Shades of moral grey put good in Good Wife

Alicia Florrick's (Julianna Margulies) resolve is tested in <i>The Good Wife</i>.
Alicia Florrick's (Julianna Margulies) resolve is tested in The Good Wife.

The Good Wife
Wednesdays, 8.30pm, Ten

What's it all about?

The fourth-season opener in this consistently excellent drama executive-produced by the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony. This episode is sadly dedicated to Tony, following his death in August.

Our view

Season four opens where season three ended, with Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) - the in-house investigator of law firm Lockhart & Gardiner - sitting in the dark in a barren apartment waiting for vengeance to come a-calling. We still don't know on whose behalf, but by the end of the episode we do: he's a shifty Englishman (Marc Warren) who turns up at the firm claiming to be a tow-truck driver who needs some legal assistance in his hunt for a major city hall contract. Yeah, right. Anyway, what unfolds between him and Kalinda is as unsavoury as it is predictable.

Kalinda's increasingly shady and shadowy private life is, in fact, becoming something of an issue for the show. It offers titillation as she plays both sides of pretty much any fence you might care to mention (sexual, legal, ethical) but it also drags the plotlines into barely plausible — and in the case of the pseudo-rape scene in this episode, quite risible — territory. I'm starting to wish it just wouldn't go there.

Elsewhere, the resolve of the good wife of the title, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), to play everything by the book is tested (for the millionth time) when her 17-year-old son Zach (Graham Phillips) is pulled over by a state trooper and pinged for suspected drug possession. It's a beat-up, of course, and she could easily make it all go away simply by getting semi-estranged hubby Peter (Chris Noth), the state attorney, to get all heavy on the blower. But Alicia doesn't roll that way, so it goes to court instead. Thanks a lot, Mom.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things are looking disastrous. Lockhart & Gardiner is (for the millionth time) staring down the barrel of insolvency — nay, bankruptcy — with debts of $60 million, questions over the fitness of its principals (never mind its principles) to rule, and a court-appointed trustee (Nathan Lane in a Lurch-like role) preparing to wield the axe over staff numbers, furniture leases and the modernist paintings on the walls of Diane's (Christine Baranski) office.

In other words, it's business as usual in the world of The Good Wife.

What makes this show so much better than your average legal procedural is the meshing of the office and the domestic worlds, the shades of moral grey that the characters inhabit, and its ability to tap into hot-button issues in the case plotlines (terrorism, cyber crime, the pros and cons of social media have all figured prominently). Zach's web-video campaign against the bent copper who pulls him over in this episode straddles the domestic and social issue elements but it's really the arrival of Nathan Lane's character that gives the clearest indication of where things might be headed this season. It's a hell of a way to welcome Will (Josh Charles) back to the bar, really.

In a sentence

A slightly conflicted return but given the consistent form of the three seasons so far, well worth hanging in there.

Our score: B

This story Shades of moral grey put good in Good Wife first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.