Tuned In

The Morning After: You Can’t Go Home Again

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David Giesbrecht/CBS

Quick thoughts on the season finale of The Good Wife below:

One concern I’d had as season 3 of The Good Wife went on was that the show might be attempting to hit the reset button, returning to the circumstances of the series’ beginnings, from having Cary return to the firm to giving Peter another campaign to run in which Alicia needed to stand by his side. Overall, I don’t think I liked this season quite as well as season 2—though it’s still the best drama on non-cable TV—but the finale, “The Dream Team,” did a good job of showing that it’s not so easy just to go back to square one.

Look first at the storyline with Peter and Alicia. So much that’s unfolded in recent weeks—his gubernatorial campaign, the drama over the house, his office’s entanglements with Lockhart Gardner’s cases—pointed toward a situation in which Alicia was again going to need to put up a happy front to help him win his campaign; even in this episode, Eli explicitly said to Jackie Florrick that for Peter to win, it was essential that their separation not become public. But as the judicial-bribery investigation brought him into the picture, Peter—it seems with premeditation and no regret—decided to go on record with the fact that the two of them had split. The Peter we’re seeing now is more mature and at peace than the man we first met as the series began, and while he and Alicia still have a history and family drawing them together, it’s a relief to see him and the show acknowledge that there’s really no reset button after what they’ve been through.

That you-can’t-go-home-again theme came up as well with Alicia and Will, who ended the season again alone in an elevator together, but under much different circumstances and with a much more wistful tone. It’s been a dark year at the firm, particularly for Will, and what have they gained from it? His and Alicia’s brief fling is over; if last season ended with wish-fulfillment, this one ends with a slap of reality. He’s outwitted a disbarment attempt, struggled to keep the firm above water—but now the firm is in trouble anyway, no small thanks to the complications he brought to it, and there’s more between him and Alicia now than a few feet of elbow room on an elevator.

Meanwhile, it’s a sadder and wiser Alicia that we’re seeing by the end of this season, one who’s learned to be pragmatic and learned when to take the gloves off, as in that terrific, steely showdown in which she pushes Jackie to sign over the house to her kids, with the skills of a trial lawyer and the resolve of a crime boss. But her victories are sad, qualified ones; she knows too much now to believe that she can permit herself to relax. A promotion at work means that she’s a bigger target for layoffs; winning the real estate battle doesn’t mean she can just move back into her old life. Over three years, Alicia has become much more formidable, but at the cost of being much more guarded and ever-alert.

She has, at least, approached some kind of detente with Kalinda, who ends this season with her own reasons to be very, very guarded, as we learn more about her long-shrouded history back in Canada: she had (has?) a husband there, and a dangerous one. We finish the episode with her at home, in the dark, armed and awaiting possible violence; but that’s really the situation of many of the characters on The Good Wife, even if the only attacks they have to anticipate are financial, legal or political.

You can go home, this season ender suggests; but that doesn’t mean you’re home free.