A sporadic series charting the 100 greatest individual television episodes, as chosen by the Failed Critics & other contributors.
It’s easy to see why The Good Wife has passed a lot of people by. Or, indeed, been actively avoided by many of the usual fans of American TV drama. Starring that chick from ER (and, erm, Snakes on a Plane) and the old dude from Sex and the City, the housewife-turned-litigator premise seems a little derivative. But to know Alicia Florrick is to know that she, and her incredible supporting cast, are so much more than their crummy title suggests. They should have called it The Fucking Badass Wife.
Hitting The Fan happens early on in season five. It should be a comfortable, middle of the road episode. At this particular point in The West Wing, for example, there was a birthday. ER did Halloween, Sex and the City did a book launch (didn’t they do that every week?), while in The Sopranos someone almost slept with someone they shouldn’t. The Good Wife, however, decided that season 5, episode 5 was as good a place as any to spend 41 minutes skilfully destroying everything they’d built up in the previous 94 episodes. “It’s time I try something new” said Alicia. And then they did.
Alicia and Cary Agos, her former nemesis, have come a long way since the pilot. After years of billable hours and court room successes, they’ve worked their way up to Partner and 4th Year Associate respectively. And now it’s time to start their own firm, taking their hard earned clients with them. The other hapless 4th Year Associates – more interested in cappuccinos than contacts – who complete this new start up worry me, and afford Alicia the occasional tut. But it doesn’t matter, because this is clearly the Florrick/Agos show. And, let’s face it, we never really saw any of Lockhart/Gardner’s colleagues, save for the delightfully brutal David Lee. Alicia and Cary, for all their history, are going to be the new Will and Diane. Believe it or not, I can actually see them slow dancing around the office together a couple of seasons from now. Just don’t you dare say that to Will.
Oh Will. Even the way you stand up from your chair when presented with mentee/former lover Alicia’s treachery is sexy. As he strides off to confront her we get a series of flashbacks of their infamous white sheeted sex scene. Frankly, it’s so hot I can’t have been the only one expecting an angry shag rather than shouting when he lunged at Alicia and swept the entire contents of her desk onto the floor. “I took you in…you were poison” Will seethes, in an exchange a world away from the previous episode’s amicable reminiscence of their office romance days. Cynics might well call this the end for Will & Alicia, but I live in hope. Of Peter Florrick dying from a massive stress related heart attack, mainly.
After rumblings of dissent in the camp for weeks, it is Diane, class personified, (and still hanging around after being so unceremoniously ousted herself the previous week) who finally figures out what is going on. And she does it via a quick glance at Alicia’s office decoration stipend; I told you she was classy. In contrast to Will and Alicia, the mentor/mentee showdown between Diane and Cary is a far more civilised affair. She clutches his laptop and talks about betrayal. He accidentally gives away the fact that they’re taking the chumhum (The Good Wife’s version of Google) account with them, but still manages to sign off with his trademark cheeky grin.
Kalinder makes a brief but always welcome appearance, as she blithely double crosses the new firm and proves once and for all that you can’t trust her as far as you could lob one of her enormous leather boots. Meanwhile David Lee races around in his Bluetooth headset screaming “hands up from the keyboard” at everyone, like he’s in the FBI.
Peter (the Good Husband, if you will) shows up for the obligatory booty call, complete with ‘lean in’ gags; because even the sex scenes are well scripted, damn it! Indeed it’s a testament to the show that the Governor Elect’s main role is as a piece of ass. Ok, he throws a bit of executive office weight around at the end, securing Florrick/Agos the toppest of all the top clients, but he’s primarily in it for the sex. Meanwhile, Alicia’s kids continue their recent trend of having short enough scenes to remain unannoying. And, best of all, there isn’t a single second of Jackie Florrick.
Hitting The Fan leaps effortlessly from screaming tension to laugh out loud funny (“Go to hell.” “You go!” “Oh, your daughter called. She needs a permission slip for school.”). It’s exhausting television, like watching an entire season in under an hour. Alicia is escorted from the building before the opening credit sequence even appears, in the kind of dramatic set piece normally reserved for a season finale cliff hanger. This is one of the best episodes of TV I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. And, while I’m sad for all those people who won’t see it, the makers of The Good Wife don’t care. Oh no, they’re too busy kicking ass.
“We’re coming after you. All your clients. Every single one we worked to make happy while you swept in at the last minute to take credit. We’re taking them. And then you know what you’ll have? A very nice suite of offices.”