8.9

The Good Wife Review: “The Trial”

(Episode 6.10)

TV Reviews The Good Wife
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<i>The Good Wife</i> Review: &#8220;The Trial&#8221;

One of the most fascinating concepts behind the original practice of psychotherapy, is the idea that the therapist must also undergo psychotherapy, while practicing. The point being, there are no perfect beings—no perfect therapists, no perfect judges or juries. Everyone is subject to their own subconscious, and everyone is certainly subject to their own weaknesses. The ego is a helluva drug, and psychotherapists learn to see when their own issues are effecting their work with patients. The rest of us are not always as self-aware.

All that to say, I absolutely loved the underlying premise of this episode—that our decisions on and off the job are often, if not always, completely personal. We open with a judge having the worst day ever. He’s in the courtroom bathroom, frantically trying to wash his hands and get those damn Neil Diamond tickets for a big date with his wife. Then they didn’t have the right muffins, and he’s shown rushing into court, looking like a hot mess. It’s one of those days. All of this effects his decisions—decisions which will lit’rally change Cary’s life.

It’s compelling to watch, but also terrifying for the audience. Is the judge making hasty choices about the jury because he’s rushing to get those tickets? We ask similar questions about the other characters. ASA Pine is having an affair with one of the witnesses—a detective testifying against Cary. It’s clear that her husband (her, uh, very attractive husband who we just saw for one second, but one second was long enough for me to determine that ASA Pine is a crazy woman who doesn’t appreciate the good-looking human beings in her life) has found her out, and that is effecting her courtroom game as well. All of these little behind the scenes snapshots of people who are supposed to have it all together—people who our society trusts, as if they are without fault—present an amazing portrait of the human mind, where one experience always effects another.

There’s a juror on Cary’s case who reflects this message even further. The man with Auditory Processing Disorder is dismissed, as it appears that he cannot properly hear the arguments of the case. But the juror who snitched on him to the judge is actually the one not paying attention. He hears the ASA ask Kalinda if she’s Cary Agos’ hunter, but misunderstands it as “Cary Agos’ lover.” The Good Wife writers have posed all of those troubling questions—what happens when jurors aren’t paying attention? What happens when a judge’s personal schedule effects his rulings? What happens when a prosecutor is sleeping with a witness, and having a bad day over it? Well, nothing really. Everyone goes on about their business, even though their business is being effected by the personal.

All of this stuff was, to me, far more interesting than the little story about Alicia’s joke/note about killing one of Grace’s teachers. There were some funny moments, for sure (“Alicia is a good mother—she would never stab a teacher,” and my personal favorite, “We need to push you as a grizzly mom”), but I think all of this was meant to bring in a sort of light-hearted feeling to the rest of the episode which was incredibly tense. With every passing scene, we know something bad is going to happen to Cary, we know the case isn’t going his way—it never really was.

The most devastating moment had to be when Kalinda The Great finally got the lost witness, Donte, on the stand. After it looked like Bishop was going to SLAY her with his bare hands in his beautiful home (he was also having a rough day), she managed to get him… only for Donte to betray them all when he lied on the stand, basically sending Cary to prison. The. Worst.

What makes it all so gut wrenching is that we know—everyone seems to know!—that Cary is innocent. And still, there’s no way to prove it, and all of the evidence works against him. Matt Czuchry delivers a powerful performance in this episode. He always does, but you can actually feel the lump in his throat as he considers his options—four years (two, with good behavior), or 15? Or Barcelona? And, with any choice, his career is finished. What would you do, if you were 100% innocent?

And that suggests another question. What counts for “innocence”? Cary is not actually on trial for this ridiculous, fabricated recording. He’s a target because he’s defending Bishop. He refuses to help the State prosecute a known drug dealer—a known killer (or, the man behind the killers). So by the State’s account, he’s far from innocent. But it also poses an interesting question for the audience. We love Cary, as much as we love Alicia. But we’ve seen them defend criminals, as many lawyers do. Are they innocent?

In the final shot, Cary is shown taking the plea. I can’t help but hope the next episode, after the winter break, comes with a miracle.

Stray Observations:

Alicia and Finn need to give it up. The storm, the blackout, and the restaurant serenade all tell us that no amount of pancakes will divert the sexual tension betwixt them. Forget the rules, and let’s just do the damn thing.

Loved hearing the judge singing “Sweet Caroline.”

Also, the hearing test that the judge gave Juror 11 was really interesting. It actually seemed like the juror had better hearing than the average person—maybe just heard things in a different way? This felt like another attempt to subvert our traditional understanding of so-called learning disabilities, something I’ve seen in Elsbeth’s character as well.

“I trust assassins over the teacher.”—Eli, on point.

This was the first episode where I was truly scared of Bishop. I thought maybe he was going to kill Kalinda in the house, then I thought maybe he was going to do something crazy when Donte was on the stand. And then he had me shook when he showed up during Cary’s walk of pain. Mike Colter is so damn good!

Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor at Paste, and a New York-based freelance writer with probably more babies than you. You can follow her on Twitter.