‘The Good Wife’ Season 6 Episode 11 Recap: “Hail Mary”

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Television series and people have a lot of things in common, but perhaps one of the most common similarities is that as they both get long in the tooth, they tend to rely on crutches. In both instances, what’s at work is a fundamental destabilization of the predominant framework, be it the human body or the recurring elements of a show. The Good Wife, after seeming to find a fountain of youth in the back half of Season 4 and front half of Season 5, has, as we reach the heart of Season 6, seemed to grow old overnight.

The show has always had a lot of tricks up its sleeve, a particularly apt description as this week’s episode, “Hail Mary” seemed particularly intent on drawing the audience’s attention from the fact that it was a messy, near incoherent episode of television, deceiving them into believing that it was as taut and measured as the show has ever been. Alas, this was not the case. That they seemed (from the ever accurate Twitter barometer) to persuade so many individuals is a testament to the strength of the series and the excitement packed into the increasingly chaotic universe strategically built by Michelle and Robert King.

Of the many crutches utilized this week, some were more blatantly egregious than others. Always one for an interesting guest star, the show rolled out Chris Elliott to play a pothead professor who was to be Alicia’s debate prep sparring partner before petering out halfway through. As unnecessary as the character was, it was even more bizarre to have a “name” actor in the part, serving only to underline what an ill-fit the story was in an already strained episode. But more problematic than underwritten guest stars was the episode’s heavy-handed use of both score and time.

David Buckley, the show’s composer is responsible for some of the finest compositions on television, but over-reliance on his anxious string section results in empty tension that registers more irritating than involving. Said score is required to be driving because of the episode’s arbitrary time crunch, in which Florrick, Agos, & Lockhart is scrambling to find evidence to clear Cary’s name (see also: the first 10 episodes of the season) before he’s hauled off to prison for good.

This would be a concerning turn of events if the first half of the season hadn’t been entirely centered around any number of schemes to free Cary from his legal woes. Now, however, it just feels tired and repetitive. Speaking of repetitive, Kalinda was back in bed with Cary for a farewell fuck and managed to get herself caught in not one, but two situations that could and/or will get her disposed of come season’s end. She made a deal with the devil (see also: Lemond Bishop) in order to ensure that Cary had a (white) friend in prison, meaning she’s on the hook for a favor that will be called in imminently. Were that not enough, she also falsified evidence in order to free Cary, only to find out that doing so was completely unnecessary when all was said and done. Too bad it had already been used in court. Kalinda makes risky, bad decisions and is always skating on thin ice and has a lot of sexy problems and this has been the only drum the show knows how to bang for her since season two. Nowhere to be found this episode was her girlfriend who she was very involved with for the last few episodes. The problem with this is not that Kalinda’s sexuality is fluid and plentiful, but that the show uses that fact to sexualize her situations to an inordinate degree. A man called her up and told her to come screw Cary in this episode. That’s not a good use of her character and the sooner she’s freed from these sexy Sisyphean storylines the better.

It’s not merely that the episode didn’t work, but rather that the show worked very hard to make sure you didn’t notice it didn’t work. Under the guise of a deadline, the show breezes past complications and choices that make little to no sense. Going back to Cary needing a white friend in prison, when discussing his upcoming sentence with his prison consultant, he learns that there’s no such thing as post-racial lockup. This isn’t the first time that The Good Wife has made references to the current climate of race relations in the U.S. but, like we’ve seen before, this is a throwaway line and a complication set up merely to get Kalinda deeper into trouble. It would be one thing if the show chose to exist in a lily-white universe that featured occasional tokenism. There are tons of shows — high quality shows — on the air that do that and while it’s not right, it’s something the audience is sadly used to. But it’s when they choose to make glancing asides to the situation, acknowledging the increasingly fractious world we live in, without ever actually addressing the issue with any true levity or depth, that it becomes something much more akin to insulting. To ignore it to be one thing. To mention it as some sort of nod to being culturally aware, yet largely indifferent is quite another. Even if The Good Wife isn’t conscious of how that might be construed, it’s distracting and unpleasant all the same.

All of which leads us to the most off-the-wall moment of the episode when, in a fit of post-Cary freedom jubilance, Alicia kisses her campaign manager despite the show laying absolutely no groundwork for the development. Surprises are one thing but this was a moment so out of character and born entirely out of the necessity to create more needless complications for the foreseeable future. Alicia may be excited for her friend and disgusted by her husband and, hell, sexually frustrated as shit but she’s a smart woman and smart women know better than to sex where they eat. Or work. Or run for state office.

To be so down on such a brilliant show is disheartening on every level. Even when the execution is shoddy, the show oozes quality out of every pore. Sadly lost in much of this game of smoke and mirrors is the absolutely stellar performance that Matt Czuchry is turning in week after week, the quality of which is equal to the finest seasons of Margulies’ work. Also always promising is whatever Alicia is up to on her campaign in any given week. One can only hope that at some point in the very near future, they can figure out how those two elements might actually work in tandem.

Quick hits:

  • Kalinda apparently has a lot of Canadian friends. OK, I guess.
  • Nothing on this show will ever thrill me more than whenever Alicia eats Peter’s lunch. It’s my drug.
  • Except maybe Finn Polmar doing anything at all.
  • Or maybe Eli and Marisa Gold. “I’m her body woman, not her fluffer.” “When did you get so crass?”
  • Can someone send out an AMBER Alert on Robyn? For serious this time.
  • Opening credit appearance: 13:30