Complex TV

p. 258-259: THE GOOD WIFE

A good example of The Good Wife at its most complex is the fourth-season episode “Death of a Client.” Primarily set at a St. Patrick’s Day fund-raising event hosted by Chicago’s Catholic diocese, the episode focuses on the main ongoing political plotline, the gubernatorial campaign of Alicia’s husband, Peter. But as always, politics merge with the personal, as Alicia must present herself as both a doting political spouse and a new partner of her law firm, as well as defending her son against false accusations from Peter’s opponent and juggling a potential family crisis concerning her mother’s inappropriate disclosures to her teenage children. Additionally, her former lover (and still boss) Will’s presence at the party creates tension with Peter, despite the firm’s political support of his campaign—as well as Peter’s offer of a potential Supreme Court appointment to Will’s partner Diane, returning to a long-dormant storyline from the first season. The episodic case of the week emerges in the form of a previously unseen client of Alicia’s being murdered, as the police bring her in for questioning about the litigious client’s numerous enemies; we come to know the client and his connection with Alicia through her recollections, presented via flashback in short nonchronological bursts. But mixed into this professional episodic plot are personal arcs, as the assistant district attorney working the case is romantically interested in Will and asks for Alicia’s advice, prompting Alicia to recall moments of her affair with Will intermixed with flashbacks of her murdered client. The episode is narrated via a temporally complex form encouraging the operational aesthetic and forcing viewers to piece together a more linear account to ensure comprehension; similarly to The West Wing episode “Nöel,” as discussed in chapter 1, “Death of a Client” embeds a diegetic Bach piece that connects to the program’s neo-baroque storytelling form. Every storyline in this complex episode (and there are a few others left unmentioned) builds on threads from longer arcs, provokes an array of emotional responses, and intermixes various personal and professional plots, suggesting a highly interwoven cloth of genre and gender mixing via its complex poetics.

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