TV Recap: The Good Wife, ‘Driven’

Written by Matt Taylor

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This week’s episode of The Good Wife found the characters going back to basics, with Alicia taking her latest case back to the halls of Lockhart/Agos, while Peter moved back into his old home to keep his open marriage a secret from voters. As a result, “Driven” proved to be a fun episode, filled with some great character-driven moments and terrific performances. Unfortunately, the case of the week was seriously lacking. But, the whole episode culminated into a dramatic, darkly funny dinner scene that more than made up for it.

The case that brought Alicia back to her old workplace involved a self-driving car that malfunctioned, paralyzing a woman in the process. Unfortunately, the whole subplot came off as hokey and poorly written, with shockingly weak dialogue that attempted to dumb-down concepts related to artificial intelligence.  The characters involved in the case were all caricatures, and there was a clear lack of tension in the proceedings. But, perhaps worst of all, seeing Alicia face off against her former coworkers felt bland. I just don’t believe that these characters would react so nonchalantly about being on opposing sides of a dramatic court case. And, it’s also frustrating to see Christine Baranski being wasted with filler dialogue, with her screen time consisting, primarily, of reaction shots.

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Thankfully, the episode’s other subplots made up for the subpar “case of the week.” Alicia’s professional with Jason, and her complicated feelings for him, were further developed, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan continuing to improve in his portrayal of the unnecessary character. There were also some hilarious Eli-centric moments, with Alan Cumming showing off his impressive comedic timing, especially when paired with Margo Martindale. But this week’s best plot development involved a new character, played by Vanessa Williams, who was interested in donating to Peter’s campaign under the condition that he could prove his marriage to Alicia would remain scandal free. Seeing as the two have been in what can best be described as a show-marriage for two years, and have been separated for even longer, Peter was forced to move back in with his estranged wife and daughter.

Using Grace’s birthday as an excuse to show the potential donor, Courtney Boalt, how much of a loving family they are, The Good Wife’s writers had an opportunity to capitalize on their proficiency for witty dialogue, and they did not disappoint. The scene was an absolute riot from start to finish, even finding ways to add tension and subtle social commentary into the mix, especially when the recently engaged Howard and Jackie made rude, racist statements towards the guest of honor (“You’re an inspiration to urban children” has got to be one of the best lines of the TV season thus far). Williams, in her debut episode, was obviously comfortable with The Good Wife’s unique tone, and will hopefully continue to make the show better.

The night’s best moment, however, was a sex scene. And while The Good Wife is known for their erotic, often boundary-breaking sex scenes, the reason this one was so memorable was not because of what actually happened in the sheets. Instead, it involved some of Julianna Margulies’ best acting to date. The sequence found her seducing Peter after a moment of professional success, only to end the brief affair with a clarification that their marriage is completely devoid of genuine affection. Since the show began, the concept of Alicia having genuine feelings for Peter again was worrisome, especially since so much of the show’s initial drama came from her quest for independence. But tonight’s episode showed just how far Alicia has come. Through subtle actions and an understated line delivery, viewers were reminded that Alicia is no longer the timid housewife anxiously trying to revive her career. She’s a powerful, freethinking woman with complete control over all aspects of her life, including her sex life. Hopefully the rest of the season will give us more moments like this.

Drive Overall rating: 8 out of 10.