The Good Wife likes to play with an episode format; from the type of courtroom a case takes place in to the different multimedia they use to enhance a story. The 100th outing is not a disappointment in this department and it includes an experimental sequence that plays with reality and perception. Costuming plays a big role in this as we see Will grappling with his heartbreak in an incredibly raw, sad and dark manner.
Multiple shows use flashbacks – Lost used them as part of their weekly narrative structure – and so it is hard to produce anything particularly innovative with this device. These scenes are generally very matter of fact and a good representation of past events. In “The Decision Tree” we are offered slight variations on the same scene, on both occasions Will and Alicia remember him sliding his hand in between her leg; yes The Good Wife knows how to make the slightest hint of skin the sexiest thing. This memory catches them both off guard and these momentary flashes are used as an emotional prompt. There is one visual cue that emphasizes their different memories as Alicia is wearing royal blue in her version and for Will it is red.
Red is the color Good Wife costume designer Daniel Lawson tends to put Alicia in to represent her power and sexuality; it makes sense that Will associate’s this color with this period of intense passion. Blue suggests loyalty and trust, something that is absent in their current relationship. It’s also a visual reminder to the episode that started it all in terms of the big Cary and Alicia split, with last season’s “Red Team/Blue Team.” Will is wearing the same suit in both scenes, though not the same quizzical look.
The sequence that follows is equally challenging and impressive as Will prepares for court with an imaginary cross examination of Alicia. Fantasy Alicia is all big smiles and fluttery eyelashes; Julianna Margulies delivers her lines with a girly flirty quality and plays up the feigned innocence of Will’s projection. It’s top notch editing as we cut between Will in his office at home, the close up on imagined Alicia and the memories in New York. Alicia tells Will “this is the happiest I’ve ever been” and if this was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind this would be the memory that Will would want to keep, even if it is destroying him in the present. How much can we trust this sequence? This is the brilliance of showing conflicting memories as we can’t trust the veracity of these moments. I would even argue that Will has transferred a statement that he made onto Alicia, as Alicia did hold back emotionally during their time together in season 3.
In Will’s fantasy cross examination he’s picturing Alicia in a suit of white innocence and this is a different play on Madonna/Whore complex. This isn’t about sex, even if a lot of their relationship was based on a foundation of passion and this sequence does include intimate moments. No, the idea of betrayal is how she portrayed herself at work as ‘the good wife’ while in his mind she was stealing Lockhart/Gardner’s clients. Will hasn’t really outwardly dealt with Alicia’s departure and instead he has thrown himself into work and hooked up with yoga girl (who sadly makes an appearance at the end of this scene, clad only in one of Will’s white shirts because of course). This decision tree process gives him an opportunity to question ‘Alicia’ and rage against her decision to leave which he can’t disconnect from their personal relationship. It’s a surreal scene full of pain and one of the best this show has produced featuring A+ work from both Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies.
Will tells his imagined Alicia “I don’t like it when you’re weak” and the real Alicia in court the next day is anything but. Dressed in a dark suit, devoid of any color Alicia doesn’t get teary eyed as he projected. Instead she is calm in her responses and shows her inner strength; this episode includes some of the best death stares I have ever seen and I’m surprised there aren’t corpses littering the courtroom floor. Alicia won’t allow Will to emotionally manipulate her by using part of a conversation that occurred when they were at their most intimate.
It’s a bold episode and one that plays with the idea of emotional connections through memory. Costuming gives us a reason to doubt Will’s recollections and The Good Wife continues to use this aspect to enhance and add to an episode beyond ladies looking good in suits.