Now that The Good Wife has returned from a brief hiatus, we can ask ourselves: Will this show ever bring us back enough Kalinda to make it still relevantly queer? And the answer is: I don’t know.
But there are a few things that still make this episode zing, other than the still consistently good King writing, of course. First of all, Elsbeth is back! Praise be! And Alicia also gets real mad, and she is so good when she’s so mad! And while she does only pop on screen for a few brief moments, I do feel a quiet Kalinda longing throughout it all, that somehow tugs at me the most.
So let’s set up the two main dramas of the episode, which eventually end up colliding. Drama #1: The Lockhart Gardner equity partners sit in the conference room all chummy and happy as Creepy M&M Family Law Guy informs them all that not only is Lockhart Gardner out of debt, they’re actually going to end up more in the black than they thought! A million here, a million there, everywhere a million! These people feel so good about themselves that they decide they should “delay” those partnership offers they offered to Alicia and Cary and the other fourth years, because who wants to share the wealth when you’ve got it!
Drama #2 is the trial of the week, which is actually a MOCK trial of the week. So a few people have died after drinking a ridiculous energy drink. Lockhart Gardner is representing the energy drink, but Energy Drink Execs feel so uneasy about their chances of winning a juried trial that they order a mock one to test how it goes. Which means: real jury, real witnesses (other than the actual plaintiff), and Lockhart Gardner lawyers get to go up against themselves. It turns out to be Blue Team, Will and Diane, against Red Team, Alicia and Cary. It also means that this energy drink company has money coming out of their ass if they have enough to order something as expensive as a mock trial. Each lawyer team has thousands of dollars to prepare their (mock) case. Imagine if teachers had thousands of dollars to prepare mock lessons to test their effectiveness before using them on students? Corporations are so great!
Alicia and Cary use some of those thousands of dollars to hire Kalinda onto their side, which makes me happy if just because we get to see her lingering in their office doorway with that little orange notebook. I don’t know what it is about that little orange notebook, but goodness, I love it.
Elsbeth, meanwhile, is on the scene helping out Eli’s legal troubles, which I must admit I still don’t clearly understand. Campaign finance feels like trigonometry or something else needlessly confusing, which feels troubling in itself. Like, maybe it shouldn’t be that complicated. Anyhoo, I think he used campaign finances to help out his wife, or something or other. But they only really want him so they can get dirt on Peter? Whatever. The DOJ has brought in a lawyer played by Kyle MacLachlan, who is hilarious in his awfulness. He says something about being the most honest guy in Illinois and Elsbeth does the most amazing drawn out laugh! I love her so much! She’s Elsbeth, though, so even though Kyle and the DOJ have some damning wiretap evidence, she does her magic and finds out through a jungle of paperwork that they didn’t have the proper means to even order the wiretap.
When she points this out to Kyle, he says, “Oh dear, well, let’s just fix that, why don’t we? Howdy ho,” and takes the original document in question and crosses out the bad information to fill it in with the good. This causes Elsbeth to stand up and gape in indignation and say, “I’ll get you, mister!” He thinks she’s cute. But she really will get you, mister!
And in other Eli news, as he’s been bumbling about with these personal legal troubles, it appears T.R. “Jordan” Knight has been quietly taking leadership of Peter’s campaign. When Eli rages over the news that Jordan’s been making important decisions without him, saying, “You’re number TWO,” Jordan says, “Not anymore.” He explains that while Peter won’t confront him directly, Eli will know, over time, from the way Peter begins to avoid him, that this is true. A statement which begins to be confirmed when Eli tries to call Peter and is told he’s “in a meeting.” Jordan states, “He doesn’t need you anymore.” Well, why don’t you just go ahead and shove a stake through Eli’s heart, huh? Really, why don’t you just punch him in the face? Take out his heart and stomp on it?
Back in Mock Trial Land, Cary and Alicia are kicking ass, because they have the more humane side of the trial and because they’re good. They’re kicking ass in a beating-our-bosses fun type of way, though. That is, until they’re both made aware that their equity partnerships will be delayed. Then they’re fighting out of screw-our-bosses anger. Alicia’s so pissed that she wants the fourth years to unite and “discuss their options;” this ends up being a meeting at Alicia’s apartment where Cary rallies them to meet with their top clients just to “make sure they’re happy,” and to make the partners nervous. While this is just a rouse to appear like they might jump ship, Cary confronts Alicia at the end of the meeting to say maybe they really should. Florrick, Agos, and Associates. Stop being so chained to the man. Be the captains of their own ship. Cary’s so charming and Alicia’s feeling so high from being pissed off that she even seems like she could go for it, saying she’ll think about it.
