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The Good Wife: The Death Zone

By Lewis Swift · October 5, 2011

It would seem these days that actors are falling over themselves to guest star in The Good Wife, with two more potential returnees added to the roster on Sunday night. Following in the expert footsteps of the likes of Alan Cumming, Michael J. Fox, Dennis O’Hare and Martha Plimpton (to name but a few) comes none other than Eddie Izzard. Yes, the British stand up famed for his cross-dressing and off kilter world perspective featured prominently in the second episode of Season 2 dramatically entitled ‘The Death Zone.'

One of the things that gives The Good Wife that often overlooked sense of authenticity is its ability to dramatise the less dramatic. Numerous courtroom dramas have a tendency to cycle through the more high stakes cases like murders and rapes. Whilst The Good Wife handles those cases with a typical originality, it also manages to find drama in cases involving contract law and copyright law. Despite its sensationalistic title, this week’s episode sees Alicia (Juliana Margulies) arguing a case of liable law.

With the help of a quaint Irish solicitor Alicia and Will (Josh Charles) are tasked with defending an author who claims that a British Climber (John Doman, from The Wire) stole the Oxygen tank of his brother as he lay dying in the Everest’s death zone (anything greater than 8000m). The weekly legal grey area this week stems from the fact that this is not about murder, it’s about the accusation of murder, with the prosecution arguing that abandonment in the death zone is a known risk taken by all mountain climbers and that there’s no evidence to support the authors claim that the oxygen tank was ever taken.

The added layer comes from the difficulties of transcontinental law, even more pertinent in light the Amanda Knox ruling. Tried in front of a British judge, James Thrush (Izzard) appears firmly in the driving seat, and Will is clearly not keen on being emasculated in front of Alicia. However, a fundamental difference between British and American law, with whom does the ‘burden of proof lie,’ complicates matters further. But, as they say: cometh the hour cometh, the tea drinking, mumbling, stereotype. Timothy Ash Brannon (Simon Delaney), the Brit solicitor hired to assist Alicia and Will with the case, usurps both Alpha males with a case breaking closing argument. Whilst it’s unlike the show’s writers to adhere so strictly to a somewhat trite stereotype the final act subversion does adhere to past trends (ala Martha Plimpton’s emotionally void new mother).   

Outside the courtroom the action is just as engrossing. When Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) approaches Lockheart/Gardner about becoming his potential outside council Diane (Christine Baranski) has dollar signs in her eyes, but Will’s apprehension hints at something else. When the States Attorney requests that the law firm be audited based on its affiliation with known criminal Lemond Bishop, Diane’s suspicions are raised further. With corporate mistrust spreading like wild fire, she keeps a close eye on Will, even getting in the way of some work place afternoon delight between him and Alicia. Ever the sleuth, Diane pays a visit to Alicia’s home under the guise that she is in fact looking for Peter. Once inside, Alicia and Diane discuss the possible collaboration with the States Attorneys’ Office in a scene almost palpable with subtext. Back at the office Diane seems to almost entrap Will into a verbal contract which could put both Alicia’s career and fledgling relationship on a knife edge for the rest of the season. If that wasn’t dramatic enough, it could end up being estranged husband Peter who holds Alicia’s future in the palm of his hand.

As I mentioned earlier, there was a second guest star in this episode. Michael Kelly (seen recently in films like Changeling and The Adjustment Bureau) entered the fray as Mickey Gunn, a political player hoping to utilise Eli’s (Alan Cumming) crisis management skills to minimise the fall out of a potential scandal. Of course nothing in this show is ever as it seems, and Eli forges an unholy union with investigator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) in order to discover Gunn’s real intentions. As is often the case with The Good Wife the A, B, C story structure is shelved for more of an A, A, A structure. Whist this content high does require a high level of committed viewing the series continues to reward the viewers with engaging drama and having dealt with the fallout from season two in last week’s episode, we now have a much clearer, exciting understanding of just where season three may head.