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The Good Wife S05E17: "A Material World"


Getting over the loss of Will was never going to be easy for the three women in his life that The Good Wife actually cares about (poor Isabel). They each face their own challenges in dealing with the vacuum that Will's death created: Diane's is the loss of a partner and the professional complications it creates. Kalinda's is the loss of a friend in a world where she has no other friends who don't also carry the rider of "with benefits." Alicia's is the loss of a man she loved—a man for whom she changed her professional life as a means of avoiding her feelings for him. Their attempts to cope didn't go all that well for any them.

But they didn't go well in such an elegantly structured way! "A Material World" had The Good Wife's standard formula of multiple plots running at once, but they were all influenced by the actions taken by Alicia, Diane, and Kalinda. It wasn't like "The Last Call," where we had three separate, if thematically unified, stories. Instead, a post-funeral, day-drinking-fueled discussion of a merger between Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos set off a chain of events that were all connected while still highlighting the challenges I mentioned above. It wasn't the most exciting episode—up until the emotional shoot-out at the very end of the hour—but I love a sense of unity in my drama, and "A Material World" certainly had that.


Will's death made Diane vulnerable as the firm's sole managing partner, so while David Lee has had his time to almost-cry, it was time for him to put on his "David Lee is a power-hungry and money-grubbing jerk" hat and return to being himself. Never mind that Diane was probably correct about how the other partners would greet the return of Chumhum; it was the principle of taking those traitorous fourth-years back that likely rankled David and had him doing his damnedest to upset the feelings of goodwill between the two overextended leaders by playing as dirty as possible in the Mercer family case. David's actions there led to Alicia to reciprocate, and that helped to set off her emotional spiral and a marathon of Darkness At Noon.

While I've pitched the theory of Diane ending up at F/A—something I think could still happen by the end of the season—I'm not sure how I would feel about the firms actually merging back. Part of me would be dismayed at seeing much of the show's dramatic boldness undone in an effort to return to an earlier status quo, but another part of me would wonder—now that Will's gone, and with him the feud—whether the L/G side of the equation could stand on its own week in and week out. The politics of who controls L/G are something we're very familiar with at this point, and I'm not sure we need to see Diane fighting those fights, just with Kalinda at her side. It's organic that it's happening now, but it can't stay that way forever, so the show has a big decision to make.


Kalinda's issues this week focused on figuring out how to fill the void of Will's friendship in her life. One way was to shift her loyalties from Will to Diane, leaving Diane looking slightly confused as Kalinda volunteered to help stop David and Damian's machinations. Sure, she wanted to take out Damian, but given that the show has provided us with absolutely no reason to care about them as rivals, I'm just chucking that aside, and instead choosing to concentrate on Kalinda being a good ally to Diane. Kalinda and Diane have always had more of a business relationship than anything else, even if it was Kalinda doing non-law-firm work for Diane, so this should hopefully create a new and interesting dynamic between the two of them, especially as they have to deal with Louis's arrival next week.

After granting us access to Will's mind and memories earlier this season, The Good Wife provided us with some access to Kalinda's in this episode, which was interesting as she went to Cary's for sex and left as his presence triggered flashes of the corpse-Will from "The Last Call." That led her to Jenna, who only triggered blood splatter-y mess images in her mind. Kalinda's never been great with feelings, and seeing her turn to both of these people for sex wasn't surprising, but the fact that the sex didn't completely work wasn't surprising either. Will was her friend, full stop. It may be why Kalinda looked genuinely sad after Jenna slugged her: one less person to be a friend, let alone a sex buddy. Since she's not too interested in sharing her feelings with Cary, there's only one person left in her life who she can turn to, but I think Alicia's going to be a little busy.


So. Yeah. The Good Wife's just going to keep putting Alicia through the wringer, it seems, and that's a good thing. Will's death was obviously going to impact Alicia the most, and I don't suspect that she'll fully recover from it before the season's out, if at all. His death has raised all sorts of existential questions for her—including "What's the point of loving people if they're just going to die/are simply made of atoms?" and whether she even wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. If the sudden reappearance of Jennifer, Grace's ex-tutor/YouTube dancing sensation/the show's only legitimate free spirit, didn't signify that Alicia was about to make a big change, I don't think anything would have.

