Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Titles are important, but sometimes you should ignore them.

When moiread said she was enjoying The Good Wife, I raised an eyebrow. The Good Wife? Really? What is it, a Louisa May Alcott miniseries? (No. That is Good Wives.) It was not a title to inspire confidence. And then later when I said I was enjoying it, I got the same eyebrow from alecaustin: it's called The Good Wife? And you like it?

I do. And I figured it was worth saying here, because others of you may be liking this thing, but I'm not really hearing about it.

Here is what The Good Wife does better than any other show I've ever seen except maybe The Wire: rather than having Good Guys and Bad Guys, it has good and bad actions flowing from--and follow me here, this is going to get difficult to comprehend--the characters themselves. I know! How radical! But seriously, Will and Kalinda and Cary and Diane and Peter and Alicia herself--and Eli, oh, Eli--pretty much all of them. They don't do bad things because they Are Bad People, and they don't do good things because they Are Good People. They do good and bad things because they are very particular people, and those are not only their very particular mistakes but also--and I feel this is actually more often missing--their very particular moments of conscience and nobility. But on a meta level, I love watching the show keeping the balance: is X a sympathetic character or an unsympathetic one? The answer to that is almost never easy or straightforward, because just when you hate or love someone, they will do something perfectly in character and opposing in direction of sympathy from where they were before. And I love this. I also love that the writers want me to acknowledge that I am cheering for Eli (or whoever else) because I like Eli, not because he is an upstanding person. I love that they understand the difference. I love that bad behavior is allowed to remain bad behavior when it is performed by people we like--that "this is good because we're the good guys" is never, ever what they're doing.

On a more basic level, this is a legal procedural set in Chicago and interwoven with Chicago politics. And the writers, they get what reputation Chicago politics has. Sometimes things are very dirty indeed. And sometimes things are dirty in service of a good cause, and sometimes they're just plain dirty, and sometimes things come back to bite people. Consequences! You know how we love shows about consequences around here.

And yes, the titular character does in fact start the series with her husband going through a sex scandal, but the title starts with irony and goes into complexity within a few minutes, then never leaves. Is Alicia a good wife? Is she a good person? The show refuses to answer. She is herself, she is a person, she has goals, and sometimes those goals shift with time and additional information.

I've seen two seasons of this, and I can't wait for season three. It prompts me to sigh, "Oh, show," so frequently that timprov (who wandered in halfway through S1 and got hooked) is probably sick of it. I love this show. It is so much fun. It is frothy fun and chewy fun, sometimes both at once. Unless you hate legal procedurals, you should probably give it a try.
Tags: small screen

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