Like most religious awakenings, it didn't happen overnight. I'd heard of this new show The Good Wife, seen ads on bus stops and during commercial breaks for trivial shows like 60 Minutes. It looked silly, something unnecessary in my already busy spiritual TV life.
It starred Julianna Margulies, the woman from that George Clooney show that I never watched because hospitals freak me out and so does he, and that Mr. Big guy from Sex and the City, who was my third least-favorite thing about that show; the first and second being the films. It was also a show about lawyers in Chicago, and, frankly, I'm tired of zombie apocalypse themes.
And like most spiritual discoveries, it started with a vision. About a year back, after a month-long binge-TV session, I knew I was in a rut. You know you're in trouble when you watch an entire season of True Blood and actually pay attention to the plotlines beyond the madcap reasons Ryan Kwanten gets naked. I'd gotten through all of Breaking Bad and Mad Men and Downton Abbey, which is basically a highbrow British remake of The Waltons. I needed something down to earth, traditional, a show that didn't leave me with blue-binge balls after such short seasons. I needed something else.
I turned on the 23-episode CBS show and waited. There was a humdrum plot about a sex scandal and politics and law offices and people in expensive suits and lawyer gibberish and... then I saw her. Alicia Florrick. Julianna Margulies. The Good Wife. The Holy Trinity of TV Church.
I don't remember what she was saying or if she was even talking -- she often doesn't -- just that her visage, tall, slender, will-o'-the-wisp ethereal, in heels and an outfit that cost more money than I made last year, was a bit like gazing at those revered stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary, if Mary had permanently arched eyebrows and a red wine glass in place of the Baby Jesus. A halo, or clever backlighting, seemed to emanate from every frame as she looked down on her flock, those menial other characters in the show who fill in as apostles.
She was mesmerizing and I was hooked. The show also has plots, if you're interested, and lots of intrigue. Alicia Florrick is a shamed woman whose politician husband, Peter (Chris Noth), cheated on her, and who has gone back to practicing law, while raising her two children in a beautiful Chicago apartment that, despite scandals and murders and, eventually, her own political ambitions, has no security or doorman or even a buzzer downstairs. The paparazzi don't even camp out in her hallway.
On the surface, this could appear a tad unrealistic, like having an in-house investigator character named Kalinda who only wears spike-heeled leather boots and solves every crime that the entire Chicago police force has dropped, but you need to look at the big picture.
The Good Wife is, in truth, a show about a goddess, one who doesn't need home security or heavy coats in winter or to bother explaining why the Chicago streets often look just like New York's. Yes, that was Radio City I saw in the background of one scene. She's a mythical creature of the Greek variety, mingling and, often sleeping with, petty mortals who either succumb to her power or get banished from earth, or primetime TV. Evildoers roam the law firm and courts and, apparently, the only bar in Chicago, and while she might seem innocently unaware, she's secretly judging their worthiness on this naïve young planet.
While patriarchal gods use ho-hum methods of sin and redemption -- Confession, Baptism, Jewish Mothers -- The Good Wife uses the eye roll. It's a bit like a Third Eye, except it's both pupils and they're set far apart and it's a majestic mascara miracle worker.
When Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) shows up as a disabled lawyer who uses his disease for jury sympathy, Alicia gives the courtroom the eye roll. When husband Peter's campaign manager, Eli Gould (Alan Cumming), tries to get her to do something against her good wishes, he gets an eye roll. When smarmy-sweet Nancy Crozier (Mamie Gummer) pretends to be an innocent prosecutor, she gets so many eye rolls even Mamie's mother Meryl Streep wouldn't dare step in to help with those Devil-in-Prada shoes. SHE is judge, jury, and execution -- her all in one. The Good Wife might take place in a court of law, but the true court is in Alicia's perfectly coiffed, diamond-shaped head.
The judgment goes much further for the men in her personal life. Peter, we know from the get-go, is unworthy. True, he gets out of prison and becomes governor and is allotted lots of trivial perks like nice offices and cute blondes, but he's relegated to a snake whose hair gets whiter every time we see him and whose waist gets a little thicker and who doesn't even get to make an appearance on every episode.
Peter shows up when SHE needs him, for campaign help or political favors or to remind us that, in The Good Wife world, men get older while Alicia remains effervescent, enhanced by a perpetual, misty gaze, which may or may not be because she's still slightly drunk from all the booze she's imbibed the night before.
Early on in the show there was a terrifying scene in which Alicia straddles Peter in bed and, I assume, has sexual relations with the pagan beast. It a was a horrifying (Oh My Eyes!) moment, as the thought of HER succumbing to the flesh of a mortal is one of those things we should never witness, like the Pope getting undressed or Eli Gould's mole in close-up shots. In retrospect, the vulgarity was a necessary component of the show, as it illustrated the lengths a Goddess must go to in order to keep men under control and, quite literally, under her.
As for Will Gardner (Josh Charles), the arrogant, self-assured, lip-pursing lawyer love of Alicia, his charm was all a ruse. He might have fooled a few people, and a few million viewers, but he never had Alicia's best interests at heart. The man was disbarred, remember? The man made Alicia partner for financial reasons, remember? The man was, oh, how the recollection hurts, mean to Alicia when she started her own law firm. Mean! That's the equivalent of a gay man walking into a Sound of Music sing-along and saying something mean about Julie Andrews. There will be consequences.
Will stood for all that is wrong with men in the workforce today, as well as actors who think they can get better projects elsewhere, and Alicia was onto him like C to Chanel. She used him to get the job, like goddesses are inclined to do, toyed with him, like goddess are inclined to do, then murdered him, like goddesses must do to keep the male race in line.
Pesky fact-checkers are going to correct me and say "No, you've got it all wrong. Will was murdered by a deranged man." Au contraire. That was HER heavenly cover-up. Will had crossed a line, and SHE needed to teach him a lesson. Thunder struck, bullets flew, and Alicia had conveniently attended some function with her ne're-do-well husband so she didn't have to survey the carnage. All The Good Wife had to do was cry when the news reached her alabaster, perfect earlobes. I jest, of course. Mortals cry. The Good Wife "mists."
Once Will had been conveniently disposed of, Alicia received two new men to enjoy and judge. Finn and Jonathan are both younger than she is (smart!), sexy (smart!), and drawn to her like spray to pepper. She slept with one of them, Jonathan (Steven Pasquale), who dashed off afterward, perhaps realizing he'd have a better chance of survival if he got intertwined with the fun psycho family of killers he's now carousing with on the Netflix series Bloodline. His love interest on that show, Meg, might be the kind of woman to cheat on a fiancé and cover-up murders, but she's probably not capable of fending off drug dealers and sadistic wife mutilators with a simple head tilt and sarcastic remark.
(My favorite Good Wife je-ne-sais-quoi moment occurs every time a minor character is about to, say, get the death penalty for a crime they didn't commit, and tells Alicia that "it's hard." She stares, alluringly, motherly, almost comatose, and says "I know." And nothing more. The Good Wife carries the burden of the world on her cashmere-covered shoulders. She can't elaborate on details.)
The other young suitor, Finn (Matthew Goode), only touched The Good Wife's lips, but came dangerously close to unworthiness when he crossed HER in the case against law partner Cary Agos. Not surprisingly, Finn made a last-minute guest appearance on the season finale of Downton Abbey, probably knowing it would be simpler to go back in time, renew his English accent, and court someone with less power over men, the Lady Mary Crawley.
Like so many other foolish earthlings, I started out watching The Good Wife at face value, thinking I could turn it off anytime I got bored. Oh what a tangled web we weave when The Good Wife show we try and deceive. I fully understood the show's power when Alicia told a reporter she was an atheist. While naïve critics applauded a leading-lady nonbeliever on prime time, I saw the big picture. What god could a goddess believe in? Not one of our patriarchal immortals, or Zeus, another man she'd have to obey. She's an atheist because we believe in HER, and have accepted HER as our TV savior. The power of Wife compels us.
I understand this now, and, thanks to Saint Alicia (Eli's name for her, not mine), I have a purpose. Sometimes I'm tested, like when they delay the show because of a sinful sports program. Nonbelievers trust their DVRs, only to tune in the next day to see that series about a lesser woman, the Secretary of State. I suppose having to watch that show is punishment enough. True believer that I am, I sit by the TV and wait till SHE appears, knowing I will be rewarded in the after Lifetime movies of the week she'll eventually make, and, hopefully, spared in this one.
In case you've yet to figure out the connection, The Good Wife airs on Sunday nights, the day of OUR rest. For six days we work and struggle and try and make sense of this crazy world. As sinners, we make mistakes and aren't always perfect and sometimes wear the wrong clothing or buy the wrong bottle of wine. Come Sunday nights, we watch and learn and take comfort in Alicia Florrick's trials and tribulations and sacrifices. All for the greater Good.
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