I know a few of you weren't on the "Peter was being insincere" train with me in "The Last Call," but can we all agree that he was a colossally insensitive jerk this week? Because, boy howdy, it's pretty awful when you know your wife is in mourning yet she's still showing up for some of your campaign events and you're all, "Yeah, I know, sad face about that guy that I hated dying. But you can speed things up and get to the 'acceptance' stage of the five stages of grief already?" I mean, telling your grieving spouse, "If this is your best, then we need to talk," well, that's pretty damn cold.

Peter's right that he can't compete with a ghost, but without this conversation, it's possible that Alicia might've compartmentalized things enough to sincerely continue playing the role that gave this show its name. Even as she's drawing up the new boundaries of their now strictly professional relationship, she's going to continue in that role, to continue to wear that mask—but the difference now is that she suddenly seems fully aware that that mask benefits her, and she's prepared to exploit it.



SIDEBAR

– Will someone with a law degree please assure me that the ridiculousness of that custody case would've been shut down at some point? Because oy with the empirical materialism already.

– Finn Polmar is so getting fired. 

– I feel like Alicia and Peter always have big moments in the kitchen, but I could be just singling out a Season 1 moment that's lodged in my brain.

Darkness At Noon on morality: "People just think there are black hats and white hats, but there are black hats with white linings and white hats with black linings. And there are hats that change back and forth, between white and black. And there are striped hats. Evil rests in the soul of all men. It haunts them like ghosts haunt a graveyard, and there is nothing you can do but curse God." On human beings: "Pigs in mud, that's all we are. God looks down on us and all he sees is mud and more mud." While this episode felt like a real jab at it already, I swear, if Darkness at Noon doesn't utter some variation of the "Time is a flat circle." speech from True Detective in Season 6, this is all for nothing. (Slight update: The whole discussion of black hats and white hats feels like a Scandal jab as well, but such a weird target for this show, and in the context of Darkness at Noon.)

– TODDLER JOSH CHARLES PHOTOS. TODDLER. JOSH. CHARLES. PHOTOS.


What did you think of "A Material World"?


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I personally side with Peter. I don't like it when people play the victim and that is what Alicia is doing. Fish or cut bait, don't play mind games and manipulate.
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  • I noticed many people on here has been calling Peter a jerk but I have one question how many of you would be okay if your Partner was loosing control over another dead man or woman? Please be honest with your self.
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You guys are probably right but Peter is the one who cheated first.

And even though Alicia loves Will she had to suppressed her feelings to make things work with Peter.

If Peter wants to make things work now, he would have to calm his own feelings and let Alicia work things out herself. I know it is easier said than done.
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I agree that Peter was consistent. You get in the first show(s) that maybe Peter strayed because Alicia WAS the Good Wife. It showed one scene where they were making love and she was dressed. So maybe she was a bit buttoned up. Not that that makes it ok for him to cheat. She put him through the wringer and he deserved it. But it's been 4 years of him doing everything she has asked of him (as far as the marriage goes) and believing that they were working on their marriage. Perhaps Peter didn't recognize exactly how much Will meant to Alicia. I also agree that Will did NOT fight for Alicia. And when they were "off" on their on again off again relationship he had no problem whatsoever moving on to someone else. Again and again. And for Alicia to fantasize about Will telling her he wanted to be with her forever is a bit "too much". I get it that Will died a terrible death. But please, the man was no Angel so quit making him one.
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Having watched this episode I really don't feel any sympathy for Alicia (at least for the last part of the episode). Her hurt and turmoil over the loss of Will is understandable and for that I can empathize. However, her entire relationship with Peter the past few episodes felt contrived. Unless I've missed a couple episodes where there was a falling out between them, her sudden fixation on Will was merely poor story writing. That coupled with her explosive confrontation with Peter didn't help my perception of the character. I followed the show because she was a good person... now she's just as bad as any one of the over-the-top characters in Scandal.

Some will argue that's empowerment, that she's taking charge of her relationship but that would have only worked if she did something earlier in the entire show. At this point, I don't feel any sympathy for her current plight.
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Alicia had always loved Will all this while. Her leaving Lockhart/Gardner was due in large part to her trying to forget Will so she can mend her marriage to Peter.

