Three episodes into its run, The Good Wife, the latest CBS courtroom drama, is only warming up. Starring ER’s Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, a wronged housewife forced to return to work as an attorney after many years out of the courtroom, Wife cleverly incorporates the struggles of the Florrick family into the tried and true case-of-the-week framework. This week’s “Home” episode centered on Alicia’s flashbacks of her former life as she revisited her old, ritzy neighborhood in order to help the son of a former friend avoid life in prison. Not surprisingly, the past turned out to be less wonderful than it seemed.
Meanwhile, Alicia’s husband, Peter (Sex and the City’s Chris Noth) is serving time in prison after a high-profile prostitution scandal forced him to resign as State Attorney of Cook County. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the show is loosely based on the pricy, extra-marital relations of one Eliot Spitzer, recently-resigned governor of New York and former New York State Attorney General.
The first couple of episodes were largely about Alicia’s efforts to move past the controversy, even as scenes from her husband’s sex tape, leaked by the current State Attorney (Titus Welliver), circulated online. The consistent portrayal of the State Attorney Office as the villain is actually one of the most disappointing features of the new show. The Good Wife is hardly the first legal drama to depict the opposing counsel as evil almost by definition, but that is hardly an excuse for the consistent lack of the integrity (and skill) displayed by everyone from the prosecutors to the judges to the police investigators. “Home” had the prosecutor seemingly forgoing an investigation and cutting a deal with the real killer in order to get an easy conviction against a frightened teenager.
The true focus of this episode, however, was the new insight that Alicia and her children, Zach (Graham Phillips) and Grace (Makenzie Vega) acquired about the old neighborhood and the friends they left behind. The show skillfully let Alicia come to terms with her nostalgia and move past it. The best part was that her children experienced similar realizations. While Zach and Grace occasionally act like the cliché tv teenagers, they have also gotten to act as mature — though, granted, sometimes pouty — teenagers, supporting their mother in her quest to reassert herself as a high-profile litigator. It almost seems too much to hope for this trend to continue in the episodes ahead if Peter will have a more pronounced role, something hinted at by constant mentions of an ongoing appeals process, no doubt culminating in his release in the season finale.
The law firm storyline was a lot less engaging, largely due to a lack of direction. For a woman who’s so shrewd inside the courtroom, Alicia seems barely conscious of the fact that her job is in a precarious position as the law firm has two new recruits but only one opening. Alicia’s rival and token pretty-boy, Cary Agos, is played by former Gilmore Girls leading man, Matt Czuchry, who brings his signature ease and confidence to the role. Cary and Alicia finally got some screen time together this episode but it’s still unclear how their relationship will play out.
So far, the show has been consistently worth watching, thanks to a well-paced script, solid acting, and gradual character development. However, if the writers don’t come up with some more riveting material to add to Alicia’s caseload, the drama may fail to keep viewers tuned in despite the show’s relation to current political sex scandals.