Julianna Margulies Emmys

The Good Wife” titled its finale “A Weird Year,” but it was also an inordinately good one – riding the momentum of the partner defection that capped season four through the shocking death of Will Gardner, with its emotional personal aftermath and corporate reverberations.

The season’s last hour (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) focused largely on the latter, with the equivalent of a palace coup going on at Lockhart/Gardner and plenty of politicking surrounding the state’s attorney race. Partner Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski, brilliant as always) wasn’t kidding when she wryly noted that her firm is run “like a banana republic.”

All told, it was an impressive season from a show that has become broadcast TV’s quality standard-bearer, although its campaign to be judged in that context (and more on this a bit later) probably shouldn’t fly.

One of the CBS series’ greatest assets is the way showrunners Robert and Michelle King deftly blend comedy with drama, and as Sunday’s episode demonstrated, at its best the show is as funny as any hour on TV. That included what amounted to a hot-mic (or in this case, video-conferencing line) issue, where the attorneys at the firm of the title character, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), were privy to the internal plotting by Lockhart Gardner’s scheming hierarchy, played by Zach Grenier and guest Michael J. Fox.

Aside from the ethical considerations, the gag set up all kinds of great character beats, including Alicia’s realization that they were about to screw her friend Diane, as well as the more literal interpretation of getting screwed pertaining to the dallying between Alicia’s partner Cary (Matt Czuchry) and LG’s investigator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi).

Diane’s seemingly logical move to potentially quit her own firm (saw that one coming early) and the gamble by Eli (Alan Cumming) to recruit Alicia into politics (didn’t guess that) provided slightly less compelling cliffhangers heading into next season. But they still offer all kinds of juicy possibilities.

The only wrinkle that feels a bit played out, frankly, is the political marriage of convenience that has formed between Alicia and her husband, Illinois’ governor (Chris Noth). While the grenade Will’s death threw into their relationship has been a highlight in this closing batch of episodes, the notion of a married couple staying together strictly to advance political fortunes feels as ripped from the headlines as the pol-caught-with-pants-down plot that initially set the series in motion.

Setting that aside, “The Good Wife” has rightly been recognized (by yours truly, and many others) as one of the best shows on television – a cause the show’s backers have sought to advance award-wise by arguing that its feat of churning out 22 episodes a season should be considered when judging it against cable programs that generate far fewer.

While there’s certainly an apples-and-oranges quality to that disparity, it’s hard to find a major awards category where similar inequities don’t arise, and unless the TV Academy chooses to segregate cable and broadcast dramas, the question of volume is unavoidable.

Frankly, watching a CBS upfront presentation in which the network franchised “NCIS” and “CSI” like fast-food chains, the fact “The Good Wife” is the show it has become – and performs well enough to stick around – qualifies as a minor miracle.

From that perspective, whatever additional recognition the series receives, “The Good Wife” and its faithful fans have good reason to be thankful just for that.

 

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