The Good Wife
“You win the election. You think it’s over. It’s never over.”
Alicia learned that the hard way on last night’s episode of The Good Wife. We’ll get to that, but before we do: I don’t quite buy the incredulity with which Alicia has approached this entire electoral process. She’s been a political wife for years, and she’s seen the reality of taking office firsthand. She knows politics is an engine fueled by scandal and corruption, and for her to act otherwise has felt odd, all season long. Maybe the writing here is intentionally overlooking this in order to tell a better story (which is at least a little understandable), but maybe we’re being led to believe that Alicia thought that because this time it was HER campaign, things would be different. We’ve seen more and more of that superior side of Alicia this season — it’s at least in part what gave her the gumption to run — and it’s been a little unsettling to see that she’s bought into the myth of Saint Alicia.
And last night, Saint Alicia got royally, royally screwed over. Eli learns the investigation into possible voter fraud in Alicia’s election will be going forward — apparently, some of the touch screens involved were tampered with, causing votes for Prady to register for Alicia. (This is something real-life Chicago voters are unfortunately familiar with.) And when Prady sends a lawyer to a “friendly” meeting with Alicia rather than turning up himself, it’s clear that Prady’s finished bending over backwards to accommodate Alicia, which sends her and Marissa to meet with the state DNC chair, Frank Landau.
Landau connects Alicia with highly regarded, semi-famous attorney Spencer Randolph (the outstanding, immaculately bespectacled Ron Rifkin), who represents her throughout the election board proceedings. Parillo, Prady’s representative, has lots of tricks up his sleeve — after Rifkin says Parillo’s claims based on how precincts should have broken down statistically are bogus, Parillo counters that Peter “all but assured” Alicia’s victory in the press the morning of the election. (Irony of ironies, Peter was only doing that to piss Alicia off.) Parillo claims Peter was certain of her victory because he oversaw voting machines given to Illinois through a federal act, and so he had every chance to tamper with them.
Only he DIDN’T oversee them, and here’s where I’ll pause to point out one of the key problems with last night’s episode: This was all excruciatingly slow and frustrating to watch, especially alongside the continued onslaught of the Kalinda and the Metadata story line (which we’ll get to in a second). In part, that frustration served the storytelling — of course this was frustrating to watch unfold because the electoral recount process is sheer, near-lawless agony, like an endless, higher-stakes game of Jenga played underwater. Seriously, this is how elections are made now? Really? Sharing that frustration actually pulled me closer to the story, and to Alicia’s experience. But on another level, it’s just frustrating that The Good Wife continues to tell these election stories, because frankly, an episode of The Good Wife in which Alicia is continuing to run for office is no longer The Good Wife at its best. It’s way past time we settled this.
And even after all of that, it still isn’t settled. Alicia tracks down the man who really DID oversee the voting machines, Ernie Nolan, who tried to bribe Alicia way back when she first declared as a State’s Attorney candidate. He then tries to claim Alicia blamed HIM, and then there are half a dozen other twists and turns, and then, even when it looks like it all might fall on Alicia’s side, Landau from the DNC tells her she’s going to need to step aside. If the recount continues, other candidates on the ballot might come into question, and that will put the Democrats in the state house short of their two-thirds super majority. Alicia’s horrified, and tells Spencer Randolph she— wants to stand up and keep fighting despite the DNC’s threat to go after her or Peter if she does. Spencer assures her he understands, then stands up in the hearing, announces Alicia’s been lying the whole time, and publicly encourages her to step down. It’s cruel — there’s no other word for it — and when Alicia confronts him, saying she’d trusted and admired him, he says smugly, “Your problem can be summed up in three words: two-thirds majority.” It’s no wonder she breaks down in Peter’s arms a few minutes later, the first full-on loss of control we’ve seen from her since Will died.
Meanwhile, back at the firm’s offices, Diane muses, “And here we are back again. Right back at the beginning.” Diane’s referring, of course, to the presence of Geneva Pine in her office, offering Diane immunity from prosecution for using the email with the falsified metadata to save Cary. (On a related note, raise your hand if you’re ready to never hear the word metadata again.) Earlier in the episode, Diane learns that Kalinda falsified the email and let her use it; together with David and Cary, they decide to go to the police review board and tell them the truth. Cary begs Kalinda for the chance to be her attorney, which is a little odd — if anything, it’s shocking that he’s not angry with her, since doesn’t this mean Cary could face prosecution again? Or is that double jeopardy? (Despite seeing the feature film Double Jeopardy twice — I have a thing for Tommy Lee Jones — I’m still not sure how it works.)
Once Geneva learns about the falsified email, everyone’s back in court in front of the judge who heard Cary’s case, who likens the whole deal to a bad Spider-Man remake or sequel. The judge makes it clear that Diane’s actions are very serious — again, I’m no lawyer, but I feel like if you don’t know you’re doing something illegal, you should maybe get a pass — and that he’ll hear arguments the next day. He also makes it clear that this is something Diane could spend years in prison over. And that’s when Geneva comes to Diane with the aforementioned deal: Testify against Lemond Bishop, and we’ll let all of this slide. Gears start turning in Kalinda’s head, and Cary realizes she’s considering turning on Bishop herself. Cary goes to Geneva and says HE’S going to be the one to testify against Bishop, which is either really, really gallant or really, really dumb.
There are only three episodes remaining in The Good Wife’s sixth season (and not for nothing, but even though experts have called the show’s renewal a sure thing, we still don’t know for sure that there will be a seventh). I’d truly thought these last few episodes would be Alicia’s victory lap, but here I am, absolutely unsure where Alicia will be when the series finale airs. On any other show, that’s troubling, but this is The Good Wife. I can’t help but be excited.