Written by Matt Taylor
The Good Wife is a one-of-a-kind show in more ways than one. It stands out as CBS’s only well-written drama series, and one of the only shows on the network that doesn’t fall into the crime procedural subgenre. It’s also a legal drama that’s light-hearted in nature, and more focused on themes involving feminism, politics and morality than it is on the courtroom. But, perhaps most importantly, it’s a show that has, remarkably, maintained its greatness since the first season. Now entering its seventh (and possibly final) season, The Good Wife is a show with very few missteps (we won’t ever mention Kalinda’s husband again). And, based on its season premiere, we should be in store for another great season.
The last two seasons were pretty transformative for The Good Wife, with Will’s sudden death, Cary’s arrest, Kalinda’s departure and, most notably, Alicia’s tumultuous campaign for State’s Attorney, which left her the victim of a career-ruining scandal. Now, in season seven, Alicia is on her own, attempting to start her own firm while also working at the bail court to rebuild her reputation. While the episode’s “case-of-the-week” was somewhat bland (despite a hilarious supporting turn from guest star Jane Curtin), it was great to see Alicia in this new situation. Her struggle to rebuild her reputation calls to mind the first season, except that this time it’s Alicia that’s been damaged by a scandal, and not her husband. Luckily, she’s also a more confident lawyer, and an all around stronger character than when the show first started. Once again, Julianna Margulies is terrific in the titular role, balancing her dramatic moments with the comedic one-liners that populated the episode. While tonight’s episode was nowhere near her most dramatic work, she remains a consistently reliable screen presence.
The real highlight of the episode, however, was the subplot centered around Peter Florrick. At the end of last season, viewers were left wondering if Alicia’s husband was going to launch a campaign for the White House, something which the premiere wasted no time in clearing up: he’ll be trying to secure a nomination for vice president. But, in true Good Wife fashion, writers Robert & Michelle King surprised viewers by having Peter fire longtime campaign advisor, and fan favorite, Eli Gold, a twist revealed before the show’s opening credits came to a close. Firing Eli is an absolute game changer for the series, and the episode showcased some of Alan Cumming’s finest work since joining the series near the end of season one.
The subplot also introduced a fascinating new character in Ruth Eastman, who will serve as Peter’s new campaign advisor. As played by the marvelous character actor Margo Martindale, Ruth shares many of the same qualities that other Good Wife antagonists have boasted in the past: she’s funny, quirky, and incredibly manipulative. Martindale, who played another memorable villain on FX’s Justified, is sure to do some terrific work as the season continues. Other new recurring characters include a rude judge that presides over bond court, played by Requiem for a Dream’s Christopher McDonald, and an intelligent lawyer that takes a liking to Alicia, played by Torchwood’s Cush Jumbo. It’s too early to tell but, as of right now, both seem like welcome additions to The Good Wife’s ever expanding universe.
If anything, The Good Wife’s biggest problem is that it has too many characters to juggle. Even with Archie Panjabi quitting the show, and Matthew Goode’s surprising exit at the end of last season, many of the supporting players were given minimal screen time. For example, Christine Baranski, who is easily the most talented member of the cast, was given less than ten lines this week. Additionally, Cary’s subplot, in which he struggled to bond with the younger members of his new firm, felt out of place, especially as it reached its conclusion. Last season gave Matt Czuchry the chance to finally show his skills as a dramatic actor so, hopefully, Cary will be given something more substantial to do in the coming weeks.
But, even with a bit too much going on, The Good Wife’s premiere set the stage for what should be a terrific year. Watching Margo Martindale and Alan Cumming face off could easily become the highlight of my week, and it’s a pleasure to see this talented cast back on the small screen. While I’d like to see The Good Wife reach its conclusion before jumping the shark, the fact that it is still this good after 135 episodes makes me think it will always be one of television’s most best dramas.
Overall rating: 8 out of 10.