Judge Gordon Sullivan would prefer to marry The Wicked Wife.
Don't let the name fool you.
Strangely, the courtroom drama and the world of politics have made uncomfortable bedfellows on television. Sure, just about every legal show has an episode or two devoted to a politician, usually one who's dirty. However, the question of politics more broadly is left to the side as the details of individual cases take over the bulk of each show. That's not really the case with The Good Wife. Starting with a corrupt politician going to jail for corruption and a sex scandal, the show puts the focus on his wife, who must now join a law firm and work for a living while raising two kids. After establishing its focus early, the show has spent three seasons going through the usual legal-drama motions—affairs! rivalries! office politics!—while also finding time to pull cases from the headlines and interpolate what the relationship might be between law and politics. Of course, for those that want to ignore all that nonsense, there's plenty of sex and scandal as well, which The Good Wife: The Third Season delivers.
Facts of the Case
The basic plot of The Good Wife is that Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies, Snakes on a Plane) had to become a practicing lawyer when her politician husband (Chris Noth, Sex and the City) was embroiled in a scandal. Now it's several seasons later, and she's adjusting to life as a mother, a member of a law firm, and a woman attracted to someone other than her husband. This season heats up with loads of office and sexual politics along with a slew of court cases for Alicia to try. All twenty-two episodes of this third season are spread across six discs.
The Good Wife is obviously trying to sell up the salacious aspects of the plot. From the sex scandal that kicks things off in Season One to the ambiguously suggestive title, the show wants to be a sexy drama—and it is. There are romantic and sexual entanglements aplenty on the show. Those kinds of things are a dime a dozen on television, though. No, what sets The Good Wife apart is that it takes on a side of the legal drama that we don't often see. Criminal cases make up the bulk of courtroom dramas, but the show also lets us see how much the legal world is enmeshed with the political.
The Good Wife takes a different approach to the law, having Alicia not only just defend murderers and the like. While most of her docket are the traditional murder cases we're used to—the first episode of this season finds our title character defending a Muslim student for supposedly murdering a Jewish studen—the show spends a lot of time on things outside the courtroom. This season seems slightly more focused on office politics than the more traditional state politics, but even the machinations that surround the firm of Lockhart/Gardner are interesting and feel fresh compared to some of the courtroom stuff.
However, even the courtroom stuff seems fresh as well. Rather than trying to find more and more complicated murders to solve, The Good Wife takes its cases from the headlines. Whether it's defending someone for libel in two countries or dealing with the lawyer of a client who invented a digital currency, the cases feel contemporary in a way that few shows seem to match.
Of course, the real draw for The Good Wife is the show's cast. Julianne Margulies has already been recognized with an Emmy for her work on the show, and that continues here. Her character has to work in numerous different worlds, from the courtroom to the bedroom while still appearing sympathetic and believable. Margulies continues to do an amazing job with the character. However, her supporting cast is equally up to meeting the high bar she sets. Chris Noth is an equal blend of charm and sleaze as the wheeling-and-dealing politician. Alan Cumming is similarly perfect as his campaign manager. Cumming is always wonderful, but seeing him work on a character this consistently over the season is a real treat. Josh Charles brings the heat back to the show as Alicia's love interest as well. He's more than eye candy, and his development this season is something fans will want to see.
This season of the show has been given the same excellent treatment as the previous ones. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers are solid all around. Detail is fine, colors are bright and well-saturated, and black levels are consistent and deep enough. No serious compression or authoring problems mar the image. The Dolby 5.1 surround track keeps dialogue audible and well-balanced, though there isn't that much use of the sonic environment. Like previous seasons, extras include four featurettes that cover the newer aspects of the series, along with a set of deleted scenes.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Perhaps I've been spoiled by cable television dramas, but there's some serious potential in the show that The Good Wife just isn't hitting yet. Part of that is the tension between the way the show markets itself as a legal soap opera while also trying to be more progressive in its discussion of politics and current headlines. I feel like these two elements are holding each other back. If The Good Wife went straight for the sex and romance angle more explicitly then it might say something new about it. On the other hand, if the show were to abandon its more salacious aspects to focus on politics, then the overall feeling would be more unified. The show is never going to be The Wire, but it seems to lack the kind of strong, personal vision that makes for the best television.
The Good Wife is trying to do something new with the legal/courtroom drama. Whether its blend of sex and politics will ultimately lead to a great show hasn't been determined yet. For now, it's simply a good show that fans will appreciate coming back for with this DVD set.
This show doesn't need a lawyer to defend itself. Not guilty.
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