The Good Wife kicks off season 4 with “I Fought the Law,” which picks up at the exact moment where last season ended: Kalinda, gun in hand, waits to find out who’s behind her apartment door. But that’s hardly all that’s going on in the Windy City, as Zach faces criminal charges — and the future of the firm is looking mighty bleak. 

Before we get to the details, though, two things — one happy, one sad. First, the show bids an elegant farewell to executive producer Tony Scott with a simple “In Memory Of” card. Scott, also an accomplished director, tragically ended his life recently. On a more cheerful note, congratulations to Martha Plimpton, who scored an Emmy last week for her guest appearances as Alicia’s nemesis, opposing counsel Patty Nyholm.

Opening Arguments

Here’s what you need to know about this week’s episode:

The firm is in deep trouble — as in, $60 million in debt kind of trouble. With bankruptcy looming, the court allows Lockhart & Associates (still called that while Will waits out his suspension) to avoid liquidation. But with restructuring comes a court-appointed trustee with the power to make big decisions. At first, trustee Clarke Hayden (played by Nathan Lane) appears to be pitting Will against Diane. As he begins to take a proprietary interest in the firm, however, it seems there’s more to the man than we (or the partners) thought: He craftily convinces David Lee, the firm’s biggest rainmaker, to stay on or else risk being last in the firm’s long line of creditors. Lee doesn’t even know what hit him — new territory for the family law expert.

The real (political) player in the Florrick family is … Zach? When driving home from a college visit with his mom and sister Grace, Zach gets stopped by a cop. It turns out Officer Robb uses bogus drug charges against unsuspecting young people to impound cars and get cash, making his highway beat a money-rich “forfeiture corridor.” Alicia fights Zach’s charges, and Peter steps in to threaten the State’s Attorney of the adjoining county.

But apparently State’s Attorneys don’t like to be threatened, and things are looking dicey for Zach’s future — until the young man posts a dashboard cam video of the illegal search on YouTube, that is, along with evidence that the officer has a pattern of misbehavior. Apparently, 500,000 views = dropped charges and an apology. As Alicia says, “Zach, you impress me!” (Even if you do surf the Web for porn when not being a legal crusader.)

Forget reading — has Kalinda been living 50 Shades of Grey? So finally, the good stuff — who was behind the door already? Not who you think! Turns out it was a guy named Bill, sent by Kalinda’s husband to lure her back (along with money he accuses her of stealing). Kalinda makes short work of Bill in a flat-out brawl in her apartment. But that doesn’t stop her husband, Nick, from coming after her (and the money) himself. In the guise of needing legal advice from our favorite law firm, he gains access to the office. Kalinda confronts him on the elevator and proceeds to beat him up as well.

But there’s clearly more to this story, because we flash forward to the two in bed, apparently having just had hot, possibly kinky sex, immediately followed by Kalinda telling him to get out of town and out of her life. Actor Marc Warren, a slender Brit who reminds me a little (okay, a lot) of David Anders (Alias, Heroes, Once Upon a Time) isn’t the guy I expected to keep Kalinda in a love-hate clinch. This one is good for at least a trilogy of episodes (get it?).

Oh, and one more thing: at the show’s end, Will’s released from purgatory. He’s a working lawyer again. Welcome back, Lockhart & Gardner!

Expert Witnesses

When a show is a mixture of case-of-the-week and complex serialization, it can be hard to lure new viewers while keeping the veterans satisfied. Do you offer so much exposition that you bore the faithful? Do you launch right into the ongoing plot and say, “Forget it, newbies! You’re not wanted here!” (You know what I’m talking about, Breaking Bad, Lost, The Shield and any number of shows I’ve loved. That’s why they invented the DVD season-long box set.)

So kudos to TGW creators and writers Robert and Michelle King for walking that tightrope of bringing newcomers up to speed while moving the plot along. For example:

Want to know how the bankruptcy occurred? Have Diane explain it to the judge. What happened to Peter and Alicia’s marriage? Let her explain to a nosy (but influential) journalist that “my husband slept with prostitutes, but now we’re mending fences.” What happened between Will and Alicia? When he expresses worries that the journalist wants to talk to him now, she reassures him that “we were pretty careful, weren’t we?” Want to know what’s up with Kalinda and her ex? Have her explain to thug Bill that she took the money from hubby Nick as “community property,” so it’s rightfully hers. 

Okay, that part is new to us long-time viewers, too, but it does help explain the air of mystery always clinging to our gal. 

Summary Judgment

And that’s the way a good season premiere should go — reminding us of the key plot points from last year, answering pivotal questions, introducing new characters (hello, Nathan Lane), all while giving at least a bit of screen time to the major characters, from Eli and Peter to Cary and the kids. (Except Jackie — we miss you, Mama Florrick. Come back soon.) 

So what did you think? What’s in the firm’s future? Should Alicia and Peter settle their differences for the campaign? Were you taken aback by Kalinda’s apparently kinky relationship with Nick? After this week’s setup, I’m ready more than ever to watch this season unfold.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV