“The Good Wife”: “Hit the Fan," the episode we’ve all been waiting for, in which Will (Josh Charles) reacts to Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) decision to leave Lockhart & Gardner to start another firm with colleague Cary (Matt Czuchry) has finally come due.
“The Good Wife,” now into its fifth season, is unarguably the best drama on a broadcast network and one of the best dramas on television, full stop. Year after year (married) creators Michelle King and Robert King have overseen a miraculous combination of character drama and legal procedural. What began as a vehicle for Margulies exploring what happens to the wronged political wife after the humiliating news conference quickly became a strong ensemble piece with an incomparable floor-to-ceiling cast: Christine Baranski, Archie Panjabi, Alan Cumming, Chris Noth and a host of A-list guest stars.
Emanating a dialed-down control more usually seen on British TV, Margulies made Alicia both an everywoman and a cipher, torn between the pain of betrayal and her sense of duty, between insecurity and ambition. Thus far, she has always erred on the side of the angels -- “Saint Alicia” is how she is known in Chicago’s political circles.
But now, with her defection from Will, who hired her when no one else would (albeit perhaps for romantic reasons), Alicia seems to have finally been infected by the personal callousness she fought against as a political wife. Situations must change for a series to remain vital, and Will certainly has loyalty issues of his own, but how far into darkness the show will take its conscientious lead remains to be seen. Not too far, one hopes, but any adult drama that can build this kind of tension in Episode 5 of Season 5 is a show worth sticking with. CBS, Sundays, 9 p.m.
“The Returned”: For those who consider themselves too high-brow for “The Walking Dead” or any of the many fine supernatural tales unwinding on TV today, we give you “The Returned,” a six-part French supernatural thriller debuting Halloween night on Sundance.
Yep, that’s right, the undead and subtitles. (French majors, I sense some easy extra credit.)
In a small mountain town, people presumed dead for several to many years begin showing up, seemingly untouched by time or decay, as confused by their status as friends and family members are. Carefully paced and lovingly shot, what seems at first to be a psychological exploration -- what would people do, really, if their prayers were answered and their dead returned to them -- slowly builds to something more sinister. (Hint: Not all the Returned are beautiful children.) Secrets emerge, relationships unravel and soon even the idyllic setting shades ominous.
A satisfying creep fest that even the eggheads among us can watch without guilt. Vive la France! Sundance, Thursdays, 9 p.m.
“Dracula”: One can only hope this will be the last incarnation of Transylvania’s most famous resident, though undoubtedly he will show up at some point consulting with Sherlock Holmes or having tea with a Bennet sister or two. Certainly he is on the road to moral reclamation and civilization here, played by Jonathan Rhys-Davies (with, it must be said, a truly deplorable American accent) more as sword of vengeance than blood-sucking monster.
Oh sure, he still sucks blood -- beware pretty Victorian women passing through London’s smoky haze! -- but now he’s got a plan, and a purpose. Reanimated by traditional foe Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann, because Hugh Jackman would still rather just forget), this Dracula wants to bring down the vampire-hunting Order of the Dragon, a secret society vaguely Inquisition-based that deprived him of his beloved wife all those years ago.
But soft, that wife is back, now in the form one Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), ace feminist med student and girlfriend of indigent (is there any other kind) journalist Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen.) So now Drac wants revenge and possibly another shot at love. It’s all quite silly if you think about it too hard, which NBC is very much counting on no one doing. Victorian London, secret societies, a vampire with a broken heart and a six-pack, “Dracula” has it all -- as well as a twinkle in its eye; Dracula is also battling to prevent Western society from becoming dependent on petroleum -- lifting the silliness to the level of potential great fun. NBC, Fridays, 10 p.m.
“Homeland”: Last week, Showtime’s consistently overly analyzed series threw many a recapper into a postmortem tizzy. For almost Three Whole Episodes the audience was led to believe (if they did, and personally I didn’t) that Clare Danes’ super-agent Carrie Mathison was suffering not only from a complete bipolar breakdown, but a complete personal betrayal by her mentor/boss/father figure Saul (Mandy Patinkin).
Then (spoiler alert) in the final moments it was revealed to have all been a ploy, masterminded by Saul to draw out more terrorists and perhaps even that pesky lead that’s been plaguing the CIA since “Homeland” began.
Although it’s perfectly possible that the upcoming episode will be totally devoted to Brody (Damian Lewis), cooling his heels in Caracas, more likely it will return Carrie to her whiteboard and the narrative driver’s seat. Whether or not this will satisfy the more demanding viewers remains to be seen, but “Homeland” remains one of the few genuine thrillers on television so, personally, I don’t care. Showtime, Sundays, 9 p.m.