Good Timing

by Jacob Clifton September 23, 2011
The Good Wife: The Story So Far


It might be hard to register at first but one of the coolest things about The Good Wife has its roots in Buffy: The theme that the soft or the fragile thing is always hiding teeth. As a feminist move, it has a lot of power, because we're put up over and over against things and people that look weak and then have to deal with what happens when you make the assumption. In TGW's Chicago, you're never more imperiled than when you go up against a kitten.

I'm not really talking about Alicia -- although if the end of S2 has anything to say about it, girlfriend is going to wreck shop this year -- but over and over you get the sense that intrinsic to the narrative world of the show is this idea of the overlooked and the presumed innocent being the most powerful people. Consider Martha Plimpton's wily Patti Nyholm, who uses her motherhood as a weapon; consider State's Attorney investigator Andrew Wiley, who carries infinite babies on his back and talks to demons through a stuffed animal, but did more damage in his third-act stint on the show than even gross old Blake Calamar.

Or look at wonderful, creepy Nancy Crozier, Mamie Gummer's insanely proper Hello Kitty of a prosecutor who uses her innocence pose just as hardcore as snake-turned-snake oil salesman Lou Canning (Michael J. Fox) uses his tardive dyskinesia to garner jury support. Or, my favorite example: Eli Gold (Alan Cummings) and his constant war against children. Eli can do anything, take anybody down, use any trick he wants, but the only thing he can't handle is kids, because you can't hurt kids. So again and again, first against Zach's awesomely gross girlfriend and later against the Florrick kids themselves, you see him brought up short by the one moral boundary not even he can justify. (And that's to say nothing of his crushed-out powerlessness against Ugly Betty, or the savior complex his daughter warns him about, both of which swing this theme around on its axis.)

Because that's the other side of the kitten equation: Anybody who is powerful is marked for a downfall. Whether it's Kalinda -- surely a superhuman in every way that matters -- or the highest and most corrupt State's Attorneys -- the unelected Glenn Childs, then the twice-elected Peter Florrick -- or Eli Gold himself, there's nobody on the show that isn't subject to extreme changes in fortune. The higher you go, the higher you fall.

Which is as good a place as any, to start, because what the last two seasons have done is bring about a moral framework in which Alicia's finally being forced to confront the actuality of power and influence in a way that affects her directly. In the first season, of course, Alicia was a first-year associate at Lockhart, Gardner, locked in a bakeoff with her coworker Cary Agos in such a way that the most she ever had to do, morally, was be astounded that not everybody else follows the rules as diligently as she does.

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