Black Sheep: The Good Wife Divides, Then Conquers

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Making my own road out of gravel and some wine
And if I have to fall then it won’t be in your line

All of last week we heard over and over again that last night’s The Good Wife was not only the best episode of this season but one of the best episodes of the show’s run, period. With so much hype there was definitely a small amount of concern that started to eat away at my excitement on Friday or Saturday, that maybe the praise and compliments were only the product of one scene or event. Fortunately, my concern was all for naught. The fifth episode of the fifth season could very well be the best episode this show has ever done. Even better, the arc that it sets up for the rest of this season and beyond is shaping up to be absolutely jaw dropping all over the place. Not that The Good Wife ever pulls punches once the drama train is rolling, but the organized chaos and perfectly choreographed dances of anger and betrayal that unfolded during “Hitting the Fan” were top notch every step of the way.

The Good Wife has always known how to use music to its advantage whether in a more subtle way or as blatant as music cues can be. A mixture of pop, jazz, classical, and soul pieces have combined over four plus seasons to create the sense that these characters can actually hear the soundtracks as they make decisions and behave accordingly. The effort the Kings have put in over the years to build a world that feels realistic and heightened at the same time is a rare feat, and one that needs not only words on paper but also the acting, costuming, and score to tie it together properly. As I said, the music producers on the show have never been slouches when it comes to creative decisions but I really think last night was the best they’ve been in a long time. A combination of the usual score with other music brought the entire episode up a notch without seeming too overbearing.

We started the episode with a slight overlap with the end of last week’s episode, similar to how a crime show would stage a cliff hanger. I didn’t have time to write up a piece on “Outside the Bubble” but the score and directing of that final scene, Diane walking to Will’s office, was staged exactly as a horror movie would. The slow walk, the suspenseful music, the camera angles that only show one person at a time or one person looking at another through glass; you’d be forgiven if you had never seen the show and assumed someone was about to be hatcheted through the head in this upscale looking law firm. A very well done moment leading up to the moment Diane nudged the bomb out the plane door ever so slightly and watched it plummet towards Will below. That, combined with the beginning of this week, was a great representation of how the Kings utilize multiple genres for inspiration across multiple episodes or scenes so successfully as to seem impossible.

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I’m not passing up a chance to use smoldering Cary, no sir.

As Will processed the news from Diane and internalized the betrayal and hurt he felt regarding Alicia, the music shifted from the classic Good Wife score to a piece that  I can only describe as something Terrence Malick would hand pick for his next four-hour epic. It would feel right at home in To The Wonder, one lover eschewing all other duties on their way to another, and the framing of the shot of Will walking down the hallway is very reminiscent of this same feeling. The way his face is the only thing we can process for long periods of time, and we know exactly where he’s going, gives the feeling that a long awaited reunion is about to happen. Of course, as the music swells and Will comes around the corner to see Alicia sitting innocently at her desk, the fantasy is shattered and we know exactly what’s about to happen (courtesy of this season’s sizzle reel of course, but I would argue Josh Charles’ ability to emote would have given it away just as much) between these two former friends. The dichotomy between the beauty of the score and the anger in Will’s eyes just makes the entire scene, and the subsequent desk clearing that everyone’s been waiting on for months, that much juicier and perfect.

With both firms attempting to pull out of the spiral the reveal of the split has sent them into, the score goes back to the usual string-heavy pieces David Buckley has been composing for the show since the beginning. Every time someone is fired and walked out of the office or a race to a client commences or concludes, there are changes in tone that play up the rising blood pressure and short tempers entering and exiting each room. Other than these variations in volume and dramatic pieces interspersed during heightened moments between the warring factions, nothing other than the traditional score appears until close to the end of the episode, when Gin Wigmore’s “Black Sheep” backs a bedroom tryst between Alicia and Peter. As the rest of the Florrick/Agos associates sit discussing the next strategic move in the living room unsuspecting of Alicia’s whereabouts, the future governor of Illinois and his wife got hot and heavy one room over, complete with “Lean In” puns and Alicia’s deadline of ten minutes before everyone else starts making bad decisions. The song choice is spot on here with lyrics like “Make me mad, I’m not here to please. Paint me in a corner but my colour comes back.” describing the Head Bitch in Charge-iness of Alicia Florrick to a “T”. The only music all episode to include lyrics and it was a great choice for the first sex scene of the year (that I can recall).

A great episode all around, and one that sets up the rest of the season to be quite a doozy. Owen being awesome! Nathan Lane comes back! Will vs. Alicia Round One Thousand! Could not be more excited.

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