The Good Wife, Ep. 5.12 “We The Juries”: Judicial gimmickry with a Kalinda problem

The Good Wife S05E12 promo pic 2

The Good Wife, Season 5, Episode 12, “We, The Juries”
Written by Keith Eisner
Directed by Paris Barclay
Airs Sundays at 9pm on CBS

A few times a season, The Good Wife likes to do a “judicial gimmick” episode, throwing the attorneys into a fish out of water situation and watching as they flail, trying to adapt to something they simply do not prepare for in an average trial. “We, The Juries” is one such episode, throwing Will, Diane, Alicia, and Cary into a complicated single trial with two defendants and a bifurcated jury—one for each client. This complicates things not only for both prongs of the defense, but for the prosecution and the judge (played by the always welcome Victor Garber as an imminently decent, efficiency-minded jurist increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of the system he decided on to try the case).

The case involves a newly minted couple accused of drug smuggling. Trying the case itself seems pretty simple for either pair of attorneys—it could be him, it could be her, or it could be someone else. What complicates things is juggling the juries in a subtle effort to edit their perceptions of the strength of each case, as the prosecution grows increasingly angry and the judge ever more exasperated. In addition to that, “We, The Juries” is deliciously spiced with the interpersonal conflicts that continue to make this season sing. Cary advises Alicia not to first chair against Will to avoid a repeat of their sexually charged last match-up, only to find that Will smartly decided to second chair as well, leaving him up against his mentor Diane. Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t spend as much time as it could playing out the implications of Cary and Diane facing off again; it is far more interested in a far less interesting dynamic.

It seems the show is returning, once again, to the Cary and Kalinda well. These two have danced around each other for seasons in a desperately uninteresting will-they-won’t-they the show just doesn’t know how to quit. Not only do Matt Czuchry and Archie Panjabi, two otherwise solid performers, have next to no chemistry, the show so often throws Kalinda into romantic or sexual relationships, it becomes impossible to take her feelings for Cary in either regard remotely seriously. She was in a woman’s bed last week and is currently engaged in a sexually charged professional rivalry with Damian that is back-burnered this week as if Kalinda got hit on the head during an investigation and suddenly remembered she was interested in Cary a few betrayals ago.

What does work in this subplot is the way so much of Cary and Kalinda’s attraction is tied up in those betrayals, in the sense that they are in a constant game of one-upsmanship with a worthy opponent. If the show wanted to commit to this as a storyline rather than an occasional episodic complication (in this regard, it is sort of reminiscent of Jeff and Annie on Community, except that those two have chemistry in spades), it would be at least possible to buy these two as a romantic pairing. As it is, though, this subplot feels dropped in to give Kalinda something to do.

This is actually a serious recurring problem for The Good Wife, which has long seemed to realize the asset it has in Archie Panjabi without knowing exactly what to do with her. She is great at playing uber-competence, close-to-the-vest brilliance, and quiet smoldering, but this isn’t a show about a hyper-competent, sexually ambiguous detective (except for that brief period in season four where it was that show for roughly 15 minutes an episode), so Kalinda only occasionally gets spotlighted professionally. Mostly, she shows up when our characters need something done, and because of Panjabi’s collected deadpan and seasons of us occasionally seeing her work, we automatically understand she will get it done. The show has never been able to give her a consistently compelling personal life, however, so what we get is a series of uninteresting lovers and mysteries that end up shrouding things that were better left in the shadows. Kalinda is a potentially great character played by a definitively great actress. The Good Wife needs to give her more to do than make eyes at anything that moves.

The Good Wife S05E12 promo pic 1

Outside of that unfortunate subplot, we see the video evidence of ballot stuffing rear its ugly head, as Marilyn opens an investigation into the Governor’s potential involvement in rigging the election. It is a nice change of pace to see Marilyn acting like a professional in the workplace instead of a crazy pregnant lady, and “We, The Juries” is the first time her character registers in the way she was always intended to. This subplot is a lot of fun if only because we get to see Peter and Eli trying to keep their hands clean in ways that make them look shadier and shadier. And, of course, because we get another scene of Will and Peter facing off.

Considering this is something the show has given us a few times at this point, it is a credit to the immense complexity of these characters and their relationships that such suspense is built up when we know Will is walking down the hall to see Peter, and their charged conversation does not disappoint, as Will freely admits he will take Peter down if Peter waives attorney-client privilege. He’ll do so for any number of reasons, and he’ll do so even if it means lying himself. These two are not friends, have never been friends, and are always teetering on the edge of all out war. Peter manages to contain things again, for now, by refusing to waive attorney-client privilege, but he knows now more than ever that he has a powerful enemy in Will Gardner, a potential powder-keg that could bring down his whole administration if he isn’t careful.

“We, The Juries” is not as wacky or outright comedic as the usual fish out of water episodes, nor does it mine the complexities—legal and interpersonal—of the case as well as it might. Instead, it spends much of the episode building up tension elsewhere by rekindling the relationship between Cary and Kalinda (who will never work as star-crossed lovers, torn between Lockhart Gardner and Florrick Agos, no matter how much the show might want that to be a plotline going forward) and reminding us just how much baggage exists between Peter and Will. Heading into the back half of its fifth season, The Good Wife has jettisoned at least one problematic storyline (unless Marilyn’s baby is going to be psychic or something), but seems to be walking an ever-narrower tight rope when it comes to Kalinda, teetering between the idiocy of Damian being a retread of a relationship we’ve seen several times before and Cary being a wet blanket she somehow wants to wrap around herself. There’s so much greatness in this season, it would be a shame if another Kalinda subplot knocked things off the rails. Here’s hoping the show retains its focus on the Lockhart Gardner/Florrick Agos feud, with a dash of looming political scandal to keep things interesting.

Notes:

-“Eli, I could fill a book with what you know about what you don’t know.”

-“It’s like herding cats with you people.”

-CBS made some sort of promotional deal with Bruce Springsteen, as three songs off his album High Hopes (which I have since learned comes out Tuesday, so well-played CBS) appear in the episode. They all work pretty well, actually, and if I wasn’t a huge fan of The Boss, I might not even have noticed this episode was chock full of Springsteen cuts.

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