Sunday, October 4, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Good Wife' - Alicia Attempts to Start Over Again and Meets a New Friend in the Process in 'Bond'

CBS' The Good Wife - Episode 7.01 "Bond"

Alicia attempts to revive her struggling law career by representing arrestees seeking release on bail in bond court, where she meets attorney Lucca Quinn who competes for her clients. Peter brings in national strategist Ruth Eastman to help with his presidential campaign, and creates an interesting dynamic with Eli in the process.

The Good Wife lost its way during the sixth season. It still produced many great moments. But its questionable decision making on a number of issues became overwhelming and incredibly bothersome. All of that animosity and dissatisfaction for the show came boiling over in the scene where Alicia and Kalinda said goodbye but Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi weren't on the set together. It was noticeable and a disservice to the fans. That moment still lingers on. The show does its best to move ahead with a new story and new direction. But this episode needed to rebuild that trust with the audience.

The show has always been at its best when it focuses on the law and not the politics. It can still be very political with its cases. But its weakest storytelling moments often come when the show has one of its characters running for office. That was especially apparent when Alicia ran for State's Attorney last season for the majority of the year. She was out of her element and took something special away from the show. A scandal ended her campaign and forced her back into court. Those moments at the end of the year didn't make up for what happened before. The animosity between Alicia and her former partners at Lockhart/Agos felt contrived and propped up for plot purposes. And yet, it was good that she was back in court.

"Bond" is the latest reinvention for Alicia's career. Embracing new opportunities and starting over has always been a major quality about the show. However, it's become much more apparent in the last few seasons where the narrative likes to shake up its structure every dozen episodes or so. This latest fallout sees Alicia working in a completely new aspect of the law - bond court. It's much different than anything the show has done previously. That does infuse this episode with new energy. It's hard to keep giving Alicia these chances to start over given how much of a public figure she has become though. The Judge doesn't want her as a bond attorney because she will slow him down due to her elite status. That's not true for the character. She's doing her best to get by and support her two children through college. And yet, the polarity of that and being married to a guy who is running for President doesn't really work.

Alicia clawing her way back to relevance in the legal system only works if she has nothing else to do or lose. But she is also now on a national platform. Peter is miraculously running for President. Alicia gives her support for him to do it because she doesn't want anyone telling her what she can do and doesn't want to do that to him. She can only be distanced from the campaign so far though. The idea that she's worrying about collecting $135 per case in bond court doesn't mesh well with putting on the campaign face so that Peter can become Hillary Clinton's Vice President. It's an odd pairing for the show. Granted it doesn't work because it feels like a bad idea for the show to start a new campaign given how disastrous the last one was story wise. It also doesn't exactly create an interesting character dynamic for Alicia. Her connection to Peter is very tenuous at the moment. That makes any story about him seem distant as well. He should not be realistically running for President. And yet, the show thinks that is an interesting idea. It's not.

The show becomes engaging and compelling in this first episode back because it depicts an entirely new side of the law. Bond court is totally different than anything else that the lawyers on this show do on a regular basis. Alicia is there because she needs the money. She is starting another new business by herself out of her apartment. Grace is her assistant and Louis Canning is the devil on her shoulder trying to persuade her to join the dark side. She just wants to be her own person. That is an admirable quality. She is thrown into the deep end of the pool and forced to swim quickly into her tenure as a bond attorney. The judge didn't want her there but she was literally the only attorney available. She was forced to take on a massive load of cases. She did her best. It was a learning curve for her. Something that she better learn quickly because it won't be exciting to see her mess up over and over again in this system. It works for this episode because she is getting her bearings. A fellow attorney, Lucca Quinn, gives her an opportunity to prove herself and Alicia takes it.

Lucca could easily be seen as the replacement for Kalinda this season. Sure, she's a lawyer and not an investigator. But the character construct and purpose on the show seem similar. Lucca sees Alicia differently than the rest of the world does. She sees a determined woman committed to this job instead of a fallen public figure who'll just slow down the system. Lucca's advice allows Alicia to get a handle of this environment. Sure, it's Lucca who gets Alicia overwhelmed later on as the only attorney there. But there is the start of a unique friendship between the two. They help each other out. That's important. If Lucca is going to be an important new character this season, she needed to have value. Alicia helped Lucca so Lucca had to help Alicia in order to prove her worth.

The case in probate court wasn't as interesting as the stuff happening in bond court. But it did show just how chaotic Alicia's life is at the moment as she tries to juggle all of these different things. She doesn't want to work for anyone other than herself. That is admirable. But she is also fine with Canning throwing her a case every once in awhile to get her back on her feet in the legal world. She may think he's the devil but she respects what he is doing for her right now. Sure, it could become more complicated later on. Diane and David Lee are still very angry towards Alicia which could continue if Canning and Alicia ever work together against them. But that's very speculative. This episode establishes the new direction for Alicia as she attempts her latest rebuild. It's one that has ups and downs. This show isn't what it used to be. But it's still very entertaining and has moments of uniqueness and greatness.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Bond" was written by Robert King & Michelle King and directed by Brooke Kennedy.
  • Peter fires Eli from his campaign because he needs a national campaign manager like Margo Martindale's Ruth Eastman if he's going to have a shot at being Hillary's VP. It only makes Peter out to be worse. But it gives Alan Cumming a whole lot to do. His anger is captivating, his lounging around his apartment is amusing, and his plotting against Ruth with Alicia's help seems like an interesting direction to take the show. Eli and Alicia is such a more interesting pairing than Eli and Peter.
  • The show is also establishing a plot where Cary is the young name partner at a firm seen as old and out of touch. That's an interesting dynamic even though the show really hits the audience over the head with it in that first partners meeting.
  • However, that moment between Cary and the other associate was just too weird. Cary wants the associates to be heard and that was misunderstood by the associate. That will probably be a story that lingers more than it should.
  • The best thing about the time spent in probate court was Jane Curtin's reactions to all the experts that Alicia, Diane and David Lee bring in to testify. It was quite amusing and playful.
  • Snow Nazis is the exact kind of movie Eli would be watching as he mopes around at home hurt by what Peter did.
  • I really disliked Mo Racca's journalist character Ted Willoughby last season. So it's maddening that the show brought him back again.