“Do you want to be a good man?” “I want to be effective.” “Does one discount the other?” “It can.”
So said Peter to Pastor Isaiah in this episode, although I wonder if that will end up applying as much to Alicia as she gets pulled into politics as it does to her husband. This hour was a tricky one because it deals with fomenting racial tensions in Chicago, in a very Ripped From The Headlines way that has been somewhat controversial. We’ll delve into THAT in a minute. But first: The Power Suit Rankings.
HE WAS NOT IN THIS EPISODE. On the plus side, that means he didn’t have to pop up for two seconds with very little of substance to do; on the minus side, it means HE WAS NOT IN THIS EPISODE. Can we pretend that means he spent the whole time naked, since there is no visual evidence proving otherwise? YES.
Kalinda might have been better-served by not being in this hour, either. All she does is wear what looks like an ill-fitting stretch-satin blouse from the You’re Leaving So We’re Not Investing In New Clothes For You fund, and then chase an incorrect theory about one of the Florrick Agos & Lockhart attorneys that inadvertently leads her to the right one (he didn’t DELIBERATELY tank a negotiation with his mentor David Lee; he simply was distracted because of his child’s medical drama). There are no shades of anything between her and Cary, but he did call her his girlfriend in the LAST episode, so I guess… we’re to assume she and Lara are no longer an item? And that Cary is no longer angry that she said she didn’t want to be his girlfriend? WHO KNOWS, because basically, Kalinda had to sit down for most of this episode and is just waiting for her illegal act from Cary’s trial to come back and bite her. The nibbler is about to get nibbled.
Poor Ramona is so inconsequential that when reporters get hold of new photos suggesting an affair between her and Peter, he calls her to the site of a brewing riot and dumps her in the back of the limo. A part which happens OFF CAMERA. And the show didn’t even give Connie the courtesy of nice lighting; she’s just painted with the flickering blues and reds of police lights. Ergo: Connie Nielsen can’t be done on this show, right? It’s going to turn out that Peter only pretended to dump her and instead told her to get out of the limo and cry to Eli so that he’d back off and leave them alone to bang, right? I mean, I guess it’s not like Connie Nielsen is crazy super famous, but it seems like they cast a recognizable-enough person that using her for three lines here and there is bizarre. Still, for the moment, on the lighting they gave her alone, she is dropping in power like a stone.
15. This Reporter
He is the one with the photographs, and — as Eli learned he would with enough time to warn Alicia and create a LOT of bickering about how to handle it amongst her handlers — he uses his first question to Alicia to ask about it. And she delivers a smackdown. First, she interrupts him and doesn’t even let him get the question out before she tells the audience exactly what he’s about to say. Then, she invokes Grace, sitting in the audience looking pointless (and I know Zach is in college, but REALLY, you think they would have let him get away with missing this and looking like he doesn’t care?), when saying that it’s disgusting that this man is painting a target on her personal life. Finally, she uncorks a diatribe about how unjust it is to splash someone’s family life across the news under the guise of discussing her professional qualifications, and how she cannot imagine a scenario in which her husband’s infidelity or her married life would have anything to do with any of that or with whether she can be the State’s Attorney. It is exactly the kind of answer that The Sympathetic Voter would want to her, because it makes them go, “That poor woman,” and Niles Crane knows it — so when the reporter is booed for trying again to ask his question, Niles uses his rebuttal time to insist that Alicia “deserves an apology” from all media.
And the reporter is just there to buff Saint Alicia’s halo. Theoretically, he could say, “Actually, as unfair as it COMPLETELY is, if you are working at the right hand of your husband then isn’t it germane whether or not you hate your husband because he’s sleeping with his lawyer — and whether or not you can thus compartmentalize your private and professional lives?” Something which would be equally relevant if roles and genders were swapped. I’m not saying it’s not tacky to push this point of view, nor that it’s right to assume people can’t put up a wall and do their damn jobs, but the thing is… some people can’t, and if this reporter were anything other than a vehicle for the show to put Alicia on a pulpit, maybe that would’ve happened. But he backed down instead, because this show loves to let Alicia hop aboard the ethics train and MIC DROP someone into oblivion. I ALSO enjoy it, but it seems like a very high-horse argument she has delivered, when in fact BOTH she and Peter made the choice to become public figures and her answer tips more toward pearl-clutching about CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW AWFUL THIS FEELS and ISN’T GOSSIP TAWDRY rather than rooted in any realism about the state of the world.
14. Chris Matthews
Ol’ Chris gets to moderate the debate. He basically has three lines and runs around introducing himself to people. It’s the most gratuitous of cameos. This show needs a Perd Hapley and fast.