I think Alicia already stopped loving Peter after his cheating. She tried hard to love Peter back but Will enter her life and she fell for Will. Since leaving LG, her relationship with Will is rocky but inside her heart, she still loves him.

IMHO, she always envision a day where they will at least be friends again. Then the sudden death happens so she is definitely affected. She needs time to deal with her grief.

From Peter's point of view, Will is not family and thus he wanted Alicia to move past grieving quickly. Alicia is already facing enough work pressure plus she has to deal with pressure from him therefore she breaks and explode in front of Peter. We always explode in front of our family first before friends, colleagues or clients.

Added to that, it is human nature to value and fantasize about the one who got away especially one that will never return now.

I don't see anything wrong with the writing. I think the kings of TGW are one of the best writers on TV !


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"...her sudden fixation on Will was merely poor story writing."

Hi ginger,

To answer your question regarding this, there was a recent episode (I think it was the one before Will's death occurred) where Alicia was preparing a speech about how she came to work in law again after 15 years out of work. Alicia has a series of flashbacks where she recounts all the rejection she experienced when trying to get a job as a lawyer. Several of these flashbacks involved Will and how he (fought for) gave Alicia a chance to get her career as a lawyer back on track. IMO it kind of painted him as her knight in shining armor (as cheesy as that sounds).
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I know I'm in the minority, but Peter reaction was consistent. I get Peter created all this, but Alicia chose to stay with him in spite of it and she did it thus rejecting Will (whom to me didn't fight very hard). I don't know of any man or woman who would feel okay with their spouse mourning their lover to the point of checking out on her kids and her family. Some say it's insensitive, maybe so, but at least it seemed real. There is no need for a faux marriage, just end it. I get she's grieving, but the entitlement to treat people rudely is annoying to me. She seems dismissive of Cary in all aspects. And why isn't Cary being used more, I fear for his character; some kind of way I think he's going to get screwed. Don't get me wrong I love the character of Alicia, but now I fear we're not going to see a soft side to her which was a side that made me root for her character.
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I love it when Alicia's pissed (both meanings). Diane had some epic moments too but Alicia kept stealing it, in my opinion.

Also, I'm really warming to that Finn Polmar guy, glad he's sticking around. I'm not sure I'm ready to ship him with Alicia but give it a few more episodes and I probably will.

So many great quotes this week but I think my favourite was just a word.
"Give me the non-simplistic view", "Do you have three hours?", "Yes"
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I so do not want an Alicia/Finn romantic involvement. Alicia of all people should know married people carrying on outside marriage makes one heckuva big mess.

However, if the idea is for Finn to replace Will as a friend/professional comrade, that I could go with. Don't know that Cary would, however.
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sure you do she's the good wife she could cheat with a married man and its ok. Finn is married
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Just amazing. That scene between Peter and Alicia - I was enthralled. When she FINALLY said OUT LOUD that she had CHEATED and it was because she cared....wow I was flabbergasted! And what ensued just showed this huge character leap on Alicia's side. She finally recognises she can benefit from this too. She is no longer fighting to not just be seen as "the governors wife" but embracing it in what it can mean for her! Really powerful moment. LOVED when she told him to leave her house!

Two further points - I immediately thought of Scandal with the white hats/black hats darkness at noon thing - I thought that was just me. Glad to see its not and...

YES JOSH CHARLES TODDLER PHOTOS. Enough said.
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Also, as good as TGW still is, it does feel like there's something big missing without Will Gardner...eventually we'll get over that, but for now, I do miss the character...just like Joss Carter on Person Of Interest...
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No mention of Michael J. Fox in the notes Noel? That was a pretty bright spot in an otherwise 'dark' episode no? Can't wait to see how that turns out...
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It's great that TGW has a bag of tricks and Michael J. Fox is one of the best. I find these death of Will episodes less compelling and sometimes even confusing, but I hold a hope that it will reach a cruising altitude in a new season - or will there be one? Up until Will's death, TGW was in my opinion the best show on TV and one of the best shows ever to be on TV. It's weighing down now, but hopefully it won't sink.
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It's not like it was a big surprise. Fox was all over the tail end of the season trailer they released not long after Will's death, so David Lee calling him, and to have one or two lines of dialog was pretty much, "Here's how we get from Point A to Point B."
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This is why i don't watch trailers for tv shows, ever...i actually was surprised ;)
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Peter was a straight-up dick without a clue.

