The Good Wife, Season 6 Episode 20: “The Deconstruction”

Alicia Florrick is adrift. Once again she walks into a press conference as the result of a political scandal, except she’s the one stepping away from public office instead of her husband. Nearly six years ago, when Peter resigned, she had nothing; they had to sell the house to pay his legal fees, but she moved into an apartment with her children, and she was able to use her connections to get a job at one of the best law firms in Chicago. From there it’s only gotten better, as she separated from Peter (more than once), had an affair with Will, and started her own law firm. Now Will is dead, she ran for public office in order to get rid of Castro. She won, but her win was due to rigged voting machines that the Democratic Party had installed in order to keep the supermajority in the Illinois Senate. This week she nearly irreparably damages her professional and personal relationship with Diane before Lockhart, Agos and Lee’s new client RD tells them he’s going to leave the firm if they bring Alicia back as name partner. Oh, and Kalinda skips town before Lemond Bishop’s man, aka Body from The Wire, can kill her.

This episode is called “The Deconstruction” becuase it’s the deconstruction of Alicia Florrick. Halfway through “Dramatics, Your Honor” it looked like she and Will were going to repair their relationship, but ten minutes later Will was dead, and it’s all been downhill from there. I can see what The Good Wife’s writers were trying to do with this episode, but it didn’t land. I’ll start with Kalinda, because it’s a problem the show has had all season. Archie Panjabi announced last season that she would be leaving The Good Wife, which led to the resurfacing of rumours that there is some sort of feud between Panjabi and Julianna Marguiles. Marguiles is thought by some to be the source of the feud, but since there’s no actual evidence of a feud taking place (other than that Alicia and Kalinda haven’t had a scene together in over 50 episodes), it’s all speculation. All I’ll say to that is that Kalinda has been marginalised from the main story for most of the season; the only other regular cast member she’s actually had scenes with is Matt Czuchry, who plays Cary. There were a few with Christine Baranski, but Kalinda has spent most of the season babysitting for Chicago’s (now retired) biggest drug dealer. What I’m getting to with this is that there’s no reason for Alicia to break down in tears reading Kalinda’s letter the way she did when she found out her best friend had slept with her husband. Alicia and Kalinda’s friendship has been practically non-existent for three years, so it didn’t work.

This show has always been so good at character, so when it doesn’t work, it tends to be for character reasons. The other thing that felt off about tonight’s episode is that Diane just decided not to rehire Alicia because RD, their new, rich Republican client said he’d leave the firm if Alicia came back as a name partner. Diane Lockhart fought off takeovers from equity partners when Will’s law licence was suspended, and she and Alicia didn’t drop Cary as a name partner when he was on trial for murder. Yes, Alicia and Diane nearly went to war in this episode, and Alicia took a fall for the Democratic Party, and suddenly Diane’s going to choose some rich client over Alicia, and a Republican at that? Last week Diane got in trouble for using faked evidence, and RD is okay with that. He’s even okay with Cary being on trial for murder, but voter fraud in the race for Cook’s County State’s Attorney? That’s just one step too far, and for some reason it’s the (most likely temporary) end of Alicia’s career.

Alicia had nothing when her husband stepped down as State’s Attorney, and she’s been stripped away of everything she holds dear. I’m kind of annoyed Sarah Steele wasn’t in this episode, because Marissa Gold could have made RD change his mind. (To further the point, when Alicia had a conversation with RD, Diane was all paranoid that she was trying to steal him as a client. Did the writers forget about that conversation when RD was all ‘she goes or I go’? What did they say to each other?) This show works when it focuses on character. “Hitting the Fan” is one of the best episodes of The Good Wife (It’s the outright best, but “Red Team, Blue Team” is my sentimental shippy favourite. Okay, and “Closing Arguments”) because it was grounded in the characters. That’s the difference between plot and story. The plot is what happens, and the story is the journey the characters go through. Character work is the difference between the all time great episodes of The Good Wife and “The Deconstruction”. There’s plot, and there’s some story, but the character moments don’t land.

I think The Good Wife is showing its age, and while I love this show, I’ll be happy if its seventh season is its last. It’s unusual for any television show to peak in its fifth season, but a peak can only last so long. The 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 naming convention for episode titles seems to be heading that way, as Robert and Michelle King have stated they have a seven year plan for the show. The Good Wife gets CBS critical acclaim, but it’s not the ratings juggernaut that the NCIS franchise or The Big Bang Theory are. I just think I’m ready for what used to be my favourite television show to end. Last week Joanna Robinson said that this isn’t the show she fell in love with, and that’s exactly how I feel.

Other thoughts:

  • Some people are theorising that Kalinda’s note to Alicia says “Peter set you up”, which is an interesting theory, but this is The Good Wife, not Game of Thrones. Although I would love it if Alicia went all Lady Stoneheart on everyone. Except Cary.
  • Alicia and Cary’s friendship is by far the most interesting relationship evolution on the show. From rivals to starting their own firm together. When Alicia said she’d visit Cary in jail, that was one of the most heartbreaking moments on the show. Cary should have left Diane for Alicia, that would have been a good outcome.
  • There was also a case about mandatory minimums this week, which I could have done without. Every once in a while it wouldn’t hurt if the show dropped the case of the week to just focus on the workplace drama.
  • Maybe Alicia will join Finn’s firm, but I hope not because that would mean that they can’t kiss. At least now that she’s no longer an ostensibly married public servant there’ll be less scrutiny into her private life, right?
  • Overall, this episode and “Winning Dirty” felt like a correction the show has made all season. Alicia ran for SA because of Castro and then didn’t pull out even after Castro left the race. Then of course this week they took away that course correction of bringing Alicia back to the firm. I have no idea with this show any more.
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