The Good Wife.
At first I thought this show was a standard and not even top-notch procedural. Each episode features a case that wraps up. Not as good as classic Law and Orders.... But as I continued watching and the characters developed I became hooked.
The show starts with Alicia's husband Peter resigning at Cook County State's attorney because of a sex scandal with prostitutes. Alicia is the political wife standing by her husband's side. He is being indicted for corruption and she returns to a legal career after a 13 year absence during which she was raising her children in a posh suburb. The drama concerns the relationships and intrigues between members of the firm, politicians, competing law firms, and some significant clients. The series has many long form narrative arcs, and the character development over the years is quite intense.
The main characters, besides Alicia and her husband Peter, are Will Gardner and Diane Lockhart (partners at the firm Alicia joins as junior associate), Cary Agos (another junior associate, competing with Alicia), Eli Gold (devoted political consultant), Kalinda (mysterious and sexy investigator). There are many significant returning tertiary characters as well (Lemond Bishop, Canning, etc). Cary, Eli, and Diane were my favorites, followed by Marissa (Eli's daughter) and Alicia.
A central narrative element is the romantic relationship between Alicia and her old flame turned boss, Will Gardner. Their comraderie and chemistry are pretty wonderful. One of the overall themes is the tension between love/happiness and responsibility. Another theme is the tension between right/truth and the law/pragmatics.
Alicia is played by Julianna Margulies who is stony and controlled. At first I found her offputting but as the series moves on you see her struggle and learn and grow, as she fights with her own internal conflicts and learns to stand up for her clients, her principles, and her place in the world. The scenes where she breaks down are truly amazing. In these short flashes she expresses deep grief, despair, and rage. By the end of the series she is gaunt and chiseled. An exhausted survivor. Julianna Marguelies delivered an exciting, constrained, and powerful performance episode after episode.
Throughout the series there are intrigues between Diane, Will, Cary, Alicia, and David Lee -- who is allied with whom in what particular take over of power in the firm. After a while I found these turn-arounds and paranoias and miscommunications and betrayals very annoying. Particularly since a deep appreciation and bond seemed to develop between Alicia, Cary, and Diane, and it didn't make sense that they continued to mistrust each other. It seemed like distracting plot elements that were already worn thin. I also found Jason, the investigator introduced in the final season, to be another annoying distraction. I didn't buy his character at all and thought he was manufactured as a plot device. I inwardly rolled my eyes every time he came on screen.
I was invested in so many of the characters. Very much wanted to give Eli Gold and Cary Agos at many moments. Eli, Cary, and Grace (Alicia's daughter) seemed to me to be the heart at the center of the show, consistently exuding a subtle warmth in their performances.
I read that they are considering a spinoff series. Not a great idea, of course. But if they do, I would love to see it with Cary as the star, now a law professor, and with Marissa as a law student.