“Good Wife” Meets Real Life

The drama’s election-driven season finale arrives Sunday as Anthony Weiner embarks on his own comeback. He and his wife might want to tune in for pointers.

By Jere Hester
|  Friday, Apr 26, 2013  |  Updated 8:46 PM PDT
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“The Good Wife,” in four outstanding seasons, has taken the “Law & Order” ripped-from-the-headlines ethos to new levels while turning it on its head. 

The courtroom drama aspect of the show borrows frequently from current events (a hazing death and a military rape were among recent subplots). And the premise – a wife sticking by her politician husband, at least publicly, after he’s undone by a prostitution scandal – certainly found roots in the sordid downfall of then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2008, 18 months before the show’s debut.
 
But now, “The Good Wife” appears to be ahead of the headlines game. The CBS show, set for an explosive season finale Sunday, could be seen as an inspiration for – or at least a strangely coincidental presaging of – the possible return of another disgraced New York pol: former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.
 
Even if he’s not a fan, Weiner might want to tune in with his own publicly loyal wife, Huma Abedin, for some pointers on comebacks – and perhaps a cautionary tale of ambition and betrayal testing the limits of love and forgiveness.
 
“The Good Wife” extended its streak this season as network television’s most adult drama – not only in pushing the bounds of steaminess, but in daring to treat its audience as intelligent humans.
 
Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick character has grown, over some 90 episodes, from a wife-done-wrong to a battler who fought to regain her legal career to a participant in a steamy affair to a reborn, calculating political wife, with an agenda of protecting herself and her kids.
 
In the latest episode, Alicia shed the last of her goodie-goodie veneer to slam her husband’s gubernatorial rival on television as an alcoholic. With her husband, Peter, rising from convict to district attorney to the likely next governor of Illinois, she’s gone from powerless victim to holding all the cards. He can’t do it without her.
 
But even as she promises to finally renew her marital vows with an apparently reformed Peter as Election Day looms, she finds herself inextricably drawn to Will Gardner, her partner in law and lust.
 
If anyone thought their relationship would simply fade away when the curtain fell on Season 3, that’s not “The Good Wife – and not real life, where yearnings linger, along with resentments.
The most compelling moments of “The Good Wife” take place not in the courtroom or the bedroom, but internally, as best conveyed by Margulies, who boasts television’s most expressive face. The theme of forgiveness, public and otherwise, consistently plays out in new forms, week to week.
 
It’s difficult not to think of Alicia’s recent interview with Charlie Rose, playing himself on the “The Good Wife,” when considering Weiner and Abedin’s public return in The New York Times Magazine this month, nearly two years after he tweeted himself into infamy.  
 
Alicia told Rose the press is overly “interested in Peter’s failings as a family man.” Abedin told The Times: “I did spend a lot of time saying and thinking: ‘I. Don’t. Understand.’ And it took a long time to be able to sit on a couch next to Anthony and say, ‘O.K., I understand and I forgive.’ It was the right choice for me. I didn’t make it lightly.”  
 
She presumably had some heart-to-heart chats with her boss, Hillary Clinton, the ultimate political “Good Wife,” whose own ambitions could help extend her streak of making history.
 
It’s unknown whether Abedin and Weiner will be watching “The Good Wife” as his possible mayoral run generates new headlines. But we wouldn’t miss the show. In the meantime, check out a preview of Sunday’s “Good Wife” season finale below:

 

 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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