The Good Wife, Ep. 6.11: “Hail Mary” ratchets up, then releases, the tension

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The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 11: “Hail Mary”
Written by Erica Shelton Kodish
Directed by Rosemary Rodriguez
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on CBS

Well, now we know how Kalinda might find her way out of the series. “Hail Mary” is a hectic, tense hour of The Good Wife, but its parts don’t quite add up to a totally satisfying whole, especially when considered as the culmination of an unusually long story (by Good Wife standards).

It’s difficult not to think of Spike Lee’s last great film, 25th Hour, in the best scenes of “Hail Mary,” which involve Cary being prepped for the worst of the pen by an expert (a perfectly cast Domenick Lombardozzi, bringing the series total number of The Wire alumni to approximately seven million). It’s both a strong showcase for Matt Czuchry, who credibly takes Cary from tough-guy posturing to almost breaking down in front of a stranger (and back) in the space of an episode. For his part, Lombardozzi provides some of the biggest laughs of the episode (“Less talk, more sex!”) but, more importantly, his character makes clear that the stakes are very, very real.

Somewhat characteristically, Alicia is forcibly sidelined from the Cary plot, trapped instead in debate prep with Eli, Elfman, Marissa, and a stoned professor named Adrian Fluke, played by Chris Elliott. Yes, that Chris Elliott; Fluke is meant to be Prady’s stand-in for the mock debate. That doesn’t last long, since the “medical marijuana” turns out to be a shade too potent and Fluke gets a terminal case of the giggles. (Frankly, the typecasting of Elliott as an amusing stoner is a bit of a drag.) He’s swiftly replaced by none other than Finn Polmar, who does a standup job (of course), until Peter shows up and starts to heckle him. At this point, things get even dicier, as Peter takes his at-bat, and…is promptly destroyed by Alicia, or would be, had Eli not stepped in to put a stop to the shenanigans. The whole subplot is really just another demonstration of just how tense and knotty the Alicia-Peter dynamic is getting, which is all well and good, but it’s about time that went somewhere definitive, no?

But of course The Perils Of Cary are the heart of the episode, and as we finally reach the season’s halfway point, we reach a logical plot point: Kalinda gets Cary off, but at a potentially steep price. Since John Ventimiglia’s Det. Prima doesn’t seem likely to back down after Kalinda falsifies evidence, it’s only a matter of time now before the axe falls and Kalinda pays for it. While the pivotal sequence is loaded with dramatic irony (Cary was apparently set up, but Prima’s indignance is valid), it all feels a bit too tidy; yes, Kalinda faked evidence, but even when she’s inevitably exposed, the legit evidence uncovered by Other Cary ensures that the case will never be retried, and the eventual break can be relatively clean. You can practically hear the Kings clinking their wine glasses in their (surely posh, yes?) writers’ room.

Yet for all of the cold calculation at work, there’s a slowly mounting sense of dread to “Hail Mary” that makes the eventual release of pressure when David Paymer finally lets Cary off the hook feel both palpable and earned. While it becomes clear a few minutes beforehand that Cary is going to slip out of the noose, before then, the episode does a fantastic job of playing it close to the chest. With all that said – was this really the most satisfying way to possibly handle the Cary plot this season, as essentially one long game of chicken? I have my doubts.

Then there’s the small matter of that exceptionally odd final scene. After finding out about Cary’s release, Alicia lets out a rare burst of joy, much to the confusion of Elfman, who has probably never seen her genuinely happy before. Then she…kisses him? Look, I get that it’s been a stressful time for Alicia, and there’s a lot of energy kicking around in there, and she hasn’t had much in the way of release, but it still doesn’t really work as a character moment, unless we’re about to enter a whole new phase of Alicia just careening off the rails. Since that seems unlikely, let’s all assume “Hail Mary”’s closing scene was some kind of odd fever dream and brace ourselves for next week’s debate.

Other thoughts:

  • The increased serialization has meant fewer guest judges. David Paymer’s great and all, but I’m looking forward to the season mixing it up a bit more in the second half.
  • The constant use of a ticking clock sound effect during Cary’s “jail prep” scenes is a bit rich, and not just because it unfavorable recalled the Hannibal  S2 finale, “Mizumono.”
  • It’s unclear whether Lombardozzi was going to call “five hookers” because it was a short-notice job and availabilities might be limited, or if he just really wanted to help the poor guy out.
  • I know nothing about fashion, but Kalinda’s red-and-black dress sure is striking.
  • Hey, an episode of television written and directed by women! Different women! (The Kings return to take teleplay credit for next week’s episode, the last before the proper winter hiatus.)
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