The Good Wife
TV Series Review
Talk about for better or for worse.
After her powerful state politician husband, Peter, is thrown in jail on corruption charges and caught in a tawdry sex scandal, Alicia Florrick reboots her life as a defense lawyer and single mom. It's easier said than done. Alicia must battle the shame that came with her husband's personal failings and political missteps, the pain of losing friends, the heartache that comes from watching her children undergo a humiliation they never asked for and don't deserve—all while re-learning a career she left behind oh-so-many years ago.
She proves to still be pretty good at it. The Good Wife showcases a confident and talented Alicia, winning cases for her clients even as she navigates the often murky ethics of this made-for-television justice system. As the seasons tick by, her husband gets out of prison and becomes Illinois' governor, and Alicia begins working for a new law firm that tangles with her old bosses. Through everything, somehow, she's respected by one and all—if not always loved.
The same could be said of the show. By CBS' standards, The Good Wife is top of the line, roping in solid ratings and getting nominated for a bevy of Emmys. But from a Plugged In's perspective, it's down a few rungs from that.
Content concerns vary wildly. Some episodes are fairly staid. Others revolve around ticklish moral issues, gory crime scenes and/or burgeoning, outside-the-office sexual relationships. Kalinda Sharma, the firm's investigator, is bisexual, and her dalliances with lovers—including Peter—often make their way into plotlines. Characters utter mild profanities and make sexual references.
It's the show's ethos that is most consistently problematic, though. Alicia's high-priced law firm is paid to get its often well-heeled clients off the hook, and its attorneys will do nearly anything to keep that reputation intact—sometimes breaking the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. The district attorney's office seems little better. In The Good Wife, justice is regularly served in spite of the legal system, not because of it, fraught as it is with ethical conundrums. Those issues seem intended to inspire deeper thought and dialogue—not to be excused or forgotten. But they do make the show a bit prickly to pick through. And for those who treat it as watch-enjoy-and-forget-it television, the stories' complexities can fade under a gauzy film of legal showmanship.
There are spiritual concerns as well. In a recent episode, atheist Alicia and her Christian daughter, Grace, wonder whether Alicia's one-time boss, colleague and lover is now in heaven. Grace (who does not have a mature grasp of theology, perhaps) says that Will must surely be with God now, in heaven.
"He was a good person, wasn't he?" she asks.
Alicia pauses. "He did some bad things," she admits, "but he did them because he wanted to be good."
And therein lies the danger of The Good Wife, a show that muddies both bad and good and asks its viewers to wrestle mightily with shades of gray, not knowing which way lies ethical salvation, and not necessarily believing in such a thing at all. With so much legal wrangling, subterfuge and shady dealing, it's easy to lose sight of what's up and what's down. It's easy to forget what's right and applaud instead what's clever.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick; Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos; Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma; Josh Charles as Will Gardner; Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart; Chris Noth as Peter Florrick