Written by Matt Taylor
There are a lot of interesting subplots being juggled this season on The Good Wife. From Alicia’s attempt to restart her firm to the understated sexual tension between Cary and the new male associate, this season has wasted no time in getting viewers absorbed in the drama. Unfortunately, every once in a while, there will be an episode that feels mostly like filler, or an attempt by the writers to slowly set the stage for the more dramatic episodes to come. Tonight’s episode, “Cooked,” was one of those episodes.
This week’s case found Alicia teaming up with fellow public defender Lucca (Cush Jumbo) to represent two drug dealers, a case that felt relatively bland until the last twenty minutes when a genuinely surprising twist was injected into the story. But, by then, it was too little, too late. The episode gave both Alicia and Lucca very little to do, and lacked the dramatic tension or creativity that the previous weeks had in spades. While the best episodes of The Good Wife are the ones that don’t rely on a standalone subplot, this one was undeniably disappointing. At the very least, it showcased a solid supporting turn from John Magaro, best known for his role as Morello’s love interest in Orange is the New Black.
The episode’s best subplot was actually a relatively minor one, in which Alicia was forced to appear in a tacky cooking show with her mother to help support Peter’s campaign. As Alicia’s brash mother, Stockard Channing has repeatedly served as one of The Good Wife’s best guest stars, and she was as wonderful as we’ve come to expect this week. Channing has unbelievable comedic timing and knows how to subtlety develop her character through body language and quick lines uttered under her breath. She also plays off Julianna Margulies remarkably well. Their scene together was absolutely hilarious. If anything, I wish the entire episode revolved around their one, all-too-brief sequence.
Elsewhere in the night, Howard attempted to convince Alicia to help him take an ageism lawsuit against Dianne and Cary, while Eli subtlety started to manipulate his way to the front of Peter’s campaign by undermining Ruth’s authority. Both subplots were mildly amusing but, of all the subplots introduced so far this season, they were among the less interesting. Thankfully, Margo Martindale had some nice moments this week. Also worth noting was that Christine Baranski finally had something to do this season, as she struggled with her inability to connect to the younger generations of lawyers and feminists, while simultaneously pondering her complicated relationship with Alicia. Baranski has had much more dramatic material to work with, but she’s so good with everything the writers throw at her, and easily stands out as the best of The Good Wife’s terrific ensemble.
One subplot I do hope the writers forget about, however, is the burgeoning romance between Howard and Jackie, Peter’s mother. Mary Beth Peil is, as always, a welcome screen presence and makes Jackie a character we love to hate. But, as a character, Jackie has fallen far from the manipulative mother-in-law from hell who desperately wants to control her son’s political career. Having her serve as a love interest for Howard feels like a waste of time. Maybe the coming episodes will prove me wrong but, as of right now, I can’t get excited for it.
It might sound like I’m being too harsh on “Cooked.” After all, it wasn’t a terrible episode, and the cast was as wonderful as ever. But, when you have a show as entertaining and intelligent as The Good Wife, the weaker episodes stick out like sore thumbs. This was a decent episode, and there were some nice moments to be found. But, when the bar is set so high, decent just doesn’t cut it.
Overall rating: 5 out of 10