Typically, “case of the week” dramas leave me wanting more. Having a narrative driven by storylines and character development that won’t be discussed in the following episodes is one of the laziest forms of television writing around. Yet, tonight’s episode of The Good Wife, “Innocents”, worked wonderfully, mainly because of its “case of the week.”
As always, The Good Wife didn’t focus on a flashy murder trial but a unique legal quarrel. This week, the drama revolved around a case of discrimination that evolved into a debate on publicity rights. Johnny Simmons (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) guest starred as Erik, the son of a free-thinking artist (Amy Irving) who published nude photos of her children as part of an art exhibit. Erik wants the pictures taken down from the gallery, while his mother argues that they’re a work of art, creating a thought provoking legal debate about consent laws and pornography, as well as a surprisingly emotional mother/son drama. Thanks, in part, to some terrific writing, and also strong performances from both Simmons and Irving, tonight’s episode had one of The Good Wife’s strongest standalone subplots in years.
But, of course, “Innocents” wasn’t driven entirely by that subplot. Most notably, we were introduced to Alicia’s new private investigator, a freelancer named Jason Crouse, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), who will serve as a series regular. With Kalinda no longer a part of the show, introducing a new private investigator was definitely a necessary development for the show. But, based on his first appearance, I’m not quite sold on this character. There is instant sexual tension between Jason and Alicia, yet the chemistry between Julianna Margulies and Morgan just isn’t there. Compared to the sparks between Margulies and her previous love interests (specifically Stephen Pasquale, who was hopelessly underused last year), there just isn’t a lot to get excited about right now. Hopefully, as the season progresses, Jason will become more interesting, but I’m not feeling optimistic.
Luckily, the writers gave Cary a subplot with substance, as he took on the comically inept Howard Lyman (Jerry Adler), who had been fighting with the new associates and taking credit for work he did not do. Ever since his debut on the series, Adler has been a solid source of comic relief, and tonight’s episode was no different, such as when he awkwardly tried to appeal to a group of feminist lawyers by talking about how much he “loves abortion.” But the episode also had some dramatic tension to it, and helped developed Cary as a character. This week’s episode also subtlety hinted at some sexual tension between Cary and a new, male, associate, which could serve as both an interesting subplot and an example of how The Good Wife incorporates a diverse cast of characters in its rather large ensemble.
Some of the show’s longest running issues remained prevalent, with many of the cast’s best actors being pushed to the sidelines. It’s particularly frustrating to see Christine Baranski given so little to do for yet another week, and the series should try to not waste Margo Martindale again during her stay on the show. But, thanks to a creative court case and some character development, The Good Wife remained a solid hour of dramatic television. There is, simply, no other legal drama like it, flaws and all.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10