13. David Krumholtz
David, as one of Alicia’s handlers whose function is murky to me (I thought he was just in charge of her TV spots?), buzzes around stressing over how she will handle the infidelity question, and whether she should address the other hot topic of the day: A Grand Jury has come back with a verdict in the case of an African-American Chicago man who was killed by two cops, and said verdict will almost certainly be read during the debate. However, nobody really cares what he thinks because he grew up having penises drawn on his face and then he murdered a bunch of people at the local-area hospital where Alicia used to work and Dr. Carter NEARLY DIED BY HIS HAND. So he’s almost ENTIRELY background noise. Seriously, has anyone even said his name? And then, in this shot, he casually and almost absently picks a piece of fluff out of Alicia’s hair before she goes on-stage, which is an amusing bit of stage business and I wonder if Krumholtz did it himself or if it was scripted. Either way, he may be nobody’s fool, but he is apparently Alicia’s lackey at the very least.
He had the power to make Alicia kiss him last week, and now, apparently, he has had the power to wear an attractive shirt and tie combo while avoiding discussing it with her — until she finally asks for “a moment with John” and, as Eli’s daughter Marissa watches curiously, Alicia beamingly reassures Elfman that it meant nothing. He bumbles through an explanation of transference, before she insists she has zero feelings for him, and then they stare at each other in such a way that suggests that secretly neither of them is averse to uncorking some feelings ALL OVER EACH OTHER.
She refers to him as “John” a couple times, which is weird to me because we heard him introduced as “Johnny” and I’ve decided she calls him that because if they do sleep together she feels weird sleeping with a man who has a boy’s name. However: There is no way she gave it that much thought. When you’re hot for someone, you’re hot for someone, and you go for it. Unless that someone is Finn, in which case you transfer your feelings — thanks, John, for reminding me of that idea — until such time as it’s safe to pounce.
Eli juggles Peter and the mayor’s Chief of Staff (Rachael Harris) as the city prepares for a potential race riot over the Grand Jury verdict (which is, Not Guilty). Apparently the mayor is in New Hampshire and isn’t budging, and just decided to call in the police and the tear gas preemptively, and Peter and Eli are angry about that. In this shot, Eli has Rachael on one line and Peter on the other and is making them talk to each other by holding his phones together. See? He’s a UNITER.
But he also huffily sniffs that he has realized his efforts are NOT APPRECIATED by Peter, chiefly because he doesn’t think Peter is listening to him enough. It’s as if he hadn’t come to terms with the fact that the person behind the Power, who tells themselves they are the real one in charge, often is just the person literally standing behind the Power.
10. This Piece of Tape
Tape here is stuck to Alicia’s podium, and she becomes obsessed with picking it off, because I guess if you can’t touch EITHER of the men you are willing to let see you naked, you might as well fondle some office supplies. She scratches at it and scratches at it…
… and looks like a moron at the beginning of the debate because Niles Crane starts out all lively and she’s staring at the floor and appears surprised when she is called upon to speak. This show LOVES to have Alicia look like a moron and then RISE FROM THE ASHES. She literally gets cut off several times because she can’t compose a rebuttal, and gets distracted by the brand new digital countdown clock. Which her team had anticipated, but still. IT’S A DIGITAL CLOCK. It’s not a Debate Countdown Sundial made of robots and shaped like a phallus. I’m not sure why she needed to do a double-take. Maybe they should have had her practice by standing next to the timer on her microwave.
The debate is halted because the news cut away to the Grand Jury verdict, which OF COURSE, because honestly, only like ten people were going to watch this. Alicia’s team had told her not to eat so she wouldn’t barf from nerves all over the podium, so she sneaks to the kitchen of the hotel (?) where they’re holding this sucker… and so does Niles, for the same reason. Their friendly chatter over a snack turns into an off-camera unofficial debate to see if they actually differ on that much stuff, and THAT blows up into a ton of people coming in to hang out and listen to them and weigh in, which in turn leads to Alicia getting the upper hand — all because of sandwiches. Yes, SANDWICHES SAVED ALICIA’S CAMPAIGN.
And now I want one. Even though hers seems fairly hastily made. Alicia, you could lawyer me stupid in ten seconds, but I have much to teach you about the noble art of the sandwich.
8. Niles Crane
Niles appears to be winning the televised portion, at least for most of it, but he falters in Sandwichgate at the end. So he decides to release a statement saying he thinks the responsible thing to do is postpone the rest of the debate after the Grand Jury verdict and Take To The Streets to support everyone. Alicia’s entire team sees this as a huge blunder, telling her to make haste to the podium so the cameras will come back to see her standing there, ready, and him completely missing. I had wondered if we’d see a consequence to her decision to do so in this episode, but we don’t, so for now we’re meant to think Niles’s six-point lead — or eight-point lead, depending on which team you’re talking to — may be about to evaporate.
