‘The Good Wife’ Season 6 Episode 13 Recap: “Dark Money”


When last we met The Good Wife, nearly two months ago, 2015 was still young and full of promise. Before taking a seven week hiatus, one imagines that the show hoped to go out strong, leaving the audience wanting more. Sadly, The Good Wife’s last episode was much more akin to an “ill-advised one-night stand you can’t get out of your apartment the next morning” than a “love at first sight, when can I see you again” encounter.

All was not lost, however, because there’s a lot of this season left and nothing to imply that the show couldn’t come back from its break in fine form. Except it didn’t.

This week’s episode, “Dark Money,” committed the cardinal sin of prestige drama: It was really, really boring. As repetitive as the Cary incarceration storyline was to begin the season, the storyline at least had stakes to keep the audience passively engaged. So far, the back half of Season 6 has offered no such investment, as Alicia’s campaign remains profoundly uninspiring. Which is to say nothing of Kalinda’s stealth remake of Adventures in Babysitting, which has the singular distinction of leaving me desperate for Kalinda to sleep with Lemond Bishop, if only to move the interminable plot along. That’s right. So ingrained has the writers “have Kalinda sleep with them all and let God sort them out” policy become in my subconscious that I’m actually confused and frightened when that isn’t her solution to a jam she’s in.

But neither of these plots hold a candle to the true energy vampire of the episode, the return of Colin Sweeney. This is Sweeney’s eighth (EIGHTH) appearance on the show, dating back to The Good Wife’s very first season. The reason he’s back this time is that he’s suing a Law and Order ripped from the headlines type of show that used his (alleged) wife murdering as fodder for an episode and portrayed him in quite an unflattering light. Things quickly spiral out of control as the prosecutor tells the judge that it can’t be libelous if Sweeney actually did kill his wife and things proceed apace. Nothing ultimately comes from the entire matter, as by episode’s end they’re able to settle out of court and the entire plot seems ham-handedly orchestrated to further illustrate the great moral conflict that Alicia finds herself constantly besieged by.

Were the aimlessness of the subplot not underwhelming enough, the show also invested in a strange absurdist bent, having Dylan Baker (who plays Sweeney) and Laura Benanti (who plays Sweeney’s new wife Renata) playing the roles of husband and (murdered) wife on the Law and Order clone. As funny as The Good Wife can be, the choice just played as bizarre, as though they had completely run out of things for Baker to do in the role and, seeing as this is his eighth episode, they aren’t wrong.

Such miscalculations were everywhere throughout “Dark Money” including the truly strange choice of having Ed Asner playing a modern-day Archie Bunker and using the “f word” (not that one, the other one) in reference to Alicia’s opponent for State’s Attorney and rumored homosexual Frank Prady, no less than a half-dozen times. Asner’s character is a rich democratic donor from Arizona whose support would go a long way to fill the candidates’ coffers heading into the final stretch of the campaign but the show does nothing to use his prejudice to say anything larger or deeper than simply: Sometimes people are awful and, again, Alicia is conflicted. A wealthy Democratic donor, full of both sexist and bigoted rhetoric is a perfect opportunity to comment on the occasional false face of liberalism but it’s yet another opportunity, much like the failed Ferguson reference in the previous episode, that the show squanders and fumbles, simply by not being bold enough to do anything more than namecheck atrocities.

Meanwhile, in bizarro world, the strongest thread of the week revolves around Kalinda acting as chauffeur for Lemond Bishop’s son Dylan and being forced into being his reluctant confidante. This is apparently the favor that Bishop needed Kalinda’s services for and unless the show is going to go so far as to kill an innocent child, it’s difficult to see exactly where this plot is going — unless the imminent exit of Archie Panjabi and likely exit of Mike Colter (recently cast as Luke Cage in Netflix’s upcoming Jessica Jones series) means that Kalinda, Lemond, and Dylan are on the verge of running away together and starting over as an unconventional family in the witness protection program. Which is a show I would totally watch.

But, as always, everything comes back to Alicia. When The Good Wife doesn’t work, it’s almost always because whatever is happening with Alicia isn’t working. At this point in the season, I regret bemoaning the repetitive nature of Cary’s trial because nothing could be more wheel-spinny than Alicia’s campaign. Again and again the show beats the drum of Alicia’s moral struggle, as though this is somehow a new conflict for the character, despite it being a repeated point of contention for her since day one. Hell, I talked about how the characters have always existed in a moral grey area in the first recap of the season, so to act as if Alicia taking dirty money, or not defending a good man, or helping a bad man beat a murder rap is some new crossroads is not only laughable, it’s worse: It’s dull.

Quick hits:

  • This episode was so boring I repeatedly forgot I was watching it and had to rewind.
  • Someone go over to PBS and drag Matthew Goode back from Downton Abbey by his hair.
  • Why the hell couldn’t the C plot have been about Marisa Gold’s time in the Israel Defense Forces?
  • Shout out to the Television Critics Association, an organization that literally only television critics know exists.
  • I would also watch a show where Kalinda just wandered around and beat up children.
  • I imagine exes Laura Benanti and Steven Pasquale giving each other the stink eye over the craft services table between shooting scenes of this episode.
  • Still, Alicia’s campaign using @tobyziegler44 as a way to anonymously (and illegally) communicate with her PAC was pretty great.
  • Opening credit appearance: 13:18