The Good Wife, Ep. 5.06: “The Next Day” plays with a new status quo

The Good Wife promo pic, S05E06, "The Next Day"

The Good Wife, Season 5, Episode 6: “The Next Day”
Written By Leonard Dick
Directed By Michael Zinberg
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS

The game’s afoot this week as Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos actively compete over a case, Marilyn Garbanza trails Peter’s ethical lapses, and Will works to undermine a potential partnership deal for the firm that walked out from under him. “The Next Day” plays out the early days of the aftermath from “Hitting the Fan” and while it is extremely effective at depicting the next steps, it is often clear this is an episode more committed to establishing a new status quo than one that has an agenda all its own.

There are things that are to be expected in the fall out of last week. Will has a new, young girlfriend with whom he can sex away his feelings (though, honestly, I am immediately tired of the “she wants Will to father her child” storyline), Diane recommits to the firm after Peter screws her out of her judgeship, and Alicia is torn between her loyalties to her new firm and her desire to have a private space where no one hits on her fifteen year old daughter. Most of these things are at least vaguely amusing, but each has its quirks and some of them work better than others.

Alicia’s awkwardness around Grace is continuously interesting, but it works better when the show is open about Alicia’s weaknesses as a mother. We have seen the tumultuous relationship Alicia has with her own mom and the way she approaches Grace is a nice reflection of this. Yet so far this season, the dynamic has been reduced to Grace saying “I want to be pretty” and Alicia freaking out like Martin Lawrence in a Bad Boys movie and loading her shotgun whenever a guy stands anywhere near Grace. If The Good Wife wants to do a story about Alicia having issues with her daughter reaching sexual maturity, that’s great, but there are better ways to handle it than Alicia dragging Grace along to Kurt’s house to keep her away from any men.

The Good Wife promo pic, S05E06, "The Next Day"Which brings us to the Kurt/Diane conflict this episode sets up and then allows to flap around on the deck like a fish that’s been caught but is too small for anyone to be impressed. When the case of the week (which involves Maria Dizzia suing a gun manufacturer after her husband dies during a hold up) creates a conflict between Diane and Alicia, Kurt decides to testify as an expert despite Alicia having taken over the case, causing tensions to arise between him and Diane. Their relationship is so pure, and so based on mutual understanding, that the conflict feels a little forced, yet throwing this dilemma in their path this early on still ultimately works. Kurt and Diane are both principled people, and though their interests don’t fully align this week, the show displays fidelity to each of their characters by allowing them to split on the issue. The full ramifications of this conflict don’t play out tonight, yet we know each of them well enough to understand where both are coming from.

Diane breaks down in a different context tonight after learning she will not be nominated to the Illinois Supreme Court. Though Chris Noth doesn’t appear this week, Peter’s decision to screw Diane reverberates throughout the episode and raises serious questions. This makes sense, insofar as Peter is vindictive first and logical once all of his passion has been excised, but it’s still such a colossally foolish move that I would expect Eli to have stepped in here. That Peter would lash out at Diane for Alicia’s sake isn’t surprising in the least (and Will makes a great point about Peter’s behavior when he says only Peter is allowed to hurt Alicia), but the way he chooses to do it displays a worrying lack of political capability and worse, strategic incompetence. By denying Diane a judgeship, Peter has given Alicia’s chief rival a weapon against her, whereas appointing Diane quickly would rob Lockhart/Gardner of a vital ally going forward.

Will behaves exactly as expected, though, grabbing the nearest young blonde he can find and clinging for dear life as he plays Napoleon in the conference room. His ambitions to expand Lockhart/Gardner clearly stem exclusively from personal animosity, and the fact that no one in the room points out, “Hey guys, we were on the verge of bankruptcy a few months back. Maybe let’s not try to expand to three offices right away?” hurts the plausibility of the Lockhart/Gardner strategy. Watching Will on the warpath is always a good time though, and the show is creating an excellent parallel between Peter and Will this season. While Peter breaks any and all ethical constraints to keep Alicia on his side, Will is willing to move mountains to show her all she lost in leaving him. Both men are ultimately throwing around their weight and begging Alicia to pay attention. Neither understands her eyes are on other things entirely.

Alicia’s recent attraction to Peter is, in some sense, tied to her professional ambitions and her innate understanding that Peter can further them. This is not a logical calculation on her part, or at least not a conscious one, but the role Peter’s office has played in her decisions is less than subtle. Peter wins the governorship; Alicia decides to start her own firm. Though she is not at all pressuring him for influence or support, she must on some level see the connections, understand how his position can help her, and intuit that their continued happiness might translate to her professional advancement.

The Good Wife promo pic, S05E06, "The Next Day"The Good Wife is still leaning very heavily on its serialized elements. Though Mamie Gummer returns as Nancy Crozier, she is not the main threat of the episode, nor the source of any serious twist. She is mostly a bystander (as is Richard Kind, whose judge shows enough character to prompt hopes that he’ll return soon) in the continuing conflict between Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos, a conflict that has swallowed the show whole, and mostly for the better.

The show is continuing to lean hard into the conflict between the firms, but it is also making both sides incredibly sympathetic. In one corner we have Will, the wounded warrior pushing harder than ever before to prove his worth, and Diane, spurned by the Governor Elect and recommitted to watching his wife crash and burn. Neither of them is unsympathetic in their aims, even though Will is a little bit self-righteous and slightly monomaniacal this week. In the other corner, we have Alicia and Cary, struggling like crazy to make their new business venture even slightly viable in the face of the behemoth corporation they betrayed to get things started. This season is still longing for a stronger Cary episode, but Alicia’s motivations and hopes are clear, and her increasing bitterness towards her old bosses is also totally reasonable.

“The Next Day” is the sort of episode you’d expect to see following an explosive hour like “Hitting the Fan”. It plays with the new status quo, threatening it from several angles and asking the audience just whom they are rooting for when the main cast is pitted against each other. There are the standard plotlines that worry (Grace needs to be taken more seriously as a young woman or else ignored until the show has better stories for her, and Marilyn Garbanza just stands there, holding a saucepan and scolding the characters for being unethical in ways we are all aware of), but The Good Wife has such a strong central arc it is hard to complain too much just yet. Right now, we’re happy to see Will and Diance face off against Alicia and Cary as each side struggles to redefine themselves in the wake of the split. This episode doesn’t necessarily move us that far forward, but it reminds us just how strongly the lines have been redefined, and it preps us for larger conflicts to come. The war has just begun. Pick a side. Things are about to get serious.

Notes:

-“Brush your teeth and do not lose any more clients.” “I’ll…do my best…”

-“So that’s a no?” “That’s an…I want to return to people who make sense.”

-Is the sleep attire on this show even vaguely realistic? Alicia wears a negligee while sleeping alone, and Diane and Kurt appear to be fully sheathed despite their recent marriage. That being said, Diane’s pajamas sort of rock.

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By Jordan Ferguson

Jordan Ferguson is a lifelong pop culture fan, and would probably never leave his couch if he could get away with it. When he isn’t wasting time “studying the law” at the University of Michigan, he writes about film, television, and music. In addition to writing for Sound on Sight, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Review To Be Named, a homemade haven for pop-culture obsessives. Check out more of his work at Reviewtobenamed.com , follow him on twitter @bobchanning, or just yell really loudly on the street. Don’t worry, he’ll hear.

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