Flashbacks and Wine: ‘A Few Words’ Fills in the Gaps in Good Wife History

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Just what makes that little old ant
Think hell move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, cant
Move a rubber tree plant

It is an inherently difficult thing for a television show to set up a will-they-won’t they from the premiere episode and four and a half seasons in still be going strong with that same pairing. The Good Wife, however, has bucked this trend with what seems like ease over these 100-odd episodes and it has brought nothing but fabulous moments over and over again. Not without some bumps here and there of course, but if you look at how the writer’s room has navigated the ins and outs of Alicia and Will’s interactions over time, overall it has been an equally enjoyable and tense affair consistently enough that the missteps are barely noticeable. Of course, there are the Alicia and Peter ‘shippers, of which there are many, and they are probably right in the long run. But without all of the risqué elevator rides, sneaking around, double-edged comments from Diane, and illicit phone calls, we wouldn’t have been able to witness the conversation the two shared in tonight’s episode over a few drinks.

The Good Wife sending the entire cast, minus Kalinda, Eli and a few others, to New York City for a large conference of lawyers this week gave them the opportunity to not only have all of the best characters (and caricatures) in one place without that location being a courtroom, but also to embrace the city they film in as its actual self instead of masking it as its Midwestern sibling as usual. Among the many highlights; Elsbeth coming across a costumed bear in  Times Square and consequently being call a dirty stinking Jew, Clarke getting stuck in traffic in a Yellow Cab without the ability to turn off the mayor on auto play, and Alicia and Will coming across one another at a 24 hour diner. Not that any of these things would’t have been executed in a similarly entertaining fashion if the show was in its normal setting, but just another example of the writer’s room exploiting opportunities they don’t have very often in the best way. I’m entirely convinced that whenever Alicia has a drink in her had it automatically means good things are about to happen on my television and tonight was no different, as her and Will finally had the opportunity to face each other one on one after the split from the firm. Even with Will pretending he didn’t hold anything against her based on their romantic history, Alicia managed to throw some snide remarks and drunk bitterness in to the mix to combat his anger and resentment.

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The brief conversation between these two might have been the most electrifying part of the episode, but it most certainly wasn’t the best. All season long, the Kings have relied on unreliable memories, flashbacks, and outright parallels to the past in order to raise the bar when it comes to character growth and shading. That was the case once again here, as Alicia found herself drifting back to when she first decided to go back to practicing law while writing  her keynote speech for the conference. Spurred on by Cary to use “personal stories” in order to blow everyone away, Alicia falls into flashbacks of her many interviews and life changes at law firms post-scandal. Since the show began shortly after all of these events it’s a nice thing to be able to see what Alicia went through after we know the end result. The best thing about these scenes is that until they began I almost forgot we never had the chance to witness any of this time period at the beginning of the show.

It’s a testament to the talents of the writers on staff that Alicia, Will, Peter and Co. had such well-developed backgrounds based almost entirely on small conversations and events that led to larger things than what they were really referencing. Alicia’s commitment to having and keeping the apartment was clear without us seeing how badly she wanted it for herself in the first place, Peter’s ongoing digressions weren’t any less important even if we never saw how acute and heartbreaking Alicia’s embarrassment over his betrayal was 5 years ago, and the sexual tension between Alicia and Will wasn’t any less amazing even though we didn’t see their reintroduction at Stern, Lockhart & Gardner and he actually pushing for her hiring. These details weren’t bombs being dropped by any means, but lovely enough that they still made a difference in how we view ongoing interactions and relationships. I especially enjoyed Alicia’s memories of Will stopping the elevator doors from closing between them for the first time and the look on Kalinda’s face when she found out Will was considering hiring Peter Florrick’s wife. The music they chose to background Alicia’s writing and daydreaming was perfectly tuned to that sweet spot nestled in between operatic and romantic comedy. It could have been the closing music for the next Jennifer Lopez/Ryan Reynolds joint coming around the bendbut at the same time the soaring notes wouldn’t have been out of place in an adaptation of Jane Eyre.

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Elsewhere, we got a great guest turn from Jill Hennessey as a high profile lawyer who exited her previous firm and was now being pursued with great fanfare by what seemed like every one of the lawyers at the hotel. Suit yourself, but I’m choosing to believe that she is meant to be a continuation of ADA Claire Kincaid two decades removed from her departure from the Law & Order universe. The timeline works out, and (name change aside) what was once a hot shot young prosecutor of state cases becoming a fiery middle-aged viper in the courtroom makes too much sense not to be true. Pairing her with Elsbeth in the formation of an all-female partnered law firm is a genius move, and as long as the two of them are still employed in small doses the future is brighter than ever in regards to recurring guest stars on the roster. I mentioned the music used for Alicia’s flashbacks as one highlight, but I’m pretty sure the musical peak from this episode was Elsbeth belting out “High Hopes” with Clarke on the piano. The only way that moment could have been improved was if Nathan Lane actually got in on the action and had the chance to show off his own musical theater skills. Regardless, a bright little throwaway moment that also represented what it’s like to be at a business conference perfectly. For every one hour of work being done, there is always somewhere around three of fraternizing and drinking.

In the grand scheme of things, there really wasn’t much in this episode that was important in regards to the season’s ongoing arcs. The Office of Integrity goons remain on Will’s tail, but if Eli isn’t involved in parts of episodes about the voter fraud issue my interest immediately dips until the story heads somewhere else. Alicia and Will continue down their path of mutual detestation with a hint of lingering sexual tension. Cary and Kalinda didn’t interact one bit so who cares, and the state of Florrick/Agos was static without the addition of Rayna Hart. I tip my cap once again to the Kings here, as this was essentially a filler episode before the final stretch of the season, yet managed to be 90% as exemplary as any other episode this year.

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One thought on “Flashbacks and Wine: ‘A Few Words’ Fills in the Gaps in Good Wife History

  1. Jodi Alexander says:

    I did not find any humor in the anti-semitic line “dirty stinking Jew” or ” dirty Jew”
    I am appalled. I have watched The Good Wife from the onset. I have appreciated that the producers have held integrity pertaining to storylines with sensitive matter. Not anymore. I will not be watching The Good Wife.

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