The Good Wife and The Mentalist - One show hitting its stride, the other changing its stride

the mentalist promo

good wife 100 Last year, amid the disastrous Kalinda/Nick storyline, I dinged The Good Wife for sucking. Not long after, due to my wonderfully, erudite post, they jettisoned that storyline and went back to what they do best, camouflaging a soap opera as a case of the week procedural. Since the second half of season four and into the first half of season five, which last night ended its 2013 run with it's 100th episode, The Good Wife has been on fire, creatively, dramatically, emotionally, hilariously and consistently. (Five adverbs in a row. YES!)

Even at its worst, which I will always contend the Kalinda/Nick storyline was, The Good Wife is the best hour-long drama on network television. If The Good Wife were on AMC, HBO, FX or some other cable network, I think it would be considered the best by most critics. Say what you will about the long form storytelling brilliance of The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and Mad Men, The Good Wife is better because not only do Robert and Michelle King know how to tell a long form story, they also brilliantly incorporate a case of the week into EACH episode. They have mastered the procedural and the novelization of their world at the same time. It is an epic feat to create the best drama on television within the commercial and FCC constraints the Kings work under.

At the end of season four, the Kings basically blew up their show. They carved Alicia and Carey out of Lockhart/Gardner, and left Kalinda, Will and Diane to nurse hurt feelings and pride. This season, the fallout has been fun to watch, with both L/G and F/A getting the best of each other. They are pretty evenly matched adversaries, much to Will and Diane's surprise. Alicia is ruthless, cunning and determined to win. My money is on Alicia, not only because it is The Good Wife, but also because she has experience in how to pick herself up from emotional devastation and triumph. Will may seem like he's in control, but he's floundering and if he's not careful, his ambition and drive will destroy Lockhart/Gardner.

Two quibbles, though: There still is not enough Kalinda. I do not understand her loyalty to Will and, as a huge fan of the Alicia/Kalinda friendship, I wish Kalinda had gone with F/A. I didn't realize until early this season she didn't even know Alicia was leaving with Cary. I wonder if she'd known that if she would have left anyway, despite lower pay. The second quibble: I don't want the entire season to be about L/G and F/A fighting each other. I'm already a little weary of the constant gamesmanship. It's a great dramatic well of tension that will be quickly dried up if they keep tapping it.

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After five seasons and change, The Mentalist blew up its formula, but good last week. I was excited and anxious to see what the new version of The Mentalist had to offer. I have to say, My Blue Heaven lived up to my expectations. The dichotomy of Jane being a tortured vigilante for a handful of episodes each season while being glib the other episodes was always jarring. Now, Jane is out from under the cloud and we can see the lighter side of him all the time, as well as no longer dour Lisbon. This was a transition episode in the best sense of the word. I don't think Jane read anyone once. I wonder if his mentalist capabilities are rusty? That would be interesting to see. The most refreshing part of the episode was that Jane was bested, twice. Once by a woman, Kim Fisher, who manipulated him into returning to the states. The other time by Abbot, the stern FBI agent who refused to cower to Jane's demands. Seeing the shock on Jane's face, which he quickly masked, was absolutely brilliant. I can't wait to see this version of Jane play out, hopefully for many seasons to come.