Recaps | The Good Wife: Why I’m Doing It
By Alex Cranz
The Good Wife is kind of like West Wing. They’re both about politics and the sacrifices you make to be successful, and they both feature some standout performances by the best actresses and actors working in television. Only, West Wing has this sunny optimism to it. You came back each week to watch this very optimistic liberal president and his very optimistic liberal staff save the world, one hallway at a time.
The Good Wife is jaded. It’s characters have lived lives and found regrets and pulled themselves up, time after time, to be successful. Happiness isn’t a given; it’s a goal. Every character on the show has some skeleton in her/his closet, and every other character gets that and agrees to politely look away, lest they see the darkness their friends, family and colleagues harbor.
And at the center of this storm of secrets is Julianna Margulies as the enigmatic Alicia Florrick. It takes us time to get to know Alicia. She doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, in or out of the office, and she doesn’t trust easily. Even when it’s just us, the audience, and Alicia, she can be a cipher. But over the last two seasons she’s started to open up. We’ve seen Alicia get drunk now! And we’ve seen her cry. And we’ve seen her be silly and snarky and all the other things the good wife of a politician should never be.
It’s no lapse in judgement that finds Alicia befriending her firm’s private investigator. Kalinda Sharma, as played by Archie Panjabi, is another sphinx. It takes two years for Alicia to really open up to the viewers, and it takes just as long for Kalinda to open up to her new best friend.
And that friendship is one of the driving forces of the show. It’s easy to get distracted by the love triangle between Alice, her husband Peter (Chris Noth) and her boss/friend Will (Josh Charles). Will they? Won’t they? It’s a familiar trope that has that tinge of the forbidden – what with Alicia still being married.
But the emotional core of the show is that relationship between Alicia and Kalinda. These two women, with their sly smiles and their fabulous shoes, anchor the show. Their rapport is easy and they’re careful never to give too much up. But they’re more than coworkers or drinking buddies. They’re the same but they’re also the complement to each other.
Alicia, for all the humiliation she’s had piled on her, is still an optimist. She can find the good in a person and force them to relate. Kalinda does the opposite. She gets why people do bad things. Maybe she’s done a few bad things, too. She’s a pessimist in all things–except for Alicia. And that affection for Margulies’s character is what’s led to a lot of Kalinda’s problems this season.
It’s refreshing to see this kind of friendship on television. Too often friendships between women are big and broad and emotional. But this friendship between two very guarded women is quiet. Quiet isn’t supposed to be good drama. On television, where you have to be loud and bright to catch the eye of the fickle viewer, it’s rather brave of the show’s creators, Michelle and Robert King, to put this muted relationship and these soft-spoken characters at the forefront.
The show still has a few firecrackers of its own though. Christina Baranski, as firm partner Diane Lockhart, and Alan Cumming, as campaign manager Eli Gold, aren’t afraid to make things really pop. And on any other show, it’d be these two characters you’d see in the ad campaigns and on the cover of the DVDs. Here they support the action. Their bold portrayals are allowed to color the scenery and maybe even steal a scene or two, but never the show. That still goes to Margulies, Panjabi and the occasional guest star (Michael J. Fox and Martha Plimpton are especially delightful).
It would be disingenuous of me to have a feminist website that covers pop culture and media and not talk about The Good Wife. So I hope you’ll join me each week in keeping track of the machinations of the evil State Senator, the ambiguous Lockhart & Gardner and the best friendship between women currently on TV.