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The Good Wife S05E13: "Parallel Construction, Bitches"

Is it just me, or did the break between this new episode and mid-January's "We, the Juries" feel way longer than the break between seasons? After yielding to NFL games, the Grammys, the Winter Olympics, and the Oscars, I'm just glad CBS was like, "Oh, no, we're not running away from Neil deGrasse Tyson. We have limits, people."

In any case, The Good Wife is back, and with "Parallel Construction, Bitches," it kicked off what CBS is billing as a three-episode "event." Now, pretty much all episode promos try to make their subject matter look as riveting and exciting as possible, even if the actual episodes don't stack up. But the recent uptick in multi-episode "events" on shows that may already be quasi-serialized—I'm thinking about what Person of Interest did with Carter earlier this season, or what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing now—is interesting. The promise of an "event" certainly raises expectations, regarding both the episodes' importance to the show and their overall quality. That The Good Wife and S.H.I.E.L.D. are both staging "events" as they return from hibernation demonstrates just how much catching up the TV networks think audiences need in order to get back into the groove of tuning in every week. 

It appears that The Good Wife's big arc, at least for the moment, is centered on how the National Security Agency (NSA) is doling out hints about life, the universe, and everything to other organizations within the U.S. government. These include the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and, more importantly, the Public Integrity Section (PIN) of the Department of Justice, a.k.a. the federal agency that can bring down a very big hammer on the Florricks for engaging in voting fraud and stealing a state-wide election.

Ever since "The Bit Bucket" at the start of the season, I've been curious as to how The Good Wife would bring the NSA back into the narrative loop. I figured it would involve the stuffed ballot box, but I wasn't sure how, since the NSA probably couldn't care less about voting irregularities in Illinois. Enter Nelson Dubeck (Eric Bogosian of Law & Order: Criminal Intent fame) from PIN, who is way, way more skilled at the act of parallel construction—which was helpfully, if clunkily, explained to us through Cary—than the DEA was in its effort to get something solid on Lemond Bishop.

The structural pleasure of "Parallel Construction, Bitches" was in its parallel plots, which demonstrated how the NSA's information was used. The DEA engaged in an act of musical witness locations, and Lester and Bishop's game of "Catch the leaker!" ferreted out the wiretap, leaving the DEA's plan looking half-baked and without the necessary legal legs to stand on. But Dubeck and PIN were a touch more methodical. They knew there was a video, so they made sure to get it first by coercing Marilyn. ("You have no attorney-client privilege. Everybody else is a lawyer, the world is full of lawyers. You're the type to go to jail.") Dubeck going to Alicia and then Will was also a smart move. They both represented Peter's interest in court, but while Alicia couldn't be shaken—"I used to be like you: Certain. Deferential to authority." "Is that what I am?" "Thinking everyone being investigated is obviously guilty. It's just a matter of time. You should be investigated. It changes you."—Dubeck, thanks to the NSA tipping him off, tried to rattle Will with a grand jury summons, despite the fact that Will didn't seem interested in budging.

I'm not sure what to make of Will's reticence on burning Peter to the ground. I think part of the reason is that, while Will is very much a slash-and-burn kind of guy, he'd rather destroy Alicia professionally for hurting him both personally and professionally than see everything in her life, including her kids, suffer the blowback. He may hate both Alicia and Peter, but there's some inkling of a conscience in that litigator's brain, one that wants a contained but harmful burn instead of a conflagration. Maybe I'm giving Will too much credit?

Overall, "Parallel Construction, Bitches" was a tight episode. The Good Wife has craftily incorporated the NSA into its narrative by using both one-off characters from previous seasons and recurring ones like Bishop and Lester to propel the story forward, instead of just introducing new clients every week. This helps The Good Wife maintain its particular sense of realism, and Bishop and Lester's amusing little leak hunt in "Parallel Construction Bitches" allowed The Good Wife to reasonably lead its characters to certain conclusions without it feeling like convenient plotting just to move the story along.

In the end, though, this was just table-setting for the next two episodes. So, unfold your napkins and grab your forks. I think we've got a tasty meal on the way.



SIDEBAR

– I appreciated The Good Wife's acknowledgment of how much Alicia and Cary keep running into Diane and Will during various cases. It set up an episode that would seemingly focus on the battle for Bishop, only to have Diane and Will fade into the background after the initial round of testimony. Such a relief.

– So was there anything better on TV this week than Darkness at Noon, the send-up of "quality" cable dramas? It totally felt like a jab at all those "The Good Wife is the best show on broadcast TV" lines that came out around the start of this season. "You can't cross the line and then act like you didn't cross the line." "Then shoot me. Shoot me." Love it.

– Man, Kalinda. You get some sexytimes with Cary and you just assume he's lying to you in bed. Give the guy some credit.

– Sad to see the Judge Kluger thing kind of fizzle out. Also, is it just me, or are they going to federal court a lot more often lately?

– I love the NSA employees treating their wiretaps like a show. "It's almost fun to watch." "I think Will and Diane end up getting it on." Terrific stuff.

– "Okay. I think this will make sense if I get more wine." This is how I approach all things.


What did you think of "Parallel Construction, Bitches"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/18/2014

Season 5 : Episode 22

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