sat 15/06/2024

The Good Wife, Series 3 Finale, More4 | reviews, news & interviews

The Good Wife, Series 3 Finale, More4

The Good Wife, Series 3 Finale, More4

Fine cast, great writing in virtuoso legal drama

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick clashes with Matthew Perry as Mike Kresteva

All good things must come to an end, but at least if it's a fully tooled-up American drama series it comes to an end a lot more slowly. Where the BBC serves up six episodes of Silk or a ridiculous three of Sherlock, the third season of The Good Wife finally drew to a close with its 22nd instalment.

It's hard going for writers, actors and crew, but the benefits of such an extended run are plastered all over the screen, week in and week out. In Britain, at least, The Good Wife hasn't earned itself those "greatest TV show ever made!" accolades lobbed at The Sopranos or The Wire by the more hysterical species of critic, though Clive James recently gave it a belated rave in his Telegraph column. Yet if you run the microscope over it, it probably deserves them just as much as its trendier HBO counterparts (it's made by CBS).

The writing is almost always superb, which has attracted a calibre of cast rarely seen on any TV network, cable or otherwise. The regular core of characters - Julianna Margulies as the titular spouse Alicia Florrick, Christine Baranski and Josh Charles as the senior legal partners at Lockhart Gardner, Archie Panjabi as mercurial investigator Kalinda, Alan Cumming as the wily Eli Gold and Chris Noth as Alicia's husband Peter - are all platinum-plated A-listers, but it's the strength in depth of the acting that's truly astonishing.

The Good Wife has a mini-constellation of reinforcements who can be rotated in and out to throw new light on personal relationships or prise open some arcane backwater of the law. This season-closer saw another appearance of Michael J Fox as the conniving lawyer Louis Canning, teaming up with the raucous and blowsy Patti Nyholm (Martha Plimpton) to try to drive a professional stake through the heart of Lockhart Gardner (Fox and Plimpton pictured above). Fox's performance is fascinating for the way it builds the actor's Parkinson's disease into a portrayal of a lawyer with a "neurological disorder", but using it to serve the drama rather than as an attention-grabbing gimmick.


This series has also seen some brilliant moments arising from the love life of Diane Lockhart (Baranski), regal doyenne of the bien-pensant liberal elite but comically unable to resist a grizzled man of action, be he ever so politically incorrect. There was a comeback by Gary Cole as ballistics expert and outdoorsman Kurt McVeigh, now being rivalled in Diane's affections by rugged Australian process-server Jack Copeland (Bryan Brown). The scene a couple of episodes back where a flustered Diane had both of them on call-holding was farcical in the finest sense.

Another reliable Good Wife trick is using the regular courtroom scenes as a stage for a colourful parade of judges, who run the gamut from bossy and bigoted to eccentric and delusional. Last week's episode made extra space for a guest role by the excellent David Paymer as Judge Cuesta (pictured below), suspended from duties while he was investigated for his conduct as a prosecutor in a 20-year-old case. Switching him from the bench to the trenches, where he was forced to rely on Lockhart Gardner's expert but ethically suspect tactics to save his career, allowed the writers to perform a psychological dissection, exposing the weakness and bluster behind his usual judicial facade. 

One day the show will run out of juice, but it must be good for another couple of seasons at least. The "long arc" is the still-evolving saga of Alicia's fractured relationship with estranged husband Peter, currently State's Attorney but on the brink of running for Governor of Illinois (for which his rival is the treacherous Mike Kresteva, played with a dash of pure evil by Matthew Perry). As the series ended, the Florricks' private life swung back to centre stage, with Alicia poised on the doorstep of the former family home, agonising over whether to rejoin Peter and their two children inside. The seamless knitting together of private lives, politics and the law creates the arena in which The Good Wife's many qualities can flourish.

Switching Judge Cuesta from the bench to the trenches allowed the writers to perform a psychological dissection

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