Sorry, Niles. You really are quite good on this show. His throwaway “We’re in this madness together” facial expressions — the ones which REALLY confuse you, and Alicia, and everyone, about whether he’s as good a guy as he makes out — are marvelous.
Alicia wins Sandwichgate by arguing, finally, that because she’s seen what prosecuting attorneys do wrong in court, she’d be a better State’s Attorney than Niles: “I’m not trying to remake the world. I don’t think I can change people. I can change the office.” Niles tries to throw it in Alicia’s face that she’s represented a lot of questionable people, but she points out that this is EXACTLY why people should vote for her. There is a racial element to a lot of this which makes the following final salvo more relevant than my recap would lead you to believe: “I’ve had enough of pretty words,” she says. “I’ve had enough of novices who throw their hands up when they realize they can’t stop racism.” The peanut gallery basically applauds her assertion that she isn’t as pie-in-the-sky as Niles is, and therefore, can tackle ACTUAL problems instead of being bummed out that the fancy promises she made turned out to be unrealistic. Niles’ handler scoots him out of there as fast as he can. The moral of this story: NEVER give your opponent cheese and carbs before an argument.
I mean, see how she looked before?
At some point they made her lose the chain, and I can’t remember why. Maybe Diane called and asked for her motif back.
Well, I guess Alicia isn’t in favor of Gun Control. ZING.
However, Alicia realizes at the end of the episode what she seemed NOT to have cottoned to before, which is: This isn’t an “and” situation. It’s her firm OR the elected office. This hits her when Diane and Cary unilaterally make a personnel decision without consulting her — entirely due to one of Alicia’s clients having to be handled now by someone else — and she starts to throw a tizzy that she wasn’t included in this discussion. “You’re running for State’s Attorney. That was a decision for all of us,” Diane snaps. “And it was all about Castro. Well, Castro’s not in the race. Why are you still in?” Irritatingly, Alicia plays the gender card here, insisting that nobody would be giving her a hard time about whether she actually wants to win if she were a man. Frankly, I wanted to tell her to shut it here. They’re asking because you kept swearing TO THEM that you didn’t want to run. Then you decided to run, but insisted it was an act of selfless altruism because The Big Bad Wolf shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the nice cozy brick house he inherited when he ate those three pigs. Now you’re acting annoyed because they have to handle business so that the firm exists without you. And BOOM, that’s what blows up on her: that the firm will exist without her. It has nothing to do with your gender — like, DO NOT tell DIANE FREAKING LOCKHART that she’s being a chauvinist about you — and everything to do with the fact that they’re annoyed with you. And frankly, quite rightly.
I like Alicia, and I am ALL for eating as much of the cake you have as is possible, but you do not get to decide unilaterally to bag on your law partners and then get irritated when they learn how to write you out of the firm. Great coat, though. Have fun storming the castle.
6. Pastors Jeremiah and Isaiah
These two are recurring religious and social and political influencers whom Peter has used repeatedly when he needs to appeal to a specific demographic.So they get points for said influence, and then lose some for the fact that they know Peter is manipulating him and let him do it anyway.
Peter gives his “I want to be effective” speech here — context: Isaiah says also that he has prayed for Peter to be a good man, and Peter says all that and then finishes with, “Tonight, I need to be effective. Pray for that.” He and Isaiah are on the way to speak at the courthouse, where people are rallying and maybe going to start a massive protest. Jeremiah is procuring the widow of the dead man, and Peter will walk with her through a tunnel of chanting people, before speaking to the throng with her. Isaiah seems to find this distasteful, but participates anyway, perhaps because he grudgingly sees Peter’s logic that sometimes your principles get in the way of something bigger.
5. Cary and Diane
Look how happy they are:
The episode begins with them celebrating his return, sans Alicia of course, and ends with them putting their heads together to run the firm without her. Team Agos Lockhart. Team Al. I am TEAM AL. (Note: They have not said they will take Alicia’s name off the firm. I am doing that myself in solidarity.)
“I’m sorry, what? I have to wear a double-strand this week because Alicia got my chain? Screw it. I will lawyer her right out of this building.”
The plot: After much back and forth and drama, Diane and Cary end up losing Neil Gross — ChumHum — as a client. It isn’t entirely their fault; he’s basically a dink. But their opponent was David Lee, and somehow Diane and Cary decide that the way to mitigate the loss of Gross is by bringing Lee back into the firm (I don’t THINK Neil Gross took his business to David, as David was representing the ex-wife; it must just be that David brings lots of rich billings?).
