Written by Matt Taylor
Ripping a subplot from the headlines is a tricky challenge, and one that The Good Wife has only occasionally found success with. But in tonight’s episode, “Restraint”, the writers succeeded in delivering a dramatic, thought provoking and, most importantly, well-acted episode that tied numerous subplots together that desperately needed to connect.
Clearly drawing influence from the leaked Planned Parenthood videos that made headlines this summer, the drama of “Restraint” was centered on Diane, as she struggled to balance her pro-choice attitudes with her desire to protect the First Amendment when she took on a feminist organization that was trying to prevent the videos from being seen. Thankfully, the series didn’t try to have its characters debate abortion, with Diane holding true to her beliefs and dismissing numerous right wing attacks on reproductive rights. Instead, the episode used a real life controversy to develop Diane as a character, as she tried to find a way to separate her personal beliefs from the duties of her job.
Unsurprisingly, Christine Baranski more than delivered with this major increase in screen time. One of this season’s biggest mistakes has been how little Baranski has been utilized, especially since she’s consistently proven to be the best actor on the show. Of course, she dominates her courtroom scenes and proves, yet again, to have a keen sense of comedic timing. But, she perfectly depicted the internal struggle Diane faced as she fought with the very people she typically aligned herself with. Furthermore, the episode gave Baranski the opportunity to subtly capture the pain she felt as her friends and clients turned their backs on her for taking a pro-life client. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another eight episodes to get a juicy subplot for Diane.
Perhaps the biggest joy from the episode came from, of all characters, Grace Florrick. I can’t even remember the last time Alicia’s daughter had a meaningful role in an episode, but Mackenzie Vega had some great scenes as she tried to find some clients for her mother’s struggling firm. Thanks to some inventive strategies, Grace managed to poach some major clients from Diane’s firm, perfectly combining the two subplots and, finally, creating a legitimate reason for a feud between the two firms. It was also a funny, lighthearted subplot to distract from the heavy, politically minded story that dominated the runtime.
Elsewhere in the episode, Eli grew closer to Vanessa Williams’ new character, Courtney Page. While their subplot isn’t the most compelling romance on the series, it’s nice to see Eli have a storyline that doesn’t involve campaigning, and Williams makes for a great, relaxed foil to his typically high-strung character. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. We were also introduced to a new associate at Lockhart, Agos & Lee, who proved to be overeager and will, more likely than not, prove to be an important figure in the coming episodes.
With “Restraint,” The Good Wife delivered their first perfect episode of 2015. As an examination of a noteworthy current event, it was thought provoking and intelligent, creating a legal argument based on fact and not emotion. But, as an hour of television, the episode was as dramatic, humorous and outright entertaining as we’ve come to expect from this series. Let’s hope the writers keep up the good work.