TV: The Good Wife (Season 4)

In preparation for the new season just underway, Jenn and I caught up on season four of The Good Wife, the compelling, smartly written legal drama starring Julianna Margulies. As usual, we blasted through the episodes at breakneck speed.

While it has its problems, season four has plenty of highlights, many of them centering around the firm’s financial health. Will Gardner (Josh Charles) and Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) attempt to manage the firm out of bankruptcy, with the assistance — and interference — of an outside trustee, Clarke Hayden (Nathan Lane). Meanwhile, the firm’s lower ranks, led by Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), grow increasingly disgruntled with the working conditions and their undervalued contributions. Elsewhere, Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is in the midst of an intrigue-filled gubernatorial campaign — which exerts often-comical pressures on his manager Eli Roth (Alan Cumming). As ever, Alicia Florrick (Margulies) is hopelessly entangled in it all, navigating tricky waters with a winning combination of shrewd stoicism and humorous resignation.

Season four drops the ball spectacularly, however, on one particular storyline involving the firm’s investigator, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi). Having written her into an “inescapable past” corner at the end of season three, the show spends much of season four’s early stages struggling to dig her out of a relationship with her bad boy ex-husband Nick (Marc Warren). It’s an over-the-top plotline that never comes off, and ultimately fizzles: one of the few signs of strain the series has shown in four years.

But ultimately, that thread’s failure is more than offset by the broader storylines and, as ever, the show’s remarkable knack for populating its world with memorable characters. Building around its solid main cast, the show continues to score with its guest roles: from the shifty Maddie Hayward (Maura Tierney) to the adorably nutty Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), from the cheerful new investigator Robyn Burdine (Jess Weixler) to the ever-venomous David Lee (Zach Grenier), and on and on. The Good Wife is a veritable clinic on character, including supporting character; how many procedural shows would benefit from making their walk-ons this interesting? I honestly think you could take any four random characters from this show and make a compelling spin-off. Even just the judges!

The Good Wife is great, addictive TV; glad to be caught up and following in real time.

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