Ask Matt: Good Wife, Sleepy Hollow, Spinoffs, S.H.I.E.L.D., Chicago Fire
Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison | Photo Credits: Brownie Harris/Fox
Question: Last Sunday's "Hitting the Fan" episode of The Good Wife lived up to the hype. It was a game changer, but I guess it left me feeling slimed. Alicia has always taken a righteous position and walked a fine ethical line. On Sunday, I feel like she fell off a cliff — not only was she a party to trying to download files which I'm not sure is illegal but certainly not ethical (notwithstanding the ends-justify-the-means argument), but she also seemed gleeful about Peter using his political position to her gain. As Will seemed so right to point out, she seems to have no idea how bad she has become. This is not the good wife that I have been watching. What were your thoughts? — Megan
Matt Roush: My thoughts, as I expressed in my review of this most excellent episode, are that few things are more exhilarating than watching a show boldly reinvent itself, even (or maybe especially) at the expense of making its lead character look considerably less than heroic. The idea that Alicia ever thought she could break from the firm painlessly was a pipe dream at best, but when it went down this badly, some of her choices were clearly made out of desperation, a survival mechanism, and if that meant crossing the line, so be it. There was no going back after that confrontation with Will. And given the legal tug-of-war over Chumhum, having Peter play a part in a win that Florrick/Agos needed for its very survival, well, how do they not gloat over that? This was one of the most dynamically entertaining hours of TV I've seen in quite a while, and having it unfold with all sorts of moral and ethical gray areas left unresolved makes it even more thrilling. The implications of what went down will carry The Good Wife for a long time to come. (Warning to non-Good Wife watchers: You might want to skip ahead, because the next few questions continue the obsession. But when a show's this good ...)
Question: The Good Wife's "Hitting the Fan" episode was incredible. Even though my sister-in-law came over and stood between me and the TV for the last 20 minutes, it was still one of the most amazing hours of TV I have seen in a long time. It dawned on me that several of the tentpole shows (Good Wife and the still-breathing Bones) script their major events for somewhere around episode 6, mid-October, and that probably coincides with sweeps. Do most of the established shows' producers and writers plan their season arcs around those points? Conversely, it also seems like other shows (my favorite new show by far is Sleepy Hollow) try to put on as much good stuff as possible at the beginning to build some ratings and stay on the air. Do most screenwriters and critics just accept this as part of the trade? — Matt
Matt Roush: First of all: Shame on your sister-in-law. How dare she? Secondly, there probably isn't an exact science to how and when pivotal episodes like these are scheduled, but producers are generally aware of when a specific episode will air, and networks like to time big moments to happen either during a sweeps month (November, February, May) or right on the cusp of sweeps to get the watercooler buzzing. That's certainly the case with The Good Wife, and also why The Mentalist has planned the too-long-awaited Red John reveal for mid-November. When it comes to new shows with serialized or mythology-driven hooks like Sleepy Hollow, it's imperative now more than ever to grab viewers right out of the gate, which is why they don't hesitate to deliver huge twists in early episodes, even at the risk of burning through story at an alarmingly fast rate. With only 13 episodes in Sleepy Hollow's first season, there's no time for coasting.