The Good Wife is trapped in a tornado at the moment. The foundations of everything it’s held dear up until this point, its character dynamics and narrative backbone, are all dangerously swirling around, threatening to land in opposite areas once the tornado has subsided, forever changing the landscape. At the centre of that tornado lies the source of the carnage, namely Florrick Agos and Associates, and as season five continues, it becomes ever more powerful. It’s tearing the show apart in almost every direction, but in the best way possible.
In all respect, The Good Wife really has no right to be in such a spectacular storytelling position right now. For a network procedural, on CBS no less, to be in its fifth season and still capable of eliciting pure drama such as this is unfathomable. The show is still finding new avenues of dramatic tension to navigate, new ways to test and strain the character dynamics it’s used to its advantage over the years. Its creative well should really be starting to run dry at this stage, but it’s instead been replenished to maximum capacity.
Let’s just take a look at where we are at this stage in the game. Season four came to an end with two simple words that would eventually begin a reshuffling of The Good Wife’s jigsaw pieces, and the opening stages of season five have made progress in that process. Up until now Alicia and Cary’s efforts at surreptitiously splintering off from Lockhart Gardner and creating their own firm have been causing waves but not much else. But in “Outside the Bubble,” when Diane inadvertently stumbles upon the insubordination threatening to pull the firm apart, and when she makes her findings public knowledge at the episode’s conclusion, it finally starts the wind turbulation that’s been teased ever since that fateful moment back in April. Most of all, however, it’s all so brilliant.
What’s even more impressive about season five’s landscape rebuilding, other than the incredible narrative restructuring that could fundamentally change everything that the show is about, is the way in which none of it feels forced or unnatural. Alicia wanting to break away from Lockhart Gardner and create something for herself, to be the Diane to Cary’s Will, doesn’t feel uncharacteristic or done just for the sake of producing drama; it feels like something the show’s been building towards since the beginning, even if we never quite saw it. Despite her love for the firm and her feelings for Will, Alicia’s time at LG has changed her. She’s seen the way management can toss somebody aside at a moment’s notice, how the pursuit of financial gain sometimes comes with a magnetic pull to confuse one’s moral compass, and it’s had an altering effect. It’s only logical to assume she would recognise this and want to reverse it, and starting afresh, with her own ostensibly untainted version of Lockhart Gardner, feels just right for the show and for Alicia.
This is, of course, the biggest and most adventurous thing the show has done since it first began, which is quite remarkable considering The Good Wife has never really been the type of show to shy away from change. Florrick Agos and Associates is the biggest threat to Lockhart Gardner’s stability that we’ve seen thus far, and because the latter has always been the epicentre of the show’s storm, anything that attempts to break that is going to produce extraordinary drama. Right now, The Good Wife is in the unique position whereby what comes next for the show is completely up in the air, and seeing where things eventually settle is proving to be all kinds of intense and ridiculously fun.
But that’s not all “Outside the Bubble” is hugely successful at. While making progress with the season’s central story, it also gives Diane a platform from which to demonstrate her enveloping prowess. Free from the confines of Lockhart Gardner after being unceremoniously ousted from the firm last week, Diane explores the relaxed nature of life outside of law, meeting the friends of on-off lover Kurt McVeigh (please can we have more Gary Cole this season?) and even marrying him later in the episode, as well as contemplating her future as a Supreme Court Justice. She eventually gets pulled back into the tornado occurring at Lockhart Gardner, but allowing Diane the chance to be the focus of an episode is an experience I will always relish.
It does, of course, also allow us to truly appreciate just how fantastic an actress Christine Baranski is, and how often she is under-used by the show. Diane has always been one of my favorite characters in the series, and there has rarely been a time when Baranski’s performance hasn’t made me want to pledge allegiance to her and call her my Queen for eternity. But it’s no secret that sometimes the show utilises its other characters far more than it uses Diane. Having her be integral to how the Florrick Agos and Associates tension evolves will be the perfect way to bring her back into somewhat of a focus. (It may also give Baranski more opportunities to walk down hallways wearing sunglasses and looking like the Empress of HBICs. I would be so down with that.)
As of this moment, The Good Wife is hovering at the precipice of seismic shift. Everything that the show has built upon so far, everything the characters have built between one another, everything the show’s entire world is glued together with, is soaring through the sky at a hundred miles per hour. And make no mistake, it IS going to come crashing down eventually. Florrick Agos and Associates WILL be a thing. Alicia’s betrayal WILL have devastating consequences for those around her, particularly for Will. But it’s in the act of rebuilding everything to a new aesthetic that I’m positive will ensure The Good Wife’s fifth season will be a fantastic globule of television.