In Sunday's brilliantly entertaining finale to another splendid season of CBS' The Good Wife — we choose to forget that Kalinda's ex ever existed — Denis O'Hare returns as a judge whose sciatica keeps him off the bench, pacing around the courtroom as he presides over a late-night emergency hearing over ballot-box irregularities in the next day's neck-and-neck election for Illinois governor. (Alicia's husband Peter is sweating every single vote.) Like Judge Abernathy, you may find it difficult to stay seated as this episode (9/8c), written by series creators Robert King (who also directed) and Michelle King, takes its many clever twists and turns, specializing in mischievous misdirection and game-changing surprises up to the very last jaw-dropping minute.
With all due respect to the marvelous current season of Game of Thrones and the so-far heavy-handed shenanigans of Mad Men since its return this month, I guarantee this will be the most enjoyable hour you're likely to spend in front of the TV on Sunday, or the entire weekend for that matter. Joining O'Hare in the returning-guest gallery: Martha Plimpton in her Emmy-winning role as baby-toting barracuda lawyer Patti Nyholm, Ana Gasteyer as another eccentric judge, T.R. Knight as a disgruntled former campaign strategist and Dylan Baker as the malevolently manipulative Colin Sweeney. (Special kudos to the delightful Estelle Parsons as a befuddled precinct volunteer called to testify in the whiplash-inducing election-fraud proceedings.) Each of these characters is a key component in a fast-paced hour that juggles the personal, professional and political conflicts swirling around Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) as her loyalties are tested as never before, in her marriage and career.
The Good Wife has been on fire lately, and this finale raises the stakes for Season 5 in such breathtaking fashion that it will be difficult for any of the other networks' season-enders to measure up over the next few weeks. If this doesn't make the best-drama Emmy cut this year, we may need to convene our own hearing to figure out what gives.
Not available for preview: Sunday's first-season finale of History's grim Vikings (10/9c), in which the mother of all cliffhanger ordeals — a plague — descends upon the pagans' Nordic village, while Ragnar is off doing King Horik's bidding in the lands that would become Sweden.
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FRIDAY BEST BET: Opportunities to witness this level of magnificent musical acting don't come along every season. Doing justice to one of the true classics of the American musical theater, PBS' Live From Lincoln Center presents last month's staged concert production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel (check tvguide.com listings) from Avery Fisher Hall, with the glorious New York Philharmonic orchestra as backdrop to the soaring performances of Broadway leading lady Kelli O'Hara as Julie Jordan and robust operatic baritone Nathan Gunn — imagine Russell Crowe if he could actually sing — as bad-luck carnival barker Billy Bigelow. By the time they join voices on "If I Loved You" during the landmark "bench scene," the entrancement is complete. Some Broadway trivia: Julie's BFF Carrie Pipperidge (whose ode to her "Mister Snow" is sublime) is played by rising stage star Jessie Mueller, who recently replaced O'Hara in Nice Work If You Can Get It opposite Matthew Broderick. And the show's host, Audra McDonald, won a Tony as Carrie the last time Carousel was staged for Broadway, also at Lincoln Center, in the unforgettable 1994 revival.
SATURDAY BEST BET: It's bigger on the inside. How often have Doctor Who fans heard that uttered in awe when someone gets their first glimpse inside the iconic TARDIS? And yet it's never seemed so true as in this week's surreal "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" episode (8/7c, BBC America), in which the phone booth/time machine/spaceship is commandeered by an outer-space sanitation crew (which includes an android) in "the salvage of a lifetime." This incident, and the ensuing invasion by galactic garbage men, causes the TARDIS to malfunction, trapping the adorable companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) inside an ever-changing danger-filled labyrinth, pursued by zombie-like creatures. "Ever see a spaceship get ugly?" the Doctor (Matt Smith) observes, activating a one-hour self-destruct deadline to rescue Clara. This adventure is nicely summed up by the Doctor's declaration: "Don't get into a spaceship with a madman. Didn't anyone ever tell you that?" If we listened to that, we'd never have any fun. (A tribute to Tom Baker, who played the role the longest as the fourth Doctor over seven seasons, airs Sunday at 8/7c as part of the series' 50th anniversary retrospective on Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited — The Fourth Doctor.)
Stay tuned after the new Who on Saturday for another dizzying episode of the BBC America thriller Orphan Black (9/8c), in which the clones (all convincingly played by Tatiana Maslany) confront the fact that they're "like lab rats in an illegal experiment," and begin to suspect their supposed loved ones of being minions of a larger conspiracy. How can you trust anyone when your own identity is such a mystery? Cool show.
PROGRAMMING NOTES: NBC's Grimm episode bumped by last weekend's epic breaking news will air this Friday (9/8c), before the show moves to Tuesdays next week. ... And while many CW affiliates pre-empted last Friday's Nikita for similar reasons, that episode won't be repeated, but can be seen online at cwtv.com and Hulu.com. This week's episode (9/8c) examines the fallout at a shattered Division. ... For the first time in weeks, ABC's Sunday-night lineup is intact with new episodes, as Regina risks the destruction of Storybrooke to get her and Henry back to Fairytale Land on Once Upon a Time (8/7c) and Victoria submits to a Nightline interview on Revenge (9/8c). What, Jimmy Kimmel was busy?