So they confront him in a parking lot, and in the thrill of victory, he walks up and makes out with them. NO. But he should have. Look at them. I want to walk up and make out with them. They are this week’s clear style winners, and bonus points for finally forcing Alicia to confront her shit and admit that the reason she’s in the State’s Attorney’s race is that she wants to win it and it’s more important to her than anything else. I mean… seriously, telling Diane Lockhart that she was being gender-biased? Alicia, you just brought a cucumber to a knife fight.
4. David Lee
I hate it when he’s happy. But, I also love it when he’s happy. So it’s a confusing time for me.
3. Neil Gross
This guy has had all this show’s various firms by the balls for years. In choosing to quit them, he gives them one final hard squeeze, and the ensuing addition of David Lee and the Alicia/Diane/Cary stuff boiling over can be directly chased to a) his cheating wang, and b) the fact that he’s awful and prefers to blame others for his problems.
This week, Peter has a good portion of the upper hand. He basically starts an off-camera war with the Chicago mayor. He sort of ignores Eli, but dumps Ramona anyway (OR DOES HE?). He gets the pastors to do what he wants, even if one or both of them is squeamish about being used. And he may have stopped a possibly brewing riot? It’s not clear, but Peter seems to have emerged this week rich with political capital, AND has buried the news of his infidelity with a story about him joining hands with a dead man’s brave widow to try and keep the city’s peace. In Breaking Bad parlance, HE is the one who knocks. Until Lemond Bishop does, I guess, but he’s not in this episode either. WHAT ARE HIS TIES DOING?
The show appears to have ripped this story from the headlines BEFORE the Ferguson Grand Jury verdict, and wants you to know it. Still, the spectre of Ferguson hangs over the entire hour, because the show STILL pretty much would’ve had to act quickly in choosing to plot and script this hour, and there’s definitely a discussion to be had about whether it’s too soon for the show to turn a terrible time in American society and history into a plot device.
Race is discussed at length. Eli brings his African-American employee out into the field with him, and she calls him out on the fact that he NEVER lets her leave the office, and whether he’s doing it because of the color of her skin. He then makes a comment about how she’s not the same as “those” black people — the ones who might riot — making him the unwitting voice of casual racism via class snobbery. During Sandwichgate, Alicia and Niles privately debate whether affirmative action is cronyism; he argues the SA’s office is completely white (I guess ASA Geneva Pine has been forgotten), and that solving what’s broken in it begins with diverse hiring, and she argues that it should be a meritocracy because competence is the issue, not color. They are then interrupted by an African-American kitchen worker who points out that part of the problem is that he’s being given a choice between two white people as a way of “solving” issues related to black people. THEN he — as the audience in the kitchen gets larger — suggests things like not prosecuting as many drug crimes (Alicia and Niles are both like “I KNOW RIGHT”) because “it puts black people in prison,” to which his African-American FRIEND says, “Well maybe they should be [in prison],” because leaving criminals out on the streets committing crimes isn’t actually a boon to anyone. Back and forth, back and forth.
It feels like The Good Wife fancied itself a little too much by trying to bite off all this, and then may have marginalized it too much by using it as window-dressing to further two characters’ political careers (Peter’s, and then either Alicia’s or Niles’). Ferguson is too fresh to be a framing device. Particularly one in which, yes, two white characters who are using the discussion for self-advancement are the loudest mouthpieces. This might have been a more effective long-arc story. If it was going to be told, perhaps not hurrying it to market would’ve been prudent. This is a precarious issue that demands thoughtful treatment — we are, I think, too close even to the events of August 2014 to be spitting them back out in the form of fiction in January 2015 — and although The Good Wife has a room full of smart writers who give pretty words to great actors, what emerged felt like a slapdash patch job. It left me wondering what they were really saying. Whether we’ll see or hear this race-relations or protest plotline ever again. Is there a long game? What are they saying? The show seemed to take great pains to make sure various viewpoints came of the mouth of diverse people, and aired a few different sides to a few different arguments. But overall, the episode didn’t do much to bring home the events of Ferguson to the people who might want to put their fingers in their ears and pretend that time has passed — and if bringing them home wasn’t the intent, what was? Building a dramatic springboard? TV programs should be allowed to try and unpack and parse current events. But this felt too big and too soon. These are fake people in a remote fake Chicago who can solve whatever problems they WANT if a benevolent writer deems it so, but we’re all staring at an America that doesn’t have an easy fix.
What do you think?
- Well handled, but too soon (14%, 91 Votes)
- Well handled and NOT too soon. (20%, 133 Votes)
- Not that well handled, and also too soon (38%, 248 Votes)
- NOT too soon, but not that well handled. (27%, 179 Votes)
Total Voters: 651