Written By Matt Taylor
Compared to your typical episode of The Good Wife, “Payback” was relatively calm and driven largely by comedy. A majority of the runtime was devoted to the “case of the week,” and the overarching storyline only inched further ahead. Yet, the sheer amount of talent on displayed helped make this a memorable episode, even if it ended on a somewhat annoying note.
“Payback” found Alicia and Lucca, who have decided to start their own firm, defending a recent college graduate who may be getting conned by the company that provided her with student loans. The subplot, while far less dramatic than last week’s racial profiling case, was captivating, and provided some subtle social commentary about the inherent privilege that accompanies being able to afford a prestigious university. The court case also had a few surprising twists, and incorporated Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Jason in an interesting way. But, best of all, it was great to see Alicia and Lucca working together. Both actresses have great chemistry, and Cush Jumbo makes Lucca a captivating character that will, hopefully, become even more fascinating as her additional layers are revealed to the audience.
Elsewhere, The Good Wife seems to be building up and for an explosive confrontation between Eli and Peter, as this week’s episode found the former continuing to try and manipulate the latter’s campaign for vice president. While this storyline is starting to get tired and could use a bit more of a push, “Payback” revived my interest in the subplot thanks to Alan Cumming’s terrific work and the return of Sarah Steele as Eli’s daughter Melissa. Cumming is just so unbelievably great, and it’s refreshing to see Eli at the center of the drama after being more of a supporting player last year. Steele is also quite funny, and makes a believable father/daughter duo with Cumming. It was also nice to see her share the screen with Julianna Margulies again, especially since Melissa disappeared from last season shortly after Alicia’s election was finished.
The most disappointing aspect of the episode was the resolution to Cary and Howard’s tempestuous relationship, with the tension between the two finally exploding into a heated argument. While their scenes were well acted, and surprisingly funny, it felt relatively anti-climatic. More than anything, Cary, Diane, and the rest of Alicia’s former coworkers seem extraneous to the main drama, a real shame considering how talented all the actors are.
As always, The Good Wife showcased some of the best acting and writing on basic cable. Even in this relatively minor episode, “Payback” delivered on all fronts. Let’s just hope it the show starts moving forward into more dramatic, dynamic territory.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10