it, and he joined up with Childs in the State's Attorney's office and went to work. His work with Peter was plagued with accusations of favoritism and racism since he was promoted to Deputy SA over Matan and Geneva. He became embroiled in Peter and Wendy Scott-Carr's investigation into Will bribing judges, but was never fully committed to it as a cause. He went back to the firm that fired him, with stipulations, and still got screwed over by Alicia when Alicia took a partnership that had been promised to him and the other fourth years.

In short, Cary has often been on the receiving end of any number of horrible things to happen on the show, but he's generally been a good guy in a narrative where people are both a little shadier and a little more shady. Yes, his defection with clients from Lockhart/Gardner may've been a low point, but given everything that they put him through, it's hard not to at least see his actions as justified, if not entirely understandable. He is, as "The Trial" proved, ethical and upstanding, even in a situation where most other folks would've been on the first flight to Barcelona. He's going to jail for four years—two years, with good behavior—because he didn't want his firm to lose $1.3 million because of him.

Cary being dragged into this whole mess is Alicia's fault, in a way. She's the one who wanted to take Bishop on as a client when they and Cary's fellow fourth-years left Lockhart/Gardner; Cary wasn't keen on the idea. Bishop does bring in the money, of course, but it was one of those ethical issues that Cary has always had a certain clarity about, a clarity that the show has steadily muddied for Alicia, and Cary suffered, however indirectly, the blowback for that. The show isn't making a big deal of this—the characters are all professionals, they know what the law entails and what it means to keep a law firm afloat—and so I won't either, but it's hard not to see Cary as a victim, yet again, of Alicia's willingness to make compromises in her drive for success. This perspective sort of skewed his good bye with Alicia for me, even if it was still a little tear=inducing all the same.

I know I sound less broken up about my favorite character apparently being written off the show than I did about Will's death last season, but I think it has to do with an issue of surprise. I wasn't expecting Will to die even if I was sort of expecting Josh Charles to leave the show. It was shocking on any number of levels in a way that Cary being sent to prison wasn't. I had half-suspected as much given how often the show was stacking things against Cary—organically and not-so-organically—and since The Good Wife is not generally prone to last-minute sentiment, I didn't expect Dante to show up on the stand, but once he was there, I knew Cary was going to prison. 

And it's that lack of sentimentality that I think means you should read the "apparently" at the start of that last paragraph as a very soft one. Short of a time skip between this season and the very likely (and very likely final) Season 7, I imagine we won't see much of Cary from here on out. Maybe the show will visit him while he's incarcerated, but there's only so much you can do with that, and only so many conversations Cary can have with the women in his life before it just gets old.

Of course, when I say "women," I'm really talking about Kalinda. Cary's arc in this half of the season has been as much about Cary's legal woes as it has been about the challenges of their relationship. Despite Cary being comparatively underdeveloped and Kalinda more or less being on a different show than everyone else, I still thought everything they had across these 10 episodes worked very well. It was compressed in ways I often didn't like, but as a distilled and heightened look at how Cary and Kalinda felt about one another, it worked. Cary's genuine love for Kalinda came through in spades, and her desire to flee and keep herself safe from emotions was in part the result of Kalinda returning to Lana. Kalinda doesn't think she's worth anyone's love, and Cary, being Cary, thinks that's nonsense, and has since the two of them became friendly.

As for Matt Czuchry, he always kept pace with the show's pinballing of Cary. Needed Cary to be stoned on 'shrooms? All set! Could Cary tear Alicia apart in court? Good to go! How angry should Cary be in a charged discussion with Diane where he gets fired for a second time? Just the right amount. Tasked with selling the tensions between Cary and Alicia as their firm was bringing on Diane? Sure, Czuchry had that covered. He was never the flashiest performer on the show, but he likely needed to adjust more and work with the widest range of beats and arcs over the course of his tenure, perhaps more than anyone else aside from Julianna Margulies, while still keeping Cary recognizable as Cary. He did that, and he made it look very easy. This week, easily, may've been the biggest he's ever had to go, and yet watching Cary crumble was remarkably restrained. That was the right choice, as it was also the most heartbreaking one.

As for the episode as a whole, it was an interestingly constructed one, but somehow it also wasn't very showy about it. Normally when The Good Wife does the sort of playful ideas—in this case, shifting perspectives—it really calls attention to itself. Yes, the show had a great deal of fun with Fratti's (Zak Orth) auditory condition by having characters utter nonsense sentences, and it enjoyed giving us insight into Cuesta's (David Paymer) quest to wash his hands, obtain Neil Diamond tickets, and find a muffin he liked. But it also gave us a glimpse into Geneva Pine's (Renee Elise Goldsberry) life, which was filled with far less humor and novelty than Fratti or Cuesta's perspectives. And yet it all worked, never feeling gimmicky or overplayed. Part of this was due to the Kings' script, but Fred Toye's direction and some very solid editing kept the perspectives moving and not feeling like detours on the road to finding out Cary's fate. Handing it off to Kalinda also helped, and her intense showdown with Bishop—it was a good plan, but threatening Dylan is a sure way to bring down Bishop's wrath—capped the episode's flourish a well-tied bow.

Since I felt like "The Trial" had enough humor and fun with these shifting perspectives, the Darkness at Noon-inspired gym-note escapade seemed a little extraneous. It provided a lot of levity, to be sure—we even got Jackie back for two scenes!—but it felt like a distraction. It's possible that with any other episode, I wouldn't've felt this way; vacuum-sealed, the plot of "The Trial" was enjoyable, but within the larger context of the hour, it was a bit out of place. It did demonstrate, however, that Alicia may need to tug on Elfman and Eli's leashes a bit, between the leaked Prady affairs and the Peter-granted patronage, to make the note thing disappear. We'll see if that ever happens.


– Diane was wearing some really great clothes this week. Then again, when isn't Diane wearing some really great clothes?

– Also not helping what I thought of Cary's chances? Matt Czuchry made the press rounds this past week. He did it to promote the episode, sure, but it was also something of a farewell tour, especially considering that The Good Wife doesn't normally garner a lot of press attention.

– Just think about this: There could've been a scene in this episode where Alicia handed those Finn-provided photos to Kalinda, but instead, Kalinda just had them at Bishop's house. There would've been no reason to show this, and yet. And yet.

– I almost forgot about Alicia and Finn's candlelit pancake dinner. That, actually, might've been a little too much.

– A reminder that The Good Wife is off until Sunday, January 4. I'll see you all then. Enjoy your holidays!

UPDATE/ADDENDUM: I don't know that Czuchry is gone-gone, hence the "apparently being written off" qualifier, but it certainly feels like it's going in that direction. Though, as I've been discussing on Twitter, there are some reversals on this the show can take...I just don't think they should.

What'd you think of "The Trial"?