Suggesting that Alicia was scheming so she could see other men was the biggest "jerk" moment I've seen in a long time.
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When Alicia lit into Peter in the kitchen I let out a, "Gurrrrrrrrrrrlll!" And I give no shits about Alicia/Peter or Alicia/Will. Peter could catch a bullet or walk in front of a train in the next ep and I would roll with it, but I'd fear we'd lose Eli in the process (and I love Eli).
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Peter push Alicia this week to the decision of PLAYING "the good wife" now instead of being the good wife. I saw that scene from the preview and it finally arrived this episode. Its a powerful scene and both parties nailed it.

There was a point I thought Alicia was going to lose it. I hoped she is back on her feet soon at least enough to perform professionally.

I am so glad next week MJ FOX is going to be back. Alicia will be needed to help Diane fight him and David Lee.

This was a less exciting episode but still good as most TGW episodes are.
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Poor Alicia, she's in a tough place right but luckily for us it made her act more uninhibited than ever before. Alicia cutting loose is great TV. However acting that way has consequences and Cary seemed to keep getting the short end of the stick. Alicia's actions paralleled Diane's in this episode but unlike Alicia Diane is the sole managing partner. Alicia steamrolled Cary again and again, as well as threatening to quit and unethically leaking information to the State's Attorney. This will be an interesting space moving forward because Alicia and Cary's power sharing arrangement hasn't been clearly explained to us. Does Cary submit to Alicia with her higher profile or does he insist on equality.

I think Peter's assholery was a little contrived but at least it motivated Alicia to take some more control of her life. A relationship with her new State's Attorney client seems on the cards and I'm all for that. A relationship, rather than a steamy affair, would be a interesting development.
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Please bear with me, I have missed some of the show's content, but I wondered if you could tell me: did Peter know about Alicia's affair with Will prior to this episode? I don't know if they spelled it out or not. Thanks.
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Yes
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Good review, a strong episode dissected well.

That said, I think Archie Panjabi's acting deserves a bigger shout-out, she went through similar hells of Alicia and Diane but she did it largely in silence, using only her facial expressions and character behavior to drive her story. It was a compelling piece of acting work.

Heh heh, yeah, Peter definitely dialed the dick-factor up tenfold, and it rewarded him with a defacto divorce.

Finn Polmar's move seems like it'll either get him fired or get his boss fired. What was so great about that moment was the drilling of the "I want to be a new office, a clean office" and then that garbage comes right from the top.

Honestly, I think the firms have to merge at this point, having Carey drop by shows how deep the well at F/A is and how shallow the well is at LG in terms of characters. Plus, there's a lot of money put into the LG sets and the Diane stuff isn't enough to drive that budget allotment for long.
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Panjabi is always good, accent issues aside. It's sometimes easy to forget that considering how awful her plots are, but like you say, she's great in this episode, especially as she's going that box of Will's stuff.
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David Lee was the perfect jerk in this show. And he timed everything perfectly. This show just gets better and better.
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To address both you and Noel, above, as well as JT Kirk. You can't say enough about pretty much all the actors in this great show. And let's not forget Jackie and how wonderfully evil she is at times, and yet remains human. And David Lee, as you said, houbou. And it was wonderful to see September again (Michael Cervaris, from Fringe) as the new States Attorney. And did I mention I love this show?
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The thing that keeps me on Peter's side is when I think, "What if it were reversed?" What if Peter loved another woman, and she died. Would we really expect Alicia to be sympathetic about it? So while I'm still on Alicia's side, I don't expect Peter to shed many tears for dead Will. And that is why this show is so great! Complex people.
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Peter was a bit obnoxious about it, granted. But Alicia had fallen in love with Will because of his actions forcing her and Will together in the first place. So he was pretty realistic in his attitude in the kitchen, because men don't really think that stuff through and he had no idea what Alicia was going through. That coupled with Alicia's sudden realization that life is a one time only deal, and Peter had been the one messed it up for all of them, made for some very real and excellent drama.
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I wonder if there are going to be repercussions for Alicia pulling the "I'll quite the firm" card this early in their relationship. F&A is only REALLY a thing because of Alicia's name... it pulled in a number of clients.

I know Cary realizes that Alicia is suffering, but that's a statement that can come back to haunt you.
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I think under those specific circumstances - her grief, and that the potential client was the man who killed Will (the father was hiring them to represent his son) - Cary would forgive her. Snitching to Polmar, probably not, but refusing the client, yes.
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Another outstanding acting job by JM in a particularly challenging episode for the Alicia character. She has joined the Cranston/Danes echelon in my opinion.

I don't want to see Florrick Agos merge with LG (and their forthcoming trademark lawsuit brought by a huge South Korean electronics company). With no clear protagonist in the DA's office, DoJ or another firm, we need to keep LG as the opposition.
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It could still be the opposition with an LG run by David Lee & Louis Canning (I guess it'd change from LG to LC... not an expensive rebranding exercise) and only Diane moving to FA?
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I'd be all for that.
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This was a really good episode. From the previews we've seen, I knew Alicia was going to become overwhelmed with her grief. I've been worried that Alicia would run back to Peter (I can't stand him, lol), but he was a jerk and she saw through him. I don't expect this will be the end of Alicia and Peter, but I wish it was.

Poor Kalinda. Please TGW writers, figure out a way for Kalinda and Alicia to be friends again. I think a genuine Kalinda and Diane friendship will be nice, too.

I hope this is the end of Damien on the show. Everything about his story line doesn't seem to fit with the show.
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I missed a couple of minutes.

So I came back into the room and it looked like Kalinda was going to bang Cary. But then... the screen showed "something" And she left. It looked red blood in saline? Or something? And then she went to someone else instead.

What was that weird visual of red stuff about?
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I don't understand how you can leave the room!
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Honestly, unless it's either a show that I'm DYING to watch or it has heavy action / visuals / eye-candy / etc. then I sometimes use the TV as a glorified radio.

The Good Wife, as well as other law / crime / detective shows are usually fine with that... with the dialog I don't need to see the screen to know what's going on while I'm folding laundry or making dinner.

In this case I turned around and was wonder w t f was on the screen.
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The dialogue is excellent and does permit you to look away...
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She is imagining/reliving the moment Will was shot--it's blood.
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Thanks. I figured it had to do with that, but it was weird imagery in my opinion. Had it been a puddle on the floor or something then it would be one thing. Unless it was supposed to just be ordinary splatter and I was just assuming it was mixed in some water.
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I agree I didn't get what it was, it looked like an acid trip - albeit with no enough imagination. Glad you guys are more intelligent than I am.
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This show depended too much on the "overheard conversation." Really, Damien overhears Alicia and Diane in the restaurant and then Kalinda overhears David Lee and Damien. Too much overhearing as a plot device for this viewer. It weakened the show.

I am not a fan of Kalinda, and I am tired of her sex escapades being part of the show, even if they somehow were supposed to be her way of dealing with grief in this episode. In fact, Kalinda is getting quite boring. I like the investigator for Alicia's firm better.

Alicia's character continues to be intriguing, and I am interested in what is going to happen next in her life.

I wish Michael J. Fox wasn't returning to this show. I get tired of his character fast.
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Now that you've mentioned it, WHERE THE EFF IS ROBIN???
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I like Michael J Fox's character... but in small doses.

I don't know if I could stand a multi-episode arch with his "unique" way of approaching things.
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Good call on the convenient overhearing. I made exactly the same comment while watching. It isn't like TGW to be that lazy
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I feel, that Will's death left a hole in me or something. Didn't watch the episode with that much fervour or enthusiasm.
Though I enjoyed Alicia telling Peter, the insensitive jerk, to F... off. Finally!!!
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Can people just give an Emmy to Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart) already?!?!? Pleeeaaaaaase!!!!!!
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An amazing actress!
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She deserves it for laughing without opening her mouth.
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Great review... and great stuff in this ep (in addition to the awesome toddler pics!):
  • To me the highlight of the Peter-Alicia argument was how much Alicia has changed from the naive Alicia we saw in Season 1... She is happy to stay married because that helps her job... It's not something new but for her to state it quite so coldly, wow Alicia... She's changed and not all is good change... I think it is pretty brave for TGW to be honest about this... and not worry that the lead character may be less likeable
  • I could have watched tipsy Diane & Alicia's banter non-stop... Esp. their judgy statements about Will's family not knowing him very well... Dark humour!
  • Is it me or are they being very careful to show that Finn Polmar is NOT a new love interest for Alicia? The references to his family/wife seem very deliberate
  • Damian is gone! Right? Please? Hopefully that policewoman too - both totally pointless characters
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I so like when Alicia gets fired up in court or in her private life: Peter is an insensitive tool with such a bad timing that I wonder how can he be governor; oh wait, being governor's just about the only thing he loves or will ever love at this rate.

I really look forward to Canning and Colin Sweeney over the next 2 episodes! They are both two of my favourite guest-stars (don't forget Miss Tascioni!) and the way they get the best out of Alice will surely help her deal with Will's loss. Just like helping ADA Polmar will – he's such a great guy I hope he stays on the show!

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Peter has always been a colossally insensitive jerk. Alicia is better off without him.
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I would have begun this with whatever happened to omen boy Damian--did I miss the episode where he got shitcanned?--if I hadn't seen the episode, which I don't always do before reading your great reviews. Because I like to sandbag this show into the summer, for as long as I can stand it--which is usually less than a month. Turned out I didn't miss an episode, because there he was getting brilliantly shitcanned by Diane and Kalinda. The depth of this show never ceases to amaze me, because it's so layered and brilliantly written. These people actually seem to have souls, and they're not even real. I'm currently writing a new book and when I see this brilliance, I wonder why I even try--the reason, I discovered, being that I also watch Hawaii Five-Oh. Don't judge me, I'm old. Hawaii Five-Oh isn't awful, it just isn't good.

You could almost feel Alicia, Kalinda and Diane's feelings along with them, and I think they all will recover, and be changed ever after. I think the reason why Alicia's so angry and resentful of Peter is because it was his indiscretions that caused her to even have the chance of falling in love with Will in the first place, and she as much as said so. I also loved the way it all challenged Alicia's mortality brilliantly. I knew Louis Canning was coming, but it surprised me at how, at the shocking end. And I'm quite sure that Elsbeth will be back with her new partner to wreak havoc on both firm's. I want to see her go toe to toe with Louis, and kick his Michael J. Fox ass, as he did Larry David's.

I love this show and I think it's one of the best ever on TV...
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Yep, looking like Diane will be jumping ship to K/A - but possibly not until the very end of this season.
The merger with MJ Fox's firm would probably bring in the cash to settle their expansion (L/G), but the politics will probably drive her out.
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It seems somewhat unfair that Diane would be kicked out of her own firm but I agree it is a possible scenario since David Lee & Louis Canning could be a law firm to root AGAINST next season seeing how dirty both play... They are only missing Patti Nyholm and that is the unholy trinity of lawyers...
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I agree that it seems unfair, but if Diane does join Florrick/Agos, they would be financially stable with the business she would bring, they would also benefit from her experience of running a firm.

But how would the other members of F/A react - they left L/G because of the way it was being run
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So much of it would hinge on how much of a role Diane had. She could be super-involved or be more like Stern was before L/G was just L/G.
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I wish writers would focus on Cary's side of the story from time to time. Cary and Kalinda:it's all about Kalinda missing him, trying to screw him over, or just going to him for comfort sex. And what about him?
She can do whatever she wants and critics will always say that's Kalinda, that's ok for her. And they will keep analyzing her and explaining us why she acts like that. I wish they would start to analyze and explain us why Cary is involved with that woman and if that situation is right for him. Because, frankly, whatever Kalinda is feeling right now I'm not ok with Cary being involved with her and always ending up getting the short end of the stick.
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I agree Cary's character has made a truly realistic human transition from enemy to ally and partner. Very fine acting, in a series where all the acting is damn fine!
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You make an excellent point. We need some time inside Cary's head vis a vis his relationship with Kalinda.
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Cary is often painfully under=served...though I admit to a degree as bias as I'm fairly certain that, apart from Alicia, he's my favorite character on the show.
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Yes, more Cary. More Cary being assertive. More Cary and Clarke friendship/courtroom duo.
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There was a fight in season 3, when Alicia wanted Peter to stop the indictment against Will, guess where in the apartment?

I am so proud of Alicia.
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