Monday, December 3, 2012

"Battle of the Proxies" and the Kalinda Cliffhanger Repeat

The general contempt towards Kalinda's storyline this season isn't exactly a secret. Most fans and critics are citing it as the Kings' first major misstep with the show (which, considering that it's season 4, could also be considered a compliment). Nick has turned out to be kind of a lame villain, and worse still, their interactions have confused the character of Kalinda as the audience understands her.  She's passive under probable threat, distracted from her job, and ultimately untethered from her usual calculated existence.  The writers planned this storyline to be a Very Big Thing, but instead it's an Overblown Tired Thing - and underwhelming given the way it exploded onto the scene at the tail end of last season.

I've tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, though. The beauty of television lies in the fact that storylines carry over from episode to episode, and just because one installment is a dud doesn't mean that good things aren't to come. Plus, I love Kalinda, and knowing that this storyline has been in the works since S2 makes me want to have faith in it.

But last night's cliffhanger? That was the moment that showed all the problems on this arc. Because we'd seen it before: the sequence of events in 4.10 were nearly identical to the ones in 3.22!  "The Dream Team" closed out S3 with the threat of Kalinda's husband, and Kalinda resolved to action because of a perceived threat to Alicia. She waits for Nick in the dark, to finish things. 4.10 did almost the exact same thing: Alicia tells Nick that Lockhart Gardner will no longer be representing him because of his drug deals, and Nick threatens her. Kalinda finds out, and finally spines up when she realizes that Nick is a) in some real shady shit and b) threatening Alicia. She waits for Nick in the dark, to finish things. And in both episodes, a cliffhanger: what will Kalinda do? What did Kalinda do?

I really, really want to call this parallel construction. And who knows? With the beauty of TV, we could get more information that might change how we see this sequence of events in the season as a whole. But right now, it just looks a lot like retread. And I am sad for that. Because then it begs the question that the naysayers have been asking all along: what is the point of Nick?  Why do nine or ten episodes of Kalinda/Nick wheel-spinning just to bring things back to where they were in last season's finale? We had so much fear of Nick when he was a faceless presence offscreen, but after a slew of episodes where he's just "huffing and puffing," as it were, the danger's all gone. We're just kind of annoyed, now.

Plus, as so many have predicted in comments sections the internet over, it seems as though Kalinda resorted to lawbreaking to do away with the Nick Problem, which will likely precipitate Alicia having to defend her in court. This doesn't sound so bad, I guess, but it seems so... transparent. It's looked this way all season, and not in a ticking-time-bomb kind of way but an I-know-exactly-where-this-is-going kind of way.  Even if the cut-to-black assumed-violence is a misdirect, how exactly are the Kings going to pay off Kalinda's action in a proportionally dramatic way? It's awfully underwhelming to say, "Welp, she had him arrested. L8r, Nick!"

This whole thing is just messy. I wish Kalinda taking action in 4.10 was pushed up to 4.01, after the FIRST cliffhanger, and then the following episodes offering some glimpse of what Kalinda's plan might be for this situation. Trying to figure out a way to get him out of her life without murdering him, maybe. Investigating him, finding out he's dealing drugs, and then trying to get him arrested without him catching on and endangering Alicia or something. Then when she gets him arrested, he's pissed and leaves death threats that hang over the whole season until he comes back for the final episodes or something. Because I don't see how this storyline can end unless that man has a bullet in his head.

I'm also a bit bummed that the writing has ignored the potential to turn "the good wife" mantle onto Kalinda and her screwed-up marriage.  The 3.22 finale had the Kalinda-Alicia wives-and-families compare/contrast in spades, what with the cross-cut last sequence. But S4 seems to have lost that commentary, which was so thematically interesting.  Despite this, the storyline is reaping benefits for the once-wounded Kalinda-Alicia dynamic, what with positive interaction and relationship building/reinforcing.  I'm always here for that, and it's wonderful to see after the drought of friendship in season 3. But the execution along the way to foster that is making me frown. And I hate frowning at The Good Wife!

Ultimately, I hope the Kings find some way to make this storyline unique and meaningful on the heels of the development in 4.10, even if it's going to look like something of a "do-over."  After all, this storyline is supposed to be for Kalinda. I want Kalinda's character/arc to get something out of it. So far, she really hasn't. We've seen her passive, distracted from work, and confused - traits that blur the character's definition, and not in an interesting way. Nick is an emotionally abusive bully who threatens all in sight to keep Kalinda under his power. We really don't WANT this guy redefining her character. We want her to redefine him right out of her life, please and thanks.

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