But even as they speak, you know it’ll never happen. Particularly after Alicia glances back at her kids eating in their sterile kitchen, who have for some reason been overly concerned abut the meeting that was just going down in their living room — don’t you kids have other teens to be having sex with, or Tumblr dashboards to scroll through, or homework, or something? — and have just implored Alicia to not lose her job. Mind your own business, kids! Let us just ride the wave of Cary idealism for at least a second! Geez!
Back in mock court, Alicia continues to be mad good and mad angry, to the point where it really starts to piss Will and Diane off. As Will returns to the Lockhart Gardner offices after a particularly rough screaming match in court, he huffs towards his office before doing an about face and heading to Alicia’s, who is obviously the only other person also left in the building, and they yell at each other a bunch and then make out.
Alicia pretty much runs to the elevator immediately henceforth, smacking her forehead and berating herself. They later agree they shouldn’t be alone together. During this scene, Alicia also apologizes as Will walks away, although she doesn’t know what quite for. Instead of saying, “You don’t have to be sorry,” Will essentially says, “We’re all sorry.” This is such a cheery show, ain’t it?
But the two seconds that really made the whole episode for me was the morning after the angry Will and Alicia kiss. Kalinda has been in to see Cary, explaining that she’s not allowed to work for them anymore, bosses’ orders. But with a wonderful little smile, also explaining, oh, but there might be something in this envelope that fell out of the blue sky that might be helpful to your team; don’t ask me! Cary smiles; we’re all smiling. But then as Kalinda begins to head out the door, Alicia is on her way in. Her head’s down, she seems unfocused, still unhinged from the prior night’s indiscretions, and she doesn’t even see Kalinda. (How can you not see Kalinda?) Kalinda doesn’t acknowledge her either, but after they pass, she looks back for just one fleeting moment, pauses for one infinite second. And in that second I see her wondering where Alicia has gone, where they have gone, the two of them as a team and what that meant. And then she turns around again, picks up her speed, and walks away.
In the end, Cary and Alicia win the mock trial but it doesn’t really feel like a win since their client actually wanted Will and Diane to win. Womp womp, guess you should stop making drinks that kill people. Elsbeth and Eli submit to Skeazball MacLachlan that Eli will wear a wire to attempt to get dirt on Peter, and then they actually just use that wire to get a confirmation that the DOJ didn’t have sufficient evidence to wiretap Eli and the evidence against him can’t be used. Boom shakalaka; get your Peter dirt elsewhere, boys.
Cary and Alicia’s plan to scare the partners by meeting with their biggest clients has worked, and they are freaked. Will figures out their game and knows that the only way to beat them is to divide them, so they offer just one of them their partnership back, and that one is of course Alicia. Without hesitating, she takes it. She lets Cary know; he says it’s smart, and the dream of Florrick, Agos and Associates is formally dead. We end the episode with her joining the rest of the rich douches in the conference room, receiving hugs from Diane, and flashing her most brilliant fake smile to her new associates.
Queerness or not, what I think this episode proved once again is that this show still has some of the most fascinating, complex female characters on TV. I am constantly both baffled and in awe of Alicia. She seems to frequently want to do the right thing, yet wants to further the career she’s worked so hard for just as badly at the same time, and that frequently involves sucking up what isn’t perfect. A part of you knew she had to take the partnership, that it’s what she’s been working for. But at the same time, a larger part of you (or perhaps just of me) wants her to run away from the blood suckers in that conference room, to make Florrick, Agos and Associates, or to make whatever the hell she wants, to let herself be happy. To let herself kiss Will if she really wants to, or not kiss him if she doesn’t. To have drinks with Kalinda more often. To just be herself.
The actual final scene shows her shiny smile faltering just a hitch as she sees Cary looking in from the outside, literally and figuratively behind the conference room’s glass walls. And then a second later, interestingly, he is joined by Kalinda. They watch for a moment before walking away, Kalinda’s hand briefly resting on Cary’s back in perhaps sympathy, or a united empathy. A subtle but clear divide has been drawn.
What did you think of this first episode back? Do you feel the distance between Alicia and Kalinda growing? Do you think Alicia made the right decision?