The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 2, “Trust Issues”
September 28, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), CBS
Alicia Florrick is always in control. She is a woman who plans five steps in advance, and who expects her life to keep up. Yet even when it doesn’t, she is careful enough to have several contingency plans in her back pocket. She knows enough to see that the game is rigged, and is smart and ambitious enough to make sure it is rigged in her favor as often as possible. One of The Good Wife’s strong suits is the way it often pauses to let us watch Alicia think her way through a tough situation. There isn’t always an out, but when there is, she’s likely to find it. Sometimes the mask slips, but often, she’s able to keep it held in place. “Trust Issues” is an episode about the effort it takes to keep that mask of composure in place. It isn’t one of the flashy hours that lets the real Alicia fully out of her confines. It is instead a quiet episode about the effort it takes to stay within the boundaries she has set for herself, both emotionally and ethically.
If “The Line” was an episode setting up the various complicated conflicts at the center of this season, “Trust Issues” is the episode that gets to begin digging into those complexities. Its The Good Wife being able to exercise the muscles it has honed over the past five seasons, and while this is still more an episode about getting plates spinning than watching them spin, it throws us into a lot of fun, complex situations pretty quickly and asks us to keep our heads above water alongside the characters.
Running through this episode is a series of moments wherein background noise threatens to overwhelm the action, distracting our characters or distracting ourselves from what is really important. The construction at Florrick Agos threatens to convince Dean Levine-Wilkins (Taye Diggs) not to join the firm. The noise in court allows Cary and Kalinda to have a silent conversation without anyone noticing. The hustle and bustle at Lockhart Gardner Canning allows Diane to walk out the door with six department heads at her side without anyone noticing (this seems like the sort of risk Diane wouldn’t take, but the drama of it is enough up her alley that I buy it). Again and again, these people manage to hear what’s important through the noise, but the noise is still there. It will always be there. And the threat that someday, they won’t be able to hear what matters through it is one that persists.
“Trust Issues” is a busy episode of the show, racing through the various plotlines currently in motion, giving us glimpses of virtually every major character (and a welcome cameo from Valerie Jarrett, who didn’t hire Eli, so owes him a favor) and constantly pulling at Alicia’s composure. When she is on the stand, she is perfectly able to testify as she wants to without lying or telling the whole truth, though she does hesitate from time to time. As she navigates the merger (and at this point, it does feel like more a merger than a defection), she’s never quite sure it is the best thing to do, but she barrels on anyway. And as she faces the prospect of running for State’s Attorney, she knows her answer is “no,” but she can’t ever really articulate why. She yells at Eli that she doesn’t have a mountain to climb, but that’s not really true. Alicia can be as self-righteous as she allows herself to be, and in the right context, that translates into righteousness. It isn’t that Alicia has well thought out reasons not to run; its that she has decided not to, and in her mind, that is enough. The idea of Alicia Florrick, who is pragmatic above all else, having to contend with exactly what mountains she wants to climb, and what hills she might be willing to die on, is a fascinating one, and I can’t wait to see what the campaign (which feels as inevitable, in a good way, as a Hillary Clinton run for the White House) does to her and her self-conception.
The case-of-the-week, which brings back ChumHum and Edelstein, is basically a trifle, but it allows Alicia to effortlessly dismantle her opposition (the woman who failed to hire her in flashbacks from last season’s “A Few Words”) and outplay the other side even when it seems like they might be getting the upper hand. This season so far is doing a lot to undermine what Alicia Florrick thinks about herself, but that isn’t the same thing as undermining what we, as an audience, are supposed to think about her, and this subplot isn’t useless because it reminds us that Alicia isn’t just incredibly smart and incredibly composed. She’s also incredibly good at her job.
The Good Wife is at its best when everything threatens to cascade out of Alicia’s control, but what season six is beginning to hint at is that the one thing Alicia has left, her sense of herself, may not be as strongly in her grasp as she imagines. Again, this isn’t to say that Alicia doesn’t know who she is so much as it is to hint that she might be keeping a lot of doors closed in her psyche to hide certain possibilities from herself. If The Good Wife is a show about Alicia throwing off the shackles that title implies and coming into her own, it will also have to be a show about her kicking open some doors in her own mind she’d rather leave closed. It looks like this season, Alicia’s heels are made for kicking. I can’t wait to see what she finds on the other side.
- “I need to call a witness, a hostile witness, who I think will tell the truth no matter what.” “Who?” “Alicia Florrick.”
- “You need an office with a door.”
- “‘Sinners and saints,’ is that you?” “I never sign my canvases.”
- “Documents don’t go away. Your signature doesn’t go away.”
- “I just thought you’d do the right thing. Because the man I married would have.” “Well that’s interesting. Because the woman I married never would have asked.”
- “Where are we going to put them all?” “That’s a pretty high class problem.”
- “I never trust when the good guys support you. It’s when the bad guys come around you know its real.”
- “I should have hired you. You’re an assassin.” “Your mistake.”
“Trust Issues” is an episode about the effort it takes to keep that mask of composure in place.