‘The Good Wife’: The Uncivil War

Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies on "The Good Wife" (Photo: CBS)

Sunday’s episode of “The Good Wife,” “Hitting the Fan,” delivered a sharp rebuke to the current accepted wisdom that broadcast television is no longer worthy of Emmys. This episode is on par with the best cable dramas, and it packs its punch without nudity, cursing or violence, other than of the psychological variety. Yes, the big four networks can deliver quality television, dammit. It’s just a lot harder with a smaller bag of tricks. Last week, Will and Diane learned that Alicia and Cary were leaving Lockhart-Gardner to start their own firm with some of LG’s biggest clients. This week, the split became official and each character was redefined by his or her reaction to the change.

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Hell Hath No Fury Like a Will Scorned

Will (Josh Charles) did not want to believe that Alicia (Julianna Margulies) was leaving. Even after Diane (Christine Baranski) broke the news, he wanted to believe it was just Cary (Matt Czuchry) who was starting a new firm. He was like a child who learned Santa Claus isn’t real. He had a daytime soap-style montage of their happy moments as he marched into her office. He calmly asked if she and Cary were leaving. Alicia, having no choice, admitted it and apologized. Will morphed into “Real Housewives of New Jersey’s” Teresa and flipped her desk. Alicia pointed out that he started Lockhart-Gardner by breaking free from his old firm. He responded, “I took you in. No one wanted you. I hired you. I pushed for you. You were poison. This firm got you back on your feet.” On the one hand, it’s true. On the other hand, he gave her a job, not a kidney. How much loyalty does she owe him? Of course, this is really about their relationship, which, based on her actions, meant more to Will and the audience than it did to Alicia. When Alicia told him that she would always be thankful, he retorted, “You’re awful and you don’t even know how awful you are.” 

Watch Sunday Night’s Big Episode of “The Good Wife” Below:

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Will fired her, then took Alicia's cell phone to see if she was calling clients and she told him he could not fire her without the approval of the other partners. Will took that as a declaration of war. He quickly convened a meeting of executive board, even persuading one-foot-out-the-door Diane to vote Alicia out. Then he got to work ferreting out the other defectors. First out was the dark-haired four year, who also happened to be named Cary. Then, after getting all of the partners to vote on her firing, he had security guards escort Alicia out of the office. As the elevator doors close, Alicia told Will, "This was never meant personally." "I don't give a damn," snapped Will, like Rhett Butler.

Kalinda Follows the Money

Will grilled Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) about whether or not she was joining the new firm. She assured him that she intended to remain with Lockhart-Gardner but pretended that this was the first she’d heard of the new firm. Later she leveled with him about how long she had known Cary and Alicia were leaving. Will vowed to turn Lockhart-Gardner into the biggest firm in the country. Kalinda assured him she would have no trouble destroying her former best friend Alicia.

Cary Does Not Have a Future in Subterfuge

Diane confronted Cary about his betrayal saying, "You know what offends me the most? The fact that I stood up for you. I got you hired." Cary reminded her that Lockhart-Gardner reneged on partnership offers to him, and fired him once. Then Cary proved himself to be terribly unsuited for cunning secret plans, as he inadvertently revealed that the other fourth years were also leaving and that Chum Hum was going to be the new firm's big client. Was it because Cary is more moral than the other characters, or is he just bad in a crisis?

Cary got played again when Kalinda told Cary that she wanted to join his firm after all, because she believed Lockhart-Gardner would fall apart when Diane left. It was a decent lie, but instead of just telling her to sign a contract before they talked further, Cary asked her for the Chum Hum files and revealed the new firm's address. If the new firm fails, Cary definitely does not have a future at the CIA.

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How Alicia Got Her Groove Back

Before Florrick-Agos could meet with Chum Hum CEO Neil Gross, they were served with a restraining order preventing them from speaking to Lockhart-Gardner clients. After David (Dallas Roberts) called in a tip that Florrick-Agos’ new offices were infested with vermin, which resulted in them being closed for fumigation, the two firms faced off in court. Diane refused to testify because she realized that publicly opposing Alicia while she was waiting for Peter to appoint her to the Supreme Court was not wise. So Will got a fourth year who had decided to stay at Lockhart-Gardner after being bribed with a partnership to accurately state that the new firm was attempting to poach clients. The judge sided with Lockhart-Gardner. David melodramatically called Alicia a Judas.

Something within Alicia snapped and she finally fought back. "We're coming after your clients. Every single one of them we worked to make happy while you swept in at the last minute to take credit. We're raking them. And then you know what you'll have? A very nice suite of offices." For the entire series, Alicia has been, by necessity, a passive, reactive character, struggling to navigate the conflicting demands on her. We never saw her before her life imploded. It seemed like, in that butt-kicking speech, we saw the real Alicia for the first time.

Peter Is the Mack Daddy

After learning from a reporter that Alicia had been fired, Peter (Chris Noth) phoned Will and laid the smackdown, informing him that he was going to handle this situation as a husband, not a governor. Will snarked, “Am I going to be audited?” Peter warned him, “You don’t want to make me your enemy. And you certainly don’t want me and Alicia together.”

Peter came home to find that Alicia had turned the living room into Florrick-Agos' temporary offices. He observed that she looked like she was 25 years old, fresh out of law school, and ready to conquer the world. She pulled him into the bedroom for a ten-minute quickie. Peter quipped, "Is this what they mean by leaning in?" One of the great unanswered questions of the series is why Alicia stayed with a man who cheated on her and humiliated her. This glimpse of the fun, sexy couple they were before he started shagging hookers goes a long way toward explaining it.

The rival firms agreed that they would both pitch Neil, back-to-back. Lockhart-Gardner went first and persuaded Neil that Peter's commitment to ethical governing would hurt Chum Hum, since Alicia would be obligated to be equally scrupulous. Without their big client, Florrick-Agos seemed dead, until at the end of a speech about pensions, Peter announced that he intended to tax social networking sites, though the topic merited further study and he was willing to have his mind changed. Neil succumbed to Peter's abuse of power and decided to go with Florrick-Agos after all.

Diane Screws Herself

Diane's motivation for outing Alicia and Cary to Will, a man who just coldly pushed her out of her own firm, was unclear. Was she still loyal to Lockhart-Gardner, so angry that she acted without thinking, or was she trying to make up for badmouthing Will in an interview? It certainly was not in her own best interest, as she seemed to realize when she asked Eli whether or not this would hurt her chances of becoming a judge. He assured her that it would not, unaware of Peter's decision to put being a husband ahead of being a governor. But the episode ended with Peter telling Eli to draw up a new list of nominees, because Diane was out. Peter's chances of joining several other Illinois governors in prison increased exponentially this episode.

“The Good Wife” airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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