'The Good Wife': Sunday's (Relatively) Unsung Hero

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Amidst all the big prestige cable shows currently clogging up Sunday (plus Once Upon a Time), it can be all too easy to forget another gem on the end-of-weekend lineup, CBS' sharp and surprising The Good Wife. It's a show that, as last night's knotty episode proved, is still as good as ever, and one that should not be left out of the Monday morning post-mortems.

For one thing, the show is still doing amazing things with guest stars. Last night's episode boasted Matthew Perry, Parker Posey, Julianne Nicholson, and Joanna Gleason in parts of varying sizes, a great lineup of New York actors (plus Perry) who all bring keen wits and commitment to their roles. It's telling that so many good actors over the series' three seasons have wanted to come play along. It's a good job where you get to say smart things among other smart people. Who could say no? We're glad that we'll likely be getting more of both Perry and Posey as the season winds down (while the story winds up, we suspect).

Yes, we've now got an Illinois gubernatorial campaign lurching terribly into motion, as both Perry's slimy character and Chris Noth's bad husband (to Julianna Margulies' good wife) threw their hats in the ring. Plus there's another election involving Parker Posey, and while you'd think we'd be sick of elections given all the nonsense going on in the real world, The Good Wife makes it all seem as fresh and exciting as it did in the Tommy Carcetti season of The Wire. The Chicago politics on display here are perhaps not quite as gritty and realistic as those of The Wire's Baltimore, but there's still a zingy air of believability and backroom intrigue to it all that feels correct and, more importantly, is fully entertaining without being soapy. One of the exciting things is that we really don't know whether Noth's character will win this thing. Typically yes, one of the main characters on a TV show would emerge victorious from a struggle, but The Good Wife is tricky; it's not afraid to punish its characters for moral indiscretions, which they commit all the time. Even the titular good wife does bad things!

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There she was last night blackmailing a fellow lawyer and her client into confessing to murder (with an Alford plea, à la the West Memphis Three) lest her own client testify against her friend at a new trial. It was shifty and calculating and not terribly befitting a TV heroine, but again this show trades in a kind of moral shading that buoys it up to cable-level complexity and nuance. Just imagine where they could have gone if this show actually were on cable. Still, they manage to do some remarkably rich storytelling on a regular old network.

Parts of this season, with romantic muck and other goopy things, felt a bit stuck, but recently, as the finale approaches, the show has been humming with suspense and energy in a way that makes us think that next week maybe we'll let one of the fancier shows record while we watch this one in real time. It deserves it, after all. We're sorry we've been putting you on the back burner recently, The Good Wife. We'll try to be better.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.