About five and a half minutes into this week’s episode of The Good Wife, two white guys in suits begin talking about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, while three other white guys in suits look on. The reference is a throwaway; the camera almost immediately cuts away and the dialogue fades into the background before anyone really gets into the meat of the topic. The mention is almost certainly included as a way to ground the audience in the idea that The Good Wife’s universe is our own and these events are happening in real time.
The problem with merely paying lip service to the events in Ferguson on a series like this is it gets people (i.e. me) thinking about things the show doesn’t necessarily intend for me to be thinking about in the moment. It’s similar to how the show very prominently takes place in Chicago, with the state of Illinois’ problems factoring often in storylines, yet the show’s racial diversity falls far short of representing Chicago’s diverse population.
Similarly, this episode brings us back to the ongoing trials (literally) of Cary Agos, our much maligned male protagonist — he’s fallen in on the wrong side of the State’s Attorney and a drug dealer, and can’t quite extricate himself from the pickle he finds himself in. But as mentioned in previous reviews and evidenced again tonight, Cary, while having it bad, doesn’t have it near as bad as someone less affluent or, well, white would have it in the same position. Case in point, the henchmen of Lemond Bishop who, for the life of them (again, literally) can’t keep themselves from being bumped off.
Cary is under siege, sure, but he’s still alive. And why is that, really? He’s no more valuable or meaningful to Bishop than any of his other employees. Bishop seems to have no moral qualms about knocking off associates who he views as threats to his personal security. So why not Cary? Maybe it’s because Cary is white and affluent and his death wouldn’t escape notice or furor, unlike the mysterious deaths of so many street kids. Is the Good Wife aware of this? Do they want us to be? Are they commenting on race by not commenting on race or is this another show (albeit among the best) generally only concerned about the affairs of the Caucasian 1%?
Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have an answer to any of those questions. Hopefully the show does.
That said, there were a lot of other things that happened that had less to do with racial and socio-economic theorizing and more to do with Alicia being a surprising fount of cringe humor, who continues to stumble through her campaign like an eight year old at overnight camp for the first time. Guest star David Hyde Pierce appears as Frank Prady, a late entry to the State’s Attorney race and the latest entry into The Good Wife pantheon of former sitcom star foils. (See also: Michael J. Fox, Matthew Perry.) Alicia struggles this episode because she’s uncomfortable asking for things which seems like the most politician-y thing of all. No politician wants to ask for things. They want things to be given to them. They only ask so the people feel like part of the process. Alicia doesn’t want to ask people for favors or ask the public to vote for her. She just wants them to do it. (Confidential note to Alicia Florrick: If you’re going to sit around and wait for the world to recognize you for being wonderful, you may have a long wait. Signed, Been There, Done That.) But that’s where she’s at right now. Even when she’s being a bad politician it’s because she’s a politician at heart.
At this point, the only thing Alicia is truly bad at is playing the game, even though she knows all the rules. She wants to get by doing things her own way but by episode end, and with Prady’s office drop-in screw you, she’s slowly but surely getting in the game and going for the throat, which is all any of us have ever wanted for her.
Meanwhile, Finn Polmar broke out the patented “Carrie Matheson wall o’ crazy” attempting to fight back after losing his motion to push back Cary’s trial date which led him to Geneva, Cary’s former co-worker. She, in turn, led him to the revelation that two kilos of cocaine on a Lemond Bishop case went missing on Cary’s watch back when he was Deputy State’s Attorney. All of which turned out to be very complicated, involved Peter, involved the missing witness in the Bishop trial, and ended up with said witness dead, Castro throwing away a sure thing on a Bishop case just to screw Alicia, and Finn unemployed. There were a lot of moving parts, I assure you.
And yet with all those moving parts it felt a little bit like wheel-spinning. Finn’s out of the State’s Attorney’s office and that’s an exciting development but Cary’s situation continues to be one unending, unyielding, unchanging bummer. With a dead witness and Castro hell-bent on his destruction, I’m just not sure what change can come with Cary’s position at this juncture. It’s about an episode and a half away from being straight up misery porn, which is something I never expected to encounter on this show. And this after they gunned down a main character.
Ultimately, brilliant show is brilliant, if not perfect. Criticizing this season feels like nitpicking but brilliance does not equal perfection and anything less than perfection leaves us here. As it stands, the show is clearly confident with the direction of the campaign arc even as it wobbles with the trial arc. It’s still functional, still compelling but at heart feels akin to Florrick, Agos, and Lockhart itself: Everything is in the same universe but the paths intersect less and less. Eventually, something will get knocked out of orbit and send the entire thing into a tailspin. Let’s just hope it happens during sweeps!
- Cranky Finn should know better than to get on the wrong side of Sweeney Todd.
- The music was doing interesting things this episode, switching between the classical norm and something distinctly poppier but I didn’t have time to rewatch and see if there was a pattern. Let me know in comments if you decoded anything.
- I forgot to predict this a few weeks ago but there’s really no way that Lockhart/Gardner/Canning/Whatever doesn’t end up in that leased 27th floor by season end, right?
- I love Angry Judge. I hope he never leaves us. I want an Angry Judge Funko figure. Speaking of which, where are my goddamn Good Wife Funko figures?!
- I’m not loving Connie Nielsen as Peter’s new lawyer (and almost certainly secret baby mama) Ramona.
- “I miss you.” Daaaaaaaaamn. Cary and Kalinda were on point this week and having them 30 feet apart seems to be the potency equivalent of Alicia and Will sharing an elevator. (RIP)
- Opening credit appearance: 10:18