The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 3, “Dear God”
October 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), CBS
Periodically throughout a season, The Good Wife likes to throw its characters for a loop by forcing them to advocate in a forum unlike the ones they do battle in on a daily basis. These range from fairly tame (a coroner’s inquest in “Invitation to an Inquest”) to exotic to the point they are nearly bonkers (Elsbeth Taccione lending a hand in a hearing in front of the Olympic Committee in “Je Ne Sais What?” leaps immediately to mind), and they have become their own subgenre within the show. “Dear God” is one such episode, and it finds Alicia, Cary, and Dean taking part in Christian Mediation using The Matthew Process.
That means an appearance from everyone’s favorite Good Wife character, Grace Florrick. Plotlines involving Grace tend to be pretty hit-or-miss, but her religious faith has been integral to the character since early on. Grace’s religious beliefs have been the source of some good storytelling for the show, but also the source of one of its most consistent problems, in the form of Alicia’s attempts to broach the subject. Alicia Florrick is a good mother and a smart woman but for some reason whenever the topic of the big man upstairs comes up, she completely falls apart. The show plays Alicia’s atheism as if it means that religious people speak a foreign language she cannot comprehend, and so she needs Grace to translate Jesus-speak for her heathen mother. This has never really worked for me as the show tends to lean really hard into how out of her depth Alicia feels in religious conversations, to the point that she becomes a sort of comedy yokel whenever God comes up. Alicia is an incredibly smart, incredibly thoughtful woman, and I just have never bought the idea that she could be that tone deaf and that ignorant about Christianity. Religious belief is not a requirement for a basic working knowledge of religion (I am not religious, and would like to think I have one), and it always comes off as weirdly insulting when the show has Alicia looking like a deer-in-the-headlights when it comes to God and Grace.
Nevertheless, the scene between Grace and Alicia was fairly solid, with their standard mother-daughter report shining through all of the forced awkwardness, and the arbitration plotline was serviceable as a “fish out of water” story. The best decision “Dear God” made was by actually putting our lawyers out of their depth in two ways: They aren’t just in Christian arbitration, they are also working for clients who don’t really have a desire to fight each other. Richard Thomas is often a calming presence, and here, his conviction and commitment to being a kind man and a businessman were striking. Robert Joy was also quite good as the farmer who replanted seeds in violation of patent law. These men don’t hate each other, and they don’t want to fight each other. They are two good people who have a disagreement, and find our system for resolving it lacking. Cary warns Alicia early on that their client won’t like the fighting, but she either doesn’t hear him or can’t understand how to deal with someone like that. The idea that she shouldn’t beat her adversary but should work to come to an understanding with him is as foreign to her as that book everybody keeps talking about with the nice, legally helpful words about sin and stuff.
The episode is framed by its subplot, in which various characters talk to Cary’s Bail Supervisor (Linda Lavin), trying to reassure her while blithely papering over the complex details of Florrick Agos and Cary’s tumultuous existence. Lavin is fantastic here as another committed person just trying to do a good job. She is brusque and a little bland, but she is also kind and truly cares. She’s a little bit scary, but also truly seems to want to help Cary. And in the end, she does, going on the record with her belief that he shouldn’t go back to prison. The structural fireworks of this subplot (which intercuts the reality with the spin all of the characters are throwing at Lavin) are a lot of fun, but the real meat of it is the work that Lavin does, creating a fantastic, fully formed character around the margins of this story. More of her, please.
This is a mostly disposable episode of the show, one that has two fun, if slightly gimmicky, storylines, and serves to kick the can of the season’s major plotlines down the road a bit. The Good Wife has to do several episodes like this every year, because it is doing 22 episodes in a landscape and a weight class heavily tilted towards 13 episode seasons. Yet the show excels at turning out fun, funny filler episodes that give us glimpses into our characters and the lives they lead. “Dear God” also finally has Alicia (mostly) committing to run after Castro digs his own grave once