Sunday, October 25, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Good Wife' - Alicia Challenges the Bond Court System with a Simple Shoplifting Case in 'Taxed'

CBS' The Good Wife - Episode 7.04 "Taxed"

Alicia clashes with the bond court judge when she agrees to support a client's plea of innocence in a shoplifting case. Diane is coerced by her client's counsel, Ethan Carver (Peter Gallagher), to argue against her own beliefs in a case about physician assisted suicide.

The Good Wife has gotten a ton of great mileage out of the bond court setting this season. It was a strong narrative decision with which to start the year - especially coming off of last season's disastrous State's Attorney's race. It has given the show some renewed energy. And yet, it has also played as something that only works for a handful of episodes. The setting was fully realized with a set of recurring characters including the one judge and the three other bond attorneys. This was merely a first step for Alicia to rebuild her law career and start her own firm. She has argued cases elsewhere. But so much pleasure has come out of seeing Alicia in this unique environment where all she can do is look incredulous at the whole system.

Bond court probably isn't the best place for Alicia to set up permanent residence. She is different than the rest of the attorneys. She takes no pleasure out of their silly game to determine who has first dibs on the schedule they want for the next week - even though she's in second place. She wants to do the work, get the money and hopefully help some people who have fallen through the cracks of the system. "Taxed" is the best episode of the season so far because it showcases just how much resistance there is in a system like this to someone like Alicia Florrick. She wants to fight for the innocent when everyone else just wants to move ahead in order not to ruin the busy and chaotic schedule.

The case at hand for Alicia in this episode is rather quite simple. A woman is accused of shoplifting from a high-end retail store. Everyone else on the day is willing to plead guilty. She wants to fight this accusation. She maintains her innocence throughout this process. She never stole from the store. Alicia was willing to fight for her unlike the other attorneys. Sure, that may have created some enemies for Alicia. But she was still interested in during the right thing for the person on the other side of the glass. Sure, she judges the people who have gotten into trouble with the law and who aren't capable of offering her the details to help better her defense. But she still believes in the system and the ability to be judged fairly no matter the crime. In this instance, the offense is so minor that no one except Alicia's client wants to take it seriously. She's the only person who matters too. The judge thinks it's Alicia's job to get her client to accept the plea. It's not. She has to do her best to represent her client's interests. That's what she does. Sure, it gets complicated because of the system and personal circumstances - the client's mother actually did steal the shirt - but Alicia still wants to do the best job she can as a lawyer.

That's a mentality that doesn't really mix with bond court. It's the place where she can easily make money. With her firm just getting started, it's what she needs right now. The judge has given her plenty of opportunities to make a respectable sum. But it's not enough to keep this as a sustainable option. It's also good for the show not to stay in this locale too long. It definitely has the opportunity to go stale after awhile. Ending the visits to bond court now makes sure it goes out on a high. It also presents a daunting future for Alicia. She still has to make money as a lawyer. But now, she has to do so for a different type of clients with different cases. These first few episodes of the season have shown that she makes a great team with Lucca. It felt like only a matter of time before the two of them became partners. That's exactly what happens at the end of this episode too. Sure, it's just presented as a question to Lucca. But the show wouldn't introduce that thread if it wasn't going to explore it in the future. It's an exciting prospect too because Lucca has been a fun addition to the show this season. Now, the audience just has to wait and see if this new narrative is just as engaging as bond court was.

Elsewhere, Diane is arguing a case involving physician assisted suicide that goes against her beliefs as a human being. It's a story that's captivating when it comes to Diane and Louis Canning in the courtroom. It also bleeds over into the political atmosphere as well because Peter is the governor and has the opportunity to make changes to the law. Jackie and Grace are both arguing in front of him and it's a complicated situation that he just wants to flee from immediately. That's an understandable reaction to having Jackie and Grace arguing because Eli decided to stir the pot a little bit. But when it comes to the actual case that Diane is dealing with, she just wants it to be about this case and not the overall law. She does not want this to be the landmark case that determines the future of this very complex issue. She does her best to represent her client's best interests - even though Peter Gallagher is over her shoulder telling her what she needs to do. She ends up losing. But it's not presented as a crushing defeat. It's simply Diane losing a case. It's not a big commentary on the law or the issue. It's dealing with the specifics of this case just like Diane wanted. In this instance, that didn't line up with what her clients wanted. Diane will probably continue to work on cases like this that compromise her ethics. But at the end of the day, they still have to be about the clients she is actually representing in the lawsuits.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Taxed" was written by Leonard Dick and directed by Jim McKay.
  • There's a strange beat where Cary and Alicia sit down in order to talk about the physician assisted suicide bill. It's largely an excuse for Eli to overhear the issue and for Alicia to talk about how much she's enjoying her new independence. 
  • At times, it feels like Jeffrey Dean Morgan is just smoldering and nothing more. Jason and Alicia do have a weird connection. She does learn some new things about him in this episode. He used to be an attorney too but got disbarred after he punched a judge for declaring his client guilty. That means both of them are attempting to start over with their lives.
  • Eli's line about Jackie's change of appearance including more cleavage was priceless. And again, the door in his office always hitting his desk remains hilarious.
  • Does Grace just not go to school anymore? Though I shouldn't complain considering this has been the best use of the character in the history of the show. However, she did revert back a little bit once she was talking about big issues with Jackie and Peter.