One of the biggest struggles of drama remakes and adaptations is toeing the line between the source material and originality. Some dramas are able to do this well while others — most recently Cheese in the Trap — fail to maintain a good balance. The Good Wife seems to be falling into the former category. After a strong start and an intriguing buildup, The Good Wife is only getting better, as demonstrated by episodes five and six.
An original plot line has surfaced with Tae-joon’s car accident and Hye-kyung taking the blame. However, despite the predictability of Hye-kyung taking the fall for her husband, this revelation has given depth both characters and their current positions in life. Tae-joon focuses on how the events would affect him, reminiscent of the selfish streak he currently demonstrates.
For Hye-kyung, taking responsibility for the accident meant that she could not start her legal career at the time. It is implied that this is what drove her to become a housewife and it adds an interesting dynamic to her relationship with her husband. After all, had this accident not happened, she may have practiced law much sooner rather than doing so because she needed to support her family.
But The Good Wife also manages to balance its source material, leading to a very complicated love triangle. For the first time, Hye-kyung’s feelings towards Joong-won are affirmed but this leads to a state of confusion for Hye-kyung. She runs away but comes back, allowing a risky, spontaneous side of her to come out. Unfortunately, Joong-won having stepped out means that Hye-kyung has time to reconsider her actions.
A recurring theme in the original The Good Wife was commentary on what being a good wife meant. Throughout the series, many people commented on Alicia’s marriage. Some saw her as a good wife for staying by her husband whereas others felt that Alicia should have left her husband; she had been a good wife to him but his infidelity made him the wrong choice for her. But determining what Alicia wanted was tricky because often she herself didn’t know. Staying married benefited both of them but where was her heart?
This internal confusion of Alicia has been expertly woven into the Korean The Good Wife and leads to Hye-kyung and Tae-joon having sex at the end of episode six. Scared of her feelings (and reckless decision to go back) for Joong-won, Hye-kyung initiates sex with her husband. Perhaps she feels that sleeping with Tae-joon will quell her feelings for Joong-won or perhaps Hye-kyung just needed an outlet for her sexual desires. Either way, Hye-kyung’s mixed feelings about both men contributed to her actions and the show allows Hye-kyung to indulge without judging her. Life and relationships are messy and The Good Wife nails this pivotal point for Hye-kyung.
And Hye-kyung’s inner turmoil is just one example of the way The Good Wife brings nuance to everything it does. Nothing is ever black or white, or good or bad; shades of gray are explored at every step of the way. This is best demonstrated by Joong-won’s lead toy case and the health care proxy case.
The health care proxy (medical power of attorney) was an interesting case in which a pregnant woman, declared brain dead, was set to have her life support terminated by her family. However, her common law husband wished to keep her alive in order to allow the fetus to grow and be delivered. The case intertwined legality regarding the rights of domestic partnerships (versus married couples) and bodily autonomy — was it right to keep the woman alive to use her as an “incubator?”
Both sides brought nuance to the case and a wonderful performance by the opposing lawyer added another layer — she attempted to use her current pregnancy in her favor as she argued against keeping the woman alive. This lawyer was a welcome addition to The Good Wife and brought back one of the best parts about the original — recurring lawyers and judges with quirky personalities. Hopefully the show will continue to feature one-time characters.
Although The Good Wife is starting to introduce novel plot lines and stray from its source, the show never suffers and, instead, adds more nuance to character backgrounds. Combined with thought-provoking cases, a messily realistic love triangle, and a complex heroine, The Good Wife is on its way to being one of the best dramas of the year.