Sunday, October 16, 2011

Where'd The Good Drama of 'The Good Wife' Go?...

Dear The Good Wife:

Okay, look, I don't want it to sound like I don't want Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) to be happy, but well, I guess in a way that's exactly what I'm saying. Because now that Alicia has left her philandering husband and not only is work going well but she also has a new guy to sleep with, she is content. And I'm...not. Now I'm finding the story unfortunately lacking-- not in quality of writing but in the drama nonetheless. The tension, sexual or otherwise, seems to have gone out the window. And for a show in its third season, said drama should be picking up, twisting and turning the story-- and the audience's emotions with it-- at every act break. Instead you seem to be cooling off. And all I want is for the other shoe to drop...

Don't get me wrong, your "case of the week" aspect is still just as strong as ever, but that kind of procedural element hasn't been enough for me in a long time. Courtroom moments are still as interesting and compelling as ever, as well, but aside, what are we left with? No more political drama for Peter (Chris Noth); no more secrets for Kalinda (Archie Panjabi); no more tugging from the kids, the husband, the boss, and the long-time friend for Alicia. Things have simplified immensely-- almost seemingly dumbed down for the CBS audience who have come to know, love, and expect "just" the procedural. All of the things that won you Academy accolades, as well as the critical acclaim-- and you know, the heart of this particular blogger-- have dissolved. While still compelling, you feel like a shell of your former self.

I'm inclined to blame the network for this. I always blame the older demographic for why my favorite shows become a bit more lowest common denominator in later years. I can't ignore the fact that there is pressure to reach a larger audience, and the easiest way to do so is to adopt a formula proven to work within the genre. In this case, I assume the network may have also stepped in and took a bit more creative control with the overall direction of the series than they had in the past. After all, that would most easily explain why so much emphasis has been placed on the procedural elements this year, while the little rivets that may (or should) be popping off of Will and Alicia's relationship boat are relegated to deep, deep in the background. But I also think there is something to be said for the fact that Robert and Michelle King gave the audience so much of what they wanted last season-- with Kalinda's past being revealed, as well as Alicia and Will (Josh Charles) finally hooking up in such a hot way. You may have blown your proverbial wad, and that's a hard momentum to maintain. The cards are on the table for Kalinda; she is no longer the enigma that intrigued and enticed us all to tune in. And with her kowtowing to Alicia's deserve to be left alone, they are at a stalemate. Once two female formidable forces, stronger when together of course, are now barely two ships passing in the night. And their shared energy is sorely missed.

But furthermore, now that Alicia is with Will, the family aspect of her life is also stripped from the show. Her kids split their time with her and her now separated husband, so they are rarely on-screen. The issues they had in the past, in dealing with the unhappy home, are now null and void, so they have even less of a reason to be around. Another complication from Alicia's life is simply being carried out off-screen, if at all, and the layers we were once so eager to peel back from her character just lay discarded on the floor.

Unless things start to go wrong in her relationship with Will-- or unless she and Kalinda find a way to make amends-- I don't see anything changing anytime soon in this season, and that's a shame because what always made you stand out among other procedurals, other law shows, and other network dramas in general was its complicated character infrastructure. But these days I feel like they all too easily fit into molds of what TV says they should be, rather than actually reflecting real people. It's a kinder, gentler The Good Wife thus far in season three, but I don't know believe that's warranted. The stakes should gradually be raised as episodes unfold. Maybe right now, just a few episodes in, we're being lulled into a false sense of calm so when that other shoe finally drops it makes an even bigger impact because the build-up has been so great. After an episode like "Feeding The Rat," where the case itself had such an obvious outcome, though (Sterling K. Brown is too famous and too good to be "just" an eyewitness, everyone knows that!), I'm unfortunately beginning to doubt that.

I miss the old Alicia. Even if that means I'm a little bit sadistic for missing a woman who was clearly struggling. But mostly I just miss the old The Good Wife. Please come back soon.

1 comment:

thisislaurie said...

Well said! I absolutely adored The Good Wife last season and was so excited for it to be back but this season has failed to grab me. I really hope they are building to something.