Why You Should Be Watching “The Good Wife”

Forget any preconceived notions about steadfast political wives. Julianna Margulies's Alicia Florrick takes a stand against her cheating husband, the former state's attorney, in CBS's compelling legal drama

The Good Wife kicks ass because Alicia Florrick isn’t one. Unlike Huma Abedin (Mrs. Anthony Weiner); Silda Wall (Mrs. Eliot Spitzer); Hillary Rodham Clinton and untold others in the Cuckolded Political Wives Club , Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick does not stand by her man.

Peter Florrick’s fondness for hookers was humiliating enough. (See Spitzer, Eliot.) But when Alicia discovers that the disgraced State’s Attorney of Cook County (Ill.) had sex with her best friend, it’s game over.

The message of empowerment to women is palpable. There are limits beyond which even the most committed—or masochistic—of political spouses is willing to go.  In the end, “good wife” is a relative, and morally ambiguous, term.

There is no dearth of “good wives” who have stood stoically by their dirtbag husbands in televised public confessionals, no matter how hideous.

In 2004, a shell-shocked Dina Matos was on the platform as former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey outed himself and resigned. (They later divorced.)  In ’07, Suzanne Craig, in dark sunglasses, stood by Idaho Sen. Larry Craig as he declared he was not gay. This, after he had been arrested for propositioning a man in a bathroom at the Minneapolis airport.

So what about the political “good husband?”  Shockingly,  I could not find a single analogous example in which that phrase was tested. (See Standard, Double.)  The image of a cuckolded husband allowing himself to be publicly humiliated by his wife defies the imagination.

If it did occur, however, no one would question the husband for immediately ditching his cheating wife. Conversely, a “good wife” is expected to stick around and forgive.

Therein lies the beauty of The Good Wife (9 p.m. Sundays on CBS), now in its third season.  Is Alicia a bad wife because she left Peter? Or is she a good wife because, when he was in prison for misusing public funds, she returned to the law after 13 years to support their kids?

Is she a good wife because she hasn’t filed for divorce (yet) and is civil to her estranged husband? Or is she a bad wife because she’s having a secret affair with her (unmarried) boss at the firm? Even if she were single, it’s still unethical to sleep with your supervisor.

Dramatically, a reconciliation between Alicia and Peter cannot be ruled out. But smart money says the producers won’t ride that pony for quite a while, particularly while Alicia and Will are having such hot sex.

And speaking of sex, that brings up another reason I’m hooked on The Good Wife. It doesn’t play favorites. On Sunday’s episode, for example, Alicia’s  brother, Owen, and his boyfriend, Finn, discuss  Finn’s desire to have Tantric sex.

Owen doesn’t want to wait that long, but we will. On The Good Wife, it’s all worth waiting for.