The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 1: “The Line”
Written by Robert King and Michelle King
Directed by Robert King
Airs Sundays at 9pm(ish) ET on CBS
Five full seasons and over 100 episodes in, and The Good Wife is managing the unthinkable: it’s accelerating. The sixth-season premiere, “The Line,” teases business as usual, picking up immediately following season five’s final moments, before totally changing course with one swift motion, propelling the episode into a dozen unexpected directions with reckless abandon. For Robert and Michelle King, the series’ reliably canny showrunners (and the co-authors of the episode), contradicting the usual trajectory of veteran drama series is just business as usual.
Perhaps season five, which blew up the series not once but twice, has turned the Kings into even bigger storytelling adrenaline junkies, because “The Line” is a remarkably breathless hour of storytelling, albeit one that finds enough room for vintage character moments, long-term series callbacks for the faithful, and, of course, a tremendous helping of bone-dry humor. The arrest of Cary Agos for allegedly helping Lemond Bishop’s crew transport 900g of heroin (street value, and therefore Cary’s bail: $1.3m) is mined for befuddled humor, ironic pathos, and even a scene of HBO-worthy bloodletting. More importantly, though, it’s used as a starting point both to reassess the power positions of the series’ many mobile players and to make the series’ constantly fluctuating status quo even more fluid than usual.
After the initial shock value of Matt Czuchry getting thrown in a holding cell wears off, it begins to feel as though “The Line” will be a sort of lark, a “how the clients live” episode that explores a bit of ironic role reversal before resorting to business as usual. Cary is accused of teaching three members of Bishop’s crew how to avoid arrest, which would be tantamount to criminal conspiracy. Cary repeatedly denies having done so, and in his interview with Kalinda, one of the aforementioned three backs up Cary’s story. So far, so comfy: it gives Alicia a chance to spar with Finn, who is handling Cary’s prosecution, and it makes David Lee and Louis Canning cackle with glee as they weigh strategies to make Diane’s “retirement” go less smoothly. The expected course of events: Cary stays cool and collected while in lockup to prove he’s a solid ally to Bishop, even under significant duress, he gets bailed out, all concerned go on to banter another day.
Instead of going for that more pat, self-contained route, “The Line” is very much just the beginning of a considerably knottier story. Just when it seems as though Cary’s attorney status is going to keep him relatively comfortable in lockup until his bail comes through, one of Bishop’s lackeys gives him a deep shanking to the palm (though he’s kind enough to spare him the original plan to remove a digit). Later, in an effort to clear Cary’s name by uncovering a potential CI, Kalinda merely convinces sometimes-paramour Sophia Russo (Kelli Giddish, in what continues to be kind of a thankless role) to produce what she claims is an audio recording of Cary committing the crime he’s accused of. Finally, in the episode’s final scene, Florrick-Agos’s attempt to use bail money fairly obviously procured through a money-laundering business with direct ties to Bishop results in a further delay of a week, meaning “The Line” ends with Cary still behind bars and absolutely nothing resolved.
Given that so much of the episode is given over to Cary’s Very Bad Night (and subsequent several days), the B-plot, which takes place almost entirely in the Governor’s office, provides a much-needed sense of balance. Eli has determined that Alicia is the only truly viable candidate for State’s Attorney, despite Alicia’s insistence that she has no interest in pursuing the position; for his part, Peter is similarly against the idea, stating (with no shortage of self-awareness) that one of the reasons that people continue to revere “St. Alicia” is because she’s not a politician. Alan Cumming has to provide virtually all of the episode’s overt comic beats – though he gets some excellent support from Sarah Steele, always a welcome presence as Eli’s daughter Marissa – and thankfully he’s as up to the task as ever. Eli’s machinations should feel old hat by now, but even the simple act of getting Michael Cerveris and Chris Noth in an offscreen shouting match this week is still totally delightful. Maybe it’s just that watching Eli do his job is still much more engaging than any of the other subplots (especially theromantic ones) he’s occasioanlly been embroiled in.
If “The Line” makes one thing clear, it’s that The Good Wife isn’t about to lose one ounce of its hard-fought cynicism. Eli and Peter are poised to cash in on the public’s love of Alicia. There’s no reason to think that Cary didn’t commit the crime he’s accused of, given the law-breaking (or at least illegality-skirting) activities we’ve seen virtually every lawyer on the series get up to. David Lee and Louis Canning are now a hilarious double act of pre-emptive vengeance, forever perched in conference rooms and offices like posh vultures. Lemond Bishop (played with submerged menace, as always, by Mike Colter) splits his time evenly between ruthlessly protecting his interests and tenderly looking after his son, while perceiving no contradiction therein. Finally, at the center of it all, there’s St. Alicia herself, who is seemingly destined to enter a whole new set of ethical and moral crossfires in every avenue of life. So, yeah: The Good Wife is doing just fine, thanks.
My name is Simon and I will be handling The Good Wife for 22 weeks of kicking ass and subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) throwing shade at its premium-cable rivals. I’m stoked and you should be too.
Judge Of The Week: Fred Melamed as Judge Alan Karpman, making his third appearance. He doesn’t get a lot of screentime, but Melamed’s incredible voice is always a welcome presence, even when he keeps the antics at a minimum.
No shortage of amusing moments this week, but Sarah Steele’s voicing of the conversation between Peter and the panty-resisting intern he refuses to fire is funnier than probably anything that will air on a purported “comedy” this week. Can she be around a whole lot more this season, please?
Apparently, at least in Illinois, it takes two years to get your bail money back if the defendant doesn’t wind up fleeing. Damn.
Hypothetically speaking, it might be better for Alicia’s run for State’s Attorney if she weren’t married to Peter, no? Just thinking out loud here…
Cary’s asshole father gets a mention this week; he’s a big-name lobbyist, as has already been established, but he’s unwilling to sully his good name and cough up any more than eight grand. Stand-up fellow, as always.