I watched last night’s episode of The Good Wife with my friend Amy, who’s currently plowing through the show’s earlier seasons but hasn’t seen any recent episodes. “I don’t understand,” she said shortly after the second triumphant swell of xylophone music and just before the opening credits. “Has the tone of the show really changed?” I spent a good deal of time assuring her that it hasn’t — scary, dancing dream-clowns notwithstanding — but last night’s episode was so wobbly and all over the place that I certainly can’t blame her for asking.
To be fair, after four packed, plot- and character-heavy episodes, we were probably due for a lull, but this episode wasn’t just a break in season six’s momentum, it was weird. How did we go from Diane earnestly telling Alicia in the season premiere that the two of them were on the brink of creating one of the largest firms in the nation run by women to her fussing over leaky pipes and burnt-out lightbulbs? The cockroaches were legitimately disgusting, sure, and Diane’s the definition of polished, but I have a hard time believing she’d sulk about the state of the office to begin with. (Her decision to steal the Lockhart/Gardner offices — which she still holds the lease to — by episode’s end is much more like the Diane I know.)
I also have a hard time believing she’s careless enough to click on malware, but that’s the conflict that drove most of the episode: Diane accidentally clicks on a ransomware ad (another in the list of things I’ve learned about the existence of through episodes of The Good Wife), which threatens to erase all of the firm’s files if they don’t deliver $50,000 within 72 hours. “Dear God, this is like a nightmare,” Cary moans, which is a nice bit of hyperbole from someone who was in ACTUAL PRISON like a week ago. The stakes are high, especially since the firm spent its file backup funds on Cary’s bond money, but stories about computers are notoriously difficult to tell in an interesting way, so it’s a bit of a bust. But it wasn’t a total loss: Kalinda finally bringing the data pirate down by threatening to flood his hard drives with pro–Pussy Riot propaganda was a timely little joke, and Eli’s response to the entire ordeal brought us the line of the episode: “Why are all the computers in here counting down? I feel like I’m in a Bruckheimer movie.”
And Carrie Preston is back, but while Elsbeth Tascioni has been reliable and welcome comic relief in the past, in this episode, she feels way more like a punch line. We’ve never been explicitly told what, exactly, makes Elsbeth the way she is, and I was excited when the promos for last night’s episode suggested we might get a better sense of how she thinks. But I’m disappointed with what we were given. Sure, Elsbeth’s always been scatterbrained and quirky as hell, but I’m not sure why the show took those external character traits and expressed them as an inner life full of ice-cream cones, cruise liners with dancing smokestacks, talking clowns, frolicking skeleton children, and witches on broomsticks. At best, it’s unoriginal (“Hey, I bet that scatterbrained lady is always thinking about shiny stuff!”). At worst, it seems just the slightest bit offensive and reductive, and that takes away from what Elsbeth’s there to do: represent a corporation being sued for wrongful, sexist termination by its female former CEO. The case touches on some essential conversation about bossiness and bitchiness and respect, which just makes the scenes of Elsbeth’s inner life seem even more glib and out of place.
Meanwhile, Alicia’s poised to announce her candidacy for State’s Attorney and has asked Finn Polmar to introduce and endorse her at her speech. He agrees — jury’s out as to whether he’s in search of a national stage, trying to stick it to his boss, or just flirting with Alicia — but Eli insists that Peter and only Peter introduce her. Peter and Alicia have a startlingly frank argument about it in the corridor next to the conference room at the rehearsal; it’s a really great mirror of their exchange just outside a similar conference room in the show’s pilot, when Alicia told Peter she wouldn’t stand by him anymore. But things are different now — Alicia knows who she is and what she wants now, and she tells Peter that if he doesn’t show up to introduce her, her campaign will be just fine, but he’ll be stuck fielding question after question about why he doesn’t support his wife. She throws the hookers he’s slept with back in his face and he (for the first time?) tells her to just get over it already.
For once, I’m sort of on Peter’s side. The marriage in which those wrongs were done is over. They’re still married, but the relationship they’re in now is a different arrangement. Would you scream at your business partner for mistakes he made six years ago, or simply try to move on? Redefining that relationship throughout Alicia’s campaign will likely be a big part of this season’s storytelling, but for now: Peter shows up, makes a brief introduction, and then stands by her as she speaks. The media goes wild for the visual, and I’m pretty fond of it, too.
- “Well. That was fairly crass.” —Diane, responding to the phrase “just as soon as monkeys fly out of my butt”
- I may be blanking on a major moment from a recent episode, but did we ever see Alicia officially inform Cary and Diane that she’d be running for State’s Attorney? They didn’t find out by catching the rerun of her speech on C-SPAN, did they?
- I call shenanigans on the cockroach that undid Diane. I know my way around an arthropod, and that’s a Madagascar hissing cockroach — a drawer in a Chicago law firm is an awfully long way from home.