Contributor: Henry T.
Story by Matthew Montoya
Teleplay by Robert and Michelle King
Directed by Brooke Kennedy
A change in format for this show felt welcome. Not that the long-term storylines were settling into a rut, but there was the small notion that the writers couldn’t sustain them or lead the stories to a point that felt natural. So the show comes to an episode that features not one, but two different cases to be tried virtually at the same time. One case gets a bit convoluted — pointing out the hypocrisy of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — while the other has a personal stake for Alicia.
Her mother Veronica (Stockard Channing) makes an appearance for the first time, and it’s immediate that they are complete personality contrasts. The way her mother acts during the episode informs so much of Alicia’s nature. It’s too bad Alicia doesn’t get to defend her mother in the case involving the will of her previous husband (for obvious conflict of interest reasons) because it would have been interesting to see what she would have done. I preferred that case over the corporate fraud/DOMA one, even if it was mostly petty squabbling regarding the possibility that she had an affair during their marriage. Once again, this show can’t keep things simple to follow so interest is easily lost.
The writers’ obsession with online companies and its tricky business practices rears its ugly head once again at the beginning of the DOMA case. Then the famous (or infamous depending on the perspective) law is suddenly brought out as the crux of the case due to the company’s CFO being gay, and thus not entirely under the protection of “spousal shield laws” that govern the wiretaps of their personal phone conversations. It’s a bench case, without a jury, and the key difference is that Lockhart-Gardner is not only doing battle with the new Assistant US Attorney, last seen in “The Art of War”, but arguing with their clients as well. The course of the case changes when Jeremy Breslow (Bruce McGill), a famous Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in DOMA cases, takes over. And he does indeed take over the case for Lockhart-Gardner. Diane correctly predicts everything that happens when Breslow applies his techniques here. At one point, Diane is horrified that Breslow wants to lose.
It gives an interesting shift to the normal dynamics by which the firm operates. For the first time this season, the partners aren’t concerned about saving themselves from bankruptcy. They actually care about the well-being of their clients over the prospect of winning yet another case and worry that Breslow is only in it for the publicity it would bring to the cause of overturning DOMA. There are bigger fish out there in the world, and they operate under a different set of rules than Lockhart-Gardner does. There should be more of this kind of thing as the season progresses. The partners should be kept on their toes as they try to keep the firm out of bankruptcy.
Illuminating Alicia’s personal life by introducing her mother here was a stroke of genius. Sure, Veronica is the picture of cliche for the absent, high-lifestyle woman who does anything that comes into her head, but it provides an interesting contrast to what Alicia is like. She is the very antithesis of her mother, emotionally closed-off and conservative to a fault. Alicia’s brother Owen is caught in the middle of all this family drama, and adds to it when he perjures himself to understandably protect his mother. She gets the inheritance from her dead husband and none will be the wiser. I even like the show’s use of scheming David Lee as Veronica’s family law attorney. For once, he takes the case not out of promoting his own self interests, and only because he is curious about the Florrick family drama. That comes to a head in the final scene, when everyone gathers for Thanksgiving dinner. Veronica and Jackie have a brief, but fascinating conversation that had me wondering who was the worse mother.
We’ve seen much of what Jackie has done to undermine Alicia so there is a tendency here to side with a woman we’ve only seen this once. That feeling is undercut by the brief scene between Peter and Veronica. It’s an icy one, implying that these two don’t have a good history with each other. I also got the sense that Veronica wants her daughter to be more like her, the free divorcee who can bed any man she deems worthy at any moment. Alicia, predictably, goes the opposite direction and initiates intimate relations with Peter as proof that she is capable of making adult decisions on her own.
The show is currently putting the Alicia-Peter relationship on a sort of standstill (they’re not quite a married couple, but they are far from divorcing as well), so perhaps this is the first step in solidifying their status as a couple. I think there could stand to be more clarification on this issue, but the gray area is just fine for right now. We’ll see what direction that storyline goes in the future.