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The Good Wife Watch: Best Enemies

As the terrific, emotionally complicated midseason finale showed, Alicia and Will are hotter as rivals than as lovers.

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CBS

Spoilers for last night’s The Good Wife below:

There are many things that have made The Good Wife a treat to watch this season, but “The Decision Tree,” the show’s 100th episode and the last of this calendar year, made one of them plain: Alicia and Will are a lot more fun as enemies than as lovers.

This is not to knock Alicia and Will ‘shippers or to say that romance is a waste of time on the show. But the tension over their relationship is a throwback to the show’s earliest days and its earliest conflicts: would Alicia be “the good wife” and stick by Peter, would she ditch him and find happiness with Will, &c. It’s not so much that the Willicia relationship became less interesting, so much as the rest of the show–the politics, the cases, the office intrigue–became much more interesting and complex around it.

Split them up and pit them against each other, however, and things become fascinating. For one, each of them becomes the other’s worthiest and toughest rival since Michael J. Fox left to be America’s Dad on NBC. Will’s brainstorming and imaginary interrogation was a brilliant example of how The Good Wife is both a straightforward network drama and formally experimental at the same time. There are no showy directorial flourishes; and yet the scene, with simple, workmanlike visuals, takes us inside Will’s head as effectively as any dream sequence.

Following the map of his notes, we see the Alicia we know–cool and disarming on the stand–morph into the Alicia of his memory, then the Alicia of his revenge fantasy, falling apart with guilt, forced to confront the accusation that she never loved Will, that she only used him to gain access to his clients. Their imagined confrontation is heated, breathy, physical–as intense and intimate as any steamy elevator scene between them. As rivals, they’re more confounding, more complicated–and hotter.

Even before the dialogue makes it explicit, it’s clear the question is about more than this case: did Alicia use and manipulate Will the same way she did John Noble’s batty client? But it’s not as simple as black and white, light and dark (the color contrast between outfits Alicia wears in Will’s fantasy and his actual questioning). It’s not either/or, Alicia loved Will or she used him.

One of The Good Wife’s great themes–and a theme in the incestuous, professional-class power-couple circles it chronicles–is that genuine feeling and calculated self-interest are not mutually exclusive. People operate out of both, in varying percentages, at the same time. It’s human nature–not just for Alicia but her colleagues, Peter, Eli, anyone–to be in a genuine relationship while, in some corner of your mind, thinking about what that relationship is getting you. In The Good Wife, as in the real professional-political world it mirrors, combining family, friendship, love, power, career, and money may be messy–but it’s also a force multiplier. (It’s not as if Will is any stranger to this sort of gray area. Even if he also plays basketball for the love of the game.)

Nothing’s perfect, even The Good Wife at the end of an excellent year. An unfortunate side effect of the corporate split is that, once again, the show does not seem to quite know what to do with Kalinda. It may be that the Boyle storyline will lead somewhere interesting, but right now there’s little character or plot interest in watching her chase his broadly Irish mob lawyer around to find the pot o’ golden corruption he seems to be hiding. And spit-takes aside–nice work, Alan Cumming–the Baby Peter subplot is about as enticing right now as as 24-hour prenatal symphony.

But in general, the turnaround in The Good Wife since the first half of season 4, and especially in the first ten episodes of season 5, has been phenomenal. As Zack puts it perfectly, the show has realized both sides of Alicia: she’s his mom, and she’s “this interesting person who lives in our house.” She’s become not just the good wife, but the good lover, the good lawyer–and a very bad person not to have on your good side.

7 comments
Tree1921
Tree1921

I'm disappointed as to the way the Good Wife is going, with Alicia leaving and going out on her own, the back and forth is annoying between the law firms.

pb_mama
pb_mama

I find the balance Alicia and Peter have achieved to be intriguing, and probably much more "real life" than many of us want to believe when it comes to marriage.  It's not so much a marriage of convenience as it is a partnership that suits them both.  I don't think she chose to stay with Peter so much as she chose to leave Will.  Passion and memories are great and all, but their relationship didn't make them both stronger, as a good relationship should.  Somehow, these two amazing people individually, made each other weaker when brought together.  Peter may have a wandering eye, but when it comes to championing Alicia, he lets nothing stand in his way.


Regarding the ethics advisor and the baby name - that's GOT to be a joke.  I fully expect the first line of the next episode to be, "Just kidding!!"  If it's not, I'll be sorely disappointed in the show's writers.

All in all, an excellent comeback for TGW.  Aside from the challenges where Kalinda is concerned (I hope they figure that out soon - though, I like Robin more and more all the time) they've done quite well with the firm's split.  It's fun watching Diane be the level-minded one, balancing Will's ambition.  And I can't wait to see how they finally give David Lee his comeuppance!

STCyogagal
STCyogagal

I can hardly believe TGW writers want us to believe that both Gov. Florrick and HIS ethics advisor Marilyn are that brazen and dumb to have an affair, and become pregnant and then name the baby after  baby daddy?  In the same vein, Eli's spit take was purely GOLD!   And love the way Zach feels about his mom. If Josh Charles doesn't at least get nominated for an Emmy this season, some this way wrong.  He is on fire. In fact, the show needs to be nominated.  That's all - enjoy your day all. 

ge_shawn
ge_shawn

my friend's sister-in-law makes $60 hourly on the computer. She has been out of work for ten months but last month her check was $13733 just working on the computer for a few hours. . .......:>   JOBS60.­­ℭ­­Oℳ

IPFletcher
IPFletcher

I honestly thought the baby name was just a joke, with nothing more to it. Now that there's apparently so much noise about it, I'm really, really hoping that's the case. It's too early to go back to that well yet AGAIN- and lord knows there's enough plot and sub-plot activity already.

lrd
lrd

Honestly. Enjoy the Will/Alicia conflicts but can she FINALLY walk away from Peter please? When are we going to see her character find it's full strength? Maybe he will fall again with this ethics woman and Alicia will finally be strong enough to leave him. Please. Her character STILL isn't strong enough.

johnbetrand77@aol.com
johnbetrand77@aol.com

@lrd I am sorry to say that not one of the people commenting here understands "the concept"  of a good marriage.  My wife and I live a romantic and poetic life together on the lake and the ocean.  And even so, we love The Good Wife and its remarkable writers.  Good writing is as rare as a truly one of a kind marriage.  We are honored to live one and to be thankful for the other. jhb