Saturday, March 20, 2010

Temptation and the Road to Redemption: The Surprising Honesty of "The Good Wife"

Spoilers abound below.

And I'm paraphrasing any dialogue.

As I have said before, we continue to be pleased with The Good Wife. The writers continue to produce interesting, suspenseful courtroom drama each week within a larger story arc of the "good wife" of the cheating, convicted politician.

This week the show rose to new heights while intelligently examining honesty within marriage and religion, in my opinion.

First, in Peter Florrick's attempt to reenter the political ring, he approached an influential African-American pastor for help in winning back the black female vote. What he found was an uncompromising Christian who refused to overlook a man's soul in order to curry political favor. It was refreshing to see Pastor Isaiah not deliver platitudes and not back down.

He told Peter, "Your marriage is in trouble. You don't believe it but it is. You are sleeping in separate bedrooms. You aren't repentant for what you did and your wife knows it." That is when I sat up, pointed at the TV and turned to Tom, saying, "YES! He says he's innocent of the fraud but he's never said he's sorry about the prostitute" (with whom he slept multiple times before being caught.)

To be fair, this isn't the first time I've said this and Tom doubtless is tired of hearing me say it. Now, if I feel that way, just imagine how Alicia Florrick feels. However, I digress.

It was equally refreshing to see Peter respond honestly instead of saying what the pastor would want to hear when asked, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save your soul?" Peter said, "I don't even know what that means."

Pastor Isaiah said, "Do you want know what it means?" Peter said, "No!"

Now, that is honest. As is Pastor Isaiah's next question, "Do you want to change?"

That strikes to the heart of the issue. Why would anyone be attracted to faith unless there was something in their own life that they wanted to be changed? Peter's rather confused response leaves the door open for further conversation. As Alicia found when she returned home, things went rather further than Peter probably expected.

What we don't know is if Peter is stringing Pastor Isaiah along, although I'd bet on Pastor Isaiah for knowing when someone is taking him for a ride. As we see later, Peter doesn't seem to be lying. We are told that there are follow-up conversations with the pastor. After Alicia has seen a small cross in Peter's room, she asks, "Are you becoming religious?" He says, "I don't know."

Again, that rings true to me. As does a later conversation when he tells her with increasing enthusiasm that, "I want to change. I want to change inside" while he thumps his heart. Been there. Feel it.

The writers didn't take the easy way out with platitudes and stereotypes. Kudos. Future developments in this area are going to be interesting.

Second, is Alicia's relationship with Will, her boss and former college sweetheart. We know they're attracted to each other although, along the lines of restraint that are the hallmark of the excellent acting on the show, they haven't done more than give us an expression on their faces every so often.

When Will was at his lowest point, you just knew he was going to give in and plant that kiss on her. What was unpredictable was whether she was going to return it, which she did ... the whole time I was saying (more like, shouting aloud), "No, NO! Don't do it. DON'T!"

So I was quite relieved when she broke off and left the building ....

... and quite upset when she was returning ...

... and quite relieved when she didn't find Will ...

... and quite upset when he found out later that she'd returned and went to talk to her about the fact that she'd been ready to pursue the kiss if only he'd been there.

What an emotional roller coaster -- I hated it.

However, it set up a interesting dilemma. Anything that might develop along those lines would be a deliberate decision, not a moment of weakness that she and Will give in to as would have happened this week. It provides a parallel for her decisions to possibly travel the road that Peter did in deliberate unfaithfulness. I like to think that she has too much integrity for that route (and Will too for that matter). It is especially interesting when Peter is pursuing internal change that may lead to personal and marital redemption.

Of course, this is the writers' skill displayed for us in setting up the tension of these conflicting and contrasting character developments.

We do not often get honesty and fine writing like this on television. The two shows I can think of off the top of my head are House, which after six seasons is still a treasure, and Bones, which although much lighter in approach doesn't flinch at examining difficult questions.

Here's hoping for much more of the same from The Good Wife.


  1. I haven't watched it yet, but now that I know that Karen Hall is writing for the show (ep. 20 is her first, I believe) it makes me want to watch. :)

  2. as I have said before, I love this show.
    I agree on how the encounters between Peter and the Rev. were handled being so well done. The easy answer would be for Peter to just say what the Rev. wants to hear, but his answer was so much more real.

    ...and you have for faith in Will's character than I

  3. love this show! m

  4. caite, I want to believe Will is a good guy. However, niggling in the back of my mind are the many times that other characters have mentioned to Alicia that Will isn't really a nice guy. And then in this very episode, Peter said with some surprise that Will was much nicer than he'd remembered.

    So then I worry that he's playing everyone for saps. But the character and the actor are so darned likable that I want to believe in them ...

  5. my comment should have read that you have more faith than I have, as I guess you figured out.

    Maybe I am just a cynic, but I do not trust Will at all. If Alicia falls for what he is selling, I'm out of there. ;-)

  6. I just find it refreshing to read about a politician who goes to a pastor (seeking connections that will help him gain votes in clawing his way up the political ladder) and finds sincere pastoral and spiritual advice rooted in true Christian principles.

    Instead of, say, what happened to a real life politician with presidential aspirations in Chicago prior to 2008.

  7. Thank you for that review...I have seen it once or twice but am not a regular viewer, so, I will give it a second chance.

  8. I like the show---but wish they would stop all the conservative bashing.

    The 14 year old boy with all the Obama stuff all over his room....really?

    Do they KNOW any 14 year old boys?

  9. I never even noticed what was on his walls. I guess I just expect to be bashed. So I don't pay as much attention.

    However, that very fact WAS what made the guns expert an episode or two ago so wonderful. He was unabashedly himself, which meant proudly displaying his photo with Sarah Palin, etc. We loved it.

  10. I agree Julie!! That was the first time that I felt like there was some balance to the show---I don't expect people to think like me, but one would guess that with about 50% of the population is conservative, they would consider their audience a little!