The Good Wife received a warm welcome from critics and viewers in its first four seasons. It went done a very conventional path of a smart, entertaining drama series, and it was appreciated for what it brought it to the table. But something miraculous happened in its fifth season where the show stripped away everything it built in its first four years and created something new. That’s what made The Good Wife have such a resurgence in the eyes of critics and viewers recently. And after the civil war of law firms and the death of its lead actor in season five, season six once again recreated the show with its heroine venturing into politics and the supporting cast finding themselves mired in a criminal battle with the top drug dealer in Chicago. The Good Wife spiked excitement on the lonely plains of network television by tossing out the old and starting from scratch. Now it’s seventh (and presumably final) season arrives and it once again revamps the series’ tone, focus, and direction, paving the way for refreshing new expedition into law and politics.
This series has many great attributes, but kicking off with a flawless premiere episode is not one of them, barring season six’s spectacular “The Line.” Season seven begins with “Bond,” a milder episode than “The Line,” but still terrific, fast-paced, and unapologetically smart.
Alicia’s reputation is still lingering in shambles from her forced resignation of the State’s Attorney’s office set up to look as if she was guilty of election fraud and the hacking of her personal emails, which exposed her affair with Will Gardner, making “Saint Alicia” the “slutty wife” and a professional cheater in the eyes of the public. Alicia was forced out of the firm she founded with Cary Agos and Diane Lockhart and has not found employment elsewhere. Before The Good Wife has specialized in showing the sexy side of the legal profession, often with guilty rich people and top companies seeking help from upper-class law firms. But not now. The central setting is the lowly bond court, where a handful of lawyers have 90 seconds or less to try to get less financially fortunate people a fair shake at bail, while they themselves get paid pennies for doing so.
Seasons five and six started with eruptions of workplace dramatics and personal revelations, while season seven carries a more serene tone. It lacks some of the juicy passion that made the past two seasons undeniably compelling, but there’s no doubt the new season will be enlivened as The Good Wife team begins to build on the foundation laid by this weekend’s premiere. “Bond” has to reshuffle its cards and get through exposition of new characters and plot developments, which it does swiftly and neatly.
As someone who was enamored with the accomplishments of seasons five and six, I was worried that season seven would be disappointing in its approach, but the always reliable creators Robert and Michelle King managed a balancing act few other television writers would have been able to achieve. The Good Wife fandom lashed out at the serialized nature of season six and the darkness Alicia was imbued with as politics destroyed her morally and then publicly with the scandal. I found season six to be mesmerizing and feared the King would shy away from a more serialized arc in season seven in trying to win over the audience that began watching The Good Wife for more procedural case-of-the-week episodes in season one. What they do in “Bond” is something laudable: They retain the maturity from season six while still applying the roots of the show from seasons one through four/five to the current storyline. They explore the law through the cases of the week in “Bond,” but they never fall into the trap of letting that element impose on the grander arc of the season and the character development.
“Bond” rejects precedent and pattern, and opens unlike any other Good Wife premiere before it. The previous season ends with an uncertain proposal and the following season picks up directly where the the cliffhanger ended. “Bond” is not a straightforward continuation of the season six finale, “Wanna Partner?” where Alicia exhausts her last option at a business partner with whom to practice law in a more morally sound way, then minutes later the series’ big-bad Louis Canning arrives at her door, requesting for Alicia to join his firm. This final season six scene transpired in a similar way that season four’s finale did, with Cary appearing at Alicia’s door and the two agreeing to start a new firm together, so logically, viewers thought Alicia was going to partner with Canning. But after seeing the premiere, that’s not the case.
Alicia turned down Canning’s offer to join his firm because he is “the devil.” Later in the episode we learn the one client Alicia retained in “Bond” was business sent by Canning so Alicia can make a profit, seeing as her finances are far from lucrative since the State’s Attorney scandal. Alicia still wants to be her own woman and take on cases that actually help people, but when asked by Canning if she wants him to stop sending her clients, Alicia responds by saying no. The episode ends with that disturbing exchange, and then the ending from season six crystalized for me and I realized how haunting of a cliffhanger it was: Alicia is at the bottom and sees it as an opportunity to do the right thing, but she doesn’t want to dig herself into a financial hole, so desperately, she will continue to accept help from “the devil.” It’s the type of profound moral ambiguity the show is known for.
In addition to the Canning aspect of the plot, The Good Wife planted plenty of other seeds to grow season seven’s storylines in “Bond,” and the most shocking being Peter’s firing of Eli Gold as his campaign manager and hiring Ruth Eastman (Margo Martindale) as his replacement, and then Eli’s alliance with Alicia as her personal chief of staff in the presidential campaign, which now sets up a fruitful battle between Peter and Ruth versus Alicia and Eli within Peter’s run for president. And more prominently, “Bond” opens up Alicia’s legal future with the addition of Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo), a free-spirited, confident lawyer who befriends Alicia in bond court. The writers play with a fun role reversal between Alicia and Lucca in the episode’s climax which is undoubtedly foreshadowing their eventual partnership. These twists in the narrative create MVPs out of Emmy nominee Alan Cumming and The Good Wife’s newcomer, Jumbo.
Though “Bond” could have used a bit more fire in its tone, “Bond” was a noble beginning and indicates that The Good Wife could be building another outstanding season. The Kings have created a show that is proficient in adult storytelling. The magic found in seasons five and six were created from top-notch, risky writing being expanded by skilled direction and funneled with life by an impeccable cast. Those elements remain in the series, but in “Bond” they take new form.