The Good Wife is back, and Cary’s got her! We’re now in season 5, and it’s time for Alicia and Cary to plot their end-game for leaving Lockhart-Gardner.

If starting a new firm was all Alicia had on her plate, that would be enough. But besides worrying about her imminent departure, Alicia just became First Lady of Illinois and must try saving a man on death row. Oh, and she still has to buy orange juice for her kids.

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The Case Before the Court

Some things are more important than starting a new firm or even becoming the governor’s wife. In “The End of Everything,” Alicia, Will and Diane must work to save an innocent man from execution. 

The state of Indiana convicted Eddie Allen Fornam of double homicide more than a decade ago. After failing to win a stay of execution, Diane and Alicia — Eddie’s new attorneys — watch in horror as the state botches the man’s lethal injection. They can’t get the needles in. Diane demands that the warden halts the proceedings on the grounds that Eddie is being tortured. That’s a violation of the Eighth Amendment, and just the break our guys need.

Will learns that famed Innocence Project attorney Barry Scheck (played by the real Scheck, in his second appearance on the show) is in town arguing an Eighth Amendment class-action case. A quick call gets the L-G team on the case. They get the judge to halt the execution for a few days, since Eddie is living evidence of whether certain execution techniques constitute torture.

Their maneuvering buys them enough time to find the jailhouse snitch who caused Eddie’s conviction. When the team proves his “evidence” actually came from the Indiana police, the man recants his testimony. But the judge decides it’s too little, too late. After more than a decade, proving actual innocence isn’t enough. It has to be over, the judge says — the state’s judgment must stand. This time, our white knights can’t save the day.

Or can they? After Diane assures Will that they did all they could to save Eddie, Will wonders if that’s true. Back at the prison, the warden explains to Eddie that they’ve made adjustments to the lethal injection process to make it less painful (though he’ll still be just as dead). Before the poison can be pumped into Eddie’s veins, however, the DEA shows up to stop the execution. It turns out the warden had arranged for the transport of the required lethal potassium chloride by US mail. 

Which turns out to be illegal. The state not only stops the execution, but the governor drops it entirely. Eddie will now get a chance to prove his innocence without the threat of the death penalty hanging over him. 

It doesn’t take Alicia long to figure out that it was Will who made that all-important call to the DEA. 

Suspicious Minds

Despite the turmoil caused by Eddie’s case, Alicia, Cary and the other fourth-year associates keep plotting their departure from Lockhart-Gardner. To avoid being discovered, they even meet in underground garages to discuss their future. Big news: they’ve got a lead on the office space they need.

The subterfuge isn’t enough to keep them from pricking the interest of family law litigator David Lee. He demands that Kalinda dig up their cell phone data to learn if they’ve been contacting clients behind the firm’s back. The evidence starts to build that something’s up. But no one suspects Alicia’s in on it. The partners even ask Alicia to talk with the fourth years and get a sense of their morale. (Oops!)

Alicia’s eager to tell Will and Diane that she’s leaving to start Florrick, Agos & Associates. But she requests that the rogue group wait a week, until after Eddie’s case is settled. The associates want to wait even longer, however, so they can receive their bonus money. Cary, sensing Alicia’s unease at waiting for too long, queries her to see if she’s getting cold feet.

She admits that she will miss the ability to do pro bono work like they do at Lockhart-Gardner. The new firm won’t be able to afford that for a while. More important, she admits she’ll miss watching Will and Diane work together. Cases like Eddie’s really show what a great team they are. 

Cary’s comeback: “Alicia — you and I are the new Will and Diane.” 

With renewed resolve, she warns him that they have to stop using company cell phones to plot their escape. When she later tells Peter that she’s leaving L-G to start her own firm, her husband couldn’t be happier for her. Bit by bit, it looks like this is going to happen. 

Ethical Breach?

Back at Peter’s office, Eli and the new governor make plans for the transition. One key element: ethics training, courtesy of beautiful attorney Marilyn Garbanza. (yes, like the chickpeas, but with an “a.”) She seems more than competent, but Eli thinks the “optics” of such an attractive woman hanging around Peter’s office could be a negative. The public knows Peter’s track record with attractive women, especially ones who look like Melissa George from Alias. 

Peter thinks Eli’s overreacting, but soon realizes he’s staring at Marilyn a little too much during the day. He makes a snap decision to “promote” her to a position on the State Transit Authority. But Marilyn isn’t buying the “promotion” and tells Eli they’re making a big mistake. We’ll be seeing her again (perhaps in Will’s arms, based on the after-show preview of season 5 highlights).

The new governor does agree with one thing Marilyn suggested before her “promotion” — pick someone else as his chief of staff because of possible ethical issues. When Eli says he’ll draw up a list of names, Peter tells him not to bother. He wants Eli in on the job. Good thing, because we all know that Eli never has ethical issues.

On the other hand, I did a little happy dance knowing that we’ll be seeing a lot of Eli on The Good Wife this season.

Friend of the Court

With all the craziness, what about Will and Alicia? After all, when Alicia opened her apartment door during the season finale this past April, many of us thought the man in the hallway would be her former lover, not her future partner. Where do they stand?

Apparently, nowhere. Alicia seems committed to Peter and repeatedly avoids Will except to discuss Eddie’s case. When her guilt about leaving the firm nearly gets the better of her, however, she finally tells Will they need to talk. But in the euphoria following the death row victory, Will assumes she wants to talk about Election Night, when they failed to connect. 

He tells her he understands that it’s been a busy time and that they can talk later. When she mutters, “Don’t end up hating me,” he doesn’t quite hear her. Or doesn’t want to. 

Summary Judgment

An excellent start to what promises to be a game-changing season for The Good Wife. It was a smart move to open with a pulse-pounding death-row episode, one that showed what Alicia will be giving up in terms of resources and teamwork.

And as with every TGW season opener,  the writers pulled together several separate threads, answered many questions and raised new issues to play out for the rest of the year. 

Questions such as: are Alicia and Will really over? (Peter hopes so.) Will the “promoted” ethics attorney cause trouble for the new governor? (Probably.) Is Alicia making the right decision by starting her own firm? (It’s tough to tell.) And when did Grace suddenly blossom into a beauty, now rated number four in the “Top 10 Politicians’ Daughters” list? (Those kids grow up so fast!)

Welcome back, The Good Wife. We’re looking forward to following you to that new office space whenever you’re ready. 

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV