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Brand New Day: Thoughts on the Season Premiere of The Good Wife

The wait is over.

After months of waiting breathlessly for the repercussions of Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Will (Josh Charles) entering that hotel room together (with Alicia taking control of the situation), The Good Wife returned for the start of its third season ("A New Day"), written by Robert and Michelle King, with a new night and timeslot, a new haircut for Alicia, and a new office for our erstwhile good wife, who proved this week just how bad she can be.

Among other areas, The Good Wife has excelled in its handling of female sexuality, particularly in terms of how it's handled within the confines of a primetime broadcast network drama. This hasn't been a show featuring much bed-hopping from its main character, who spent the first two seasons coming to terms with her husband's infidelity, her passion towards her boss, and her decision to kick said husband to the curb after learning that he had slept with one of the few friends she had (that would be Archie Panjabi's Kalinda Sharma, naturally). On the night of his election victory.

This week's episode--which found Alicia representing a Muslim college student alternately accused of participating in violence at an interfaith rally and first-degree murder--may have revolved around ethnic tensions and avatar-based video gaming but it was the scene between Alicia and Will--in which they continued the affair they started in the season finale--that got tongues wagging this week. Was it too hot? Too steamy? Did it cross the line?

I'd argue that it was steamy but it was also a very mature handling of female sexuality, one that we don't ordinarily see on television, as Alicia gave into her own desires, once again taking control of the situation from her male partner, to achieve her own pleasure. It's no surprise that Alicia refuses to be objectified here; the title of the series speaks volumes about the way she had been objectified as the scandalized politician's wife. Likewise, the courtroom scenes proved that she refuses to bow to her husband, now newly returned to his seat of power, but instead promises an adversarial relationship with her estranged partner.

These two are all smiles in front of the kids, but the facades wear thin whenever they're alone: Alicia tells him that she'll make excuses for him rather than sit beside him over dinner at Zach's girlfriend's house; she refuses to be shaken when Peter tries to goad her into crumbling after proving her mettle in court. They might not be divorced, but these two are clearly already plotting their own particular revenges.

And that's a Good Thing. In its third season, The Good Wife isn't approaching anything--whether it be the struggling marriage between Peter and Alicia, the sexual tension between Alicia and Will, or the now fractured friendship between Alicia and Kalinda--as anything resembling a sacred cow. Instead, it's playing fast and loose with its dramatic underpinnings, creating a shifting landscape where anything is possible, plots can turn on a dime, and relationships can be undone with relative easy.

I will say that I am going to miss Kelli Giddish, who reprised her role from last season as the mercenary-minded Sophia Russo; her presence here gives us hints of the love triangle that the Kings told me would have gone down between Kalinda, Cary, and Sophia. She's a fantastic foil for Kalinda as well, their sexual tension simmering quite nicely (after a fling last season) while their competitive natures get the better of them. Having Sophia turn up like the metaphorical bad penny every time Kalinda got a lead on the investigation served to further intertwine their lives. It's a shame that we won't get to see this develop further now that Giddish is starring in NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Cary, meanwhile, is playing for keeps. It's remarkable just how much Matt Czuchry's character has changed since the early episodes of the series. Once an arrogant little minnow, Cary has become a ruthless shark, perfectly willing to do whatever he has to in order to win, in order to prove his place beside Peter at the state's attorney's office. Even his one seemingly altruistic act in this episode--slipping the traffic camera report to Kalinda--had an ulterior motive, as he then flipped the situation on its head, using the report to finger Alicia's client as the prime suspect in a brutal murder. (Which, to me, always felt deeply personal, rather than political: stabbed 45 times screams crime of passion, not hate crime, per se.) I'm curious to see where Cary is headed and whether his closed-off nature speaks to his association with the similarly compartmentalizing Kalinda.

However, I do want to see Alicia and Kalinda eventually come back to some sort of understanding, though I hope it takes a while for the ice to thaw between these two. As much as I loved Diane's insistence that the two women work out whatever is between them (implicit in that: an understanding that Diane doesn't want to know what it is), I thought the scene between Kalinda and Will at the bar underpinned Kalinda's loneliness this season. She's shut down emotionally again, unwilling to let Sophia in, unwilling to let anyone get too close after she got burned by Alicia. Maybe Kalinda does need a dog. (Plus, how awesome was Will's suggestion that "Kalinda and pooch" could solve crimes together?)

All in all, I thought that "A New Day" represented a fantastic start to the third season, one that immediately made me crave more episodes of The Good Wife immediately... and an installment that made me feel that perhaps winding down my weekend with Alicia and Co. on a Sunday evening is a great thing indeed.

However, I'm curious to know: what did you think of "A New Day"? What was your take on the Alicia/Will scene? Will Kalinda and Alicia ever mend their fences? What's going on with Grace and her new tutor? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on The Good Wife ("The Death Zone"), Alicia must quickly learn English Law when a libel case she won in the United States is retried in a British court.

Comments

kittymom457 said…
I thought it was about time that a love scene was focused more on the woman's needs than the man's! Congrats to the writers for a very steamy, well-written, poignant scene!
Anonymous said…
have to Wonder about Will's comment at the end: about not having emotions, and almost pretending that he feels things. Is this foreshadowing for what lies down the line w/ Alicia..?

Teri -who wonders why the WP login never cooperates:)
Jon88 said…
I do love this show (even watched it in real time last night), but it seems like every week there's one truck-sized plot hole. Cary maneuvers the kid into swearing he was driving the car, and that means he's the murderer? Nonsense.
greebs said…
I love the show but felt the plot here (the court case) was pretty broadly drawn -- not sophisticated in the way the show normally is (charging someone with murder solely because their car is seen driving away?). And I hate Alicia's new haircut. But, love the show...
Anonymous said…
Re Alicia's new haircut: It's a wig folks, as was her last hair-do. If you've ever seen her on a talk show, her hair is darker and different. Take a closer look next week!
Anonymous said…
I found myself getting quite angry at Alicia for acting like she's got dibs on the moral high road (due to her husband's past infidelity) when she's lying to her kids, covering up an affair she's having and therefore making it into something illicit. She was also willing to have her client lie about his alibi, without a second thought.

I'm not so sure that I buy her complete 180. I get that they want to shake things up a bit, but I worry that the writers will take her too far. Not that it wouldn't be slightly interesting, but that it wouldn't be realistic. Going off the deep end, personally, is one thing (the "affair" with Will), but to lose her moral compass professionally? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

One more thing? I am really tired of heterosexual writers on crime shows making the gays or the lesbians the murderers. It's like this is how they show how accepting they are - equal opportunity to be the bad guy. The problem is that in truth, in the real world, gays and lesbians who are killers are RARE. Rarer than rare. In the real world, gays and lesbians are the victims 9.999 times out of 10. I'm getting tired of this new trope, which I think started on Law & Order (a show I loved).

Rebecca
John in Naples said…
I watch only one show faithfully every week, TGW, and I'm embarassed to say I turned it off when Alicia was having her orgasm - come on writers! This has absolutely nothing to do with expressing true female sexuality/needs on prime-time TV. It's a new bad day and it's way below what Alicia and/or TGW are capable of. John B in Naples

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