Many of the questions that have shaped — or perhaps plagued — The Good Wife in the year since Josh Charles left have been "Now what?" questions. After Will left the show, we wondered how Alicia would move forward in the face of that grief. After Cary and Alicia struck out on their own and started a new firm (and were later joined by Diane), we wondered how they'd function as partners. We wondered whether Cary really would go to prison, and then wondered how the experience and his eventual exoneration would change his life. And most of all, we've spent this season wondering how the show might change if Alicia actually won the state's attorney's race.
One of the main reasons this season has felt so uneven is that broadly speaking, the show's been more successful in teeing up those questions than it's been in answering them. Fortunately, last night's episode began to tackle some of those stories head on both by beginning to explore the future of the firm and by showing us how complicated Alicia's new role as state's attorney is — even though she hasn't technically taken office yet.
It was clear during the campaign that Alicia had big ideas for her term, and that she didn't have an idealized or romanticized view of what the position would entail (she has Peter to thank for that, at least in part). But she still seemed equally unprepared for the pile of gifts waiting for her in her office at the firm as she was for the long, long line of men asking her for (professional) favors. James Castro is the first to stop by — as ever, I wonder if people who didn't see Michael Cerveris as Sweeney Todd find him as creepy as those of us who did — and he asks Alicia to keep his current deputy in place during her administration, too. It's a bit of an odd request, if only because Castro's motives aren't clear. Is he helping out a colleague? Legitimately trying to maintain continuity? Or is he, as his admonishment to Alicia that incoming state's attorneys don't investigate their predecessor might indicate, just trying to cover his own ass?
Gus Redmayne's the next to come knocking, and he manages to really efficiently balance truly appalling sexual harassment with demands that Alicia appoint an old friend of his as deputy. I'm still not sure why a wealthy political operative from out of state would be so concerned with a city-level political role, but I'll take as much Ed Asner on my television as I can get, especially when he's throwing down lines like, "I spent seven figures putting you into office. It won’t cost me nearly as much to get you out of it." He ends his visit by referring to Lemond Bishop as one of the "colored guys," so it's a pretty classless look all around.
As for Bishop, he wants help with his "transition out of the business," meaning he wants Alicia to call off any investigation into his crimes. Alicia tries to barter with him by saying she'd be happy to help him if he testifies against his lieutenants. Bishop says he'd never do that, and reminds Alicia that he founded and funded her PAC; Alicia counters by reminding him she never asked him to do so. True, but she didn't exactly stop him, either. Bishop punches the wall and storms out. That outburst is scary, and while we've heard Bishop say plenty of fear-inducing things in his time on the show, "Please extend me the courtesy of not interrupting me" is among the most bone-chilling. Polite Bishop is just plain terrifying.
Eli gets wind of Alicia's "just say no" campaign and barges into her office, furious. Angry Eli Gold is one of the best things about The Good Wife, and he hits Alicia with sage, enraged advice, like "Be a Disney Princess on your own time. But don't tell moneymen … anything but what they want to hear." He tells her to respond to all requests with a "thank you," a reassurance that all options remain open, and a commitment to decide within 48 hours. This leads to a second meeting with Redmayne, in which she appeases him and he reveals his love for Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." Alicia meets with Castro and Bishop again, too, but at the end of the day, she offers the deputy role to Finn Bolmar.
Meanwhile, the rest of the firm is busy with a case involving a movie producer who's suing WharfMaster, an illegal pirating site, for leaking a movie before its theatrical release. WharfMaster's fans are angry with Florrick/Agos/Gardner for threatening the site, so they hack and leak the firm's network and start sharing private emails online. It's catastrophic for everyone in the firm — Diane's hurt by Cary's emails about how her husband needs to give it to her harder to get the stick out of her ass, Cary finds out that Diane thought his going to prison wouldn't represent a great loss, and David Lee starts frantically battling the rumors that he's gay. Alicia's originally spared the worst of it, because the hacked emails only cover the last four months, a period during which she was only using her campaign email address.
But then the hackers double down, threatening to release two years' worth of emails. Alicia sends Marissa back through her account, telling her to search for the words Will, Bishop, and Peter. "Will" brings up emails about phone sex and "being a servant to your body," and there's an email to Peter that refers to Castro as a sweaty misanthrope, which actually just seems like an accurate observation. I feel like the fact that these emails weren't released by The Good Wife on Twitter or at CBS's website or anything — at least they hadn't been as I'm writing this — it seems like a missed opportunity for some trans-media fun.
Finally, the suit gets settled and the hackers are called off, but the cost of replacing equipment, rebuilding networks, and cell technology because of the attack has hit the firm hard, and it has a negative bearing on Alicia's buyout offer from the firm — she has to leave the firm to be the state's attorney, something I should've realized sooner, but I'd imagined the state's attorney position to be something like a City Council position, something you do on top of a professional role elsewhere. The partners leverage this to ultimately offer Alicia a buyout of $100,000, even less than they'd offered at the top of the episode. Alicia, cool as ever, looks each partner in the eye and says, "I want you all to know that this offer does not in any way impact my consideration of your criminal cases when I’m SA."
It's a ballsy threat, to be sure, but considering how proud Diane and Alicia were at the beginning of this season to be partners in one of the country's largest female-fronted law firms, I'm not applauding Alicia here. I'm a tiny bit heartbroken. Is this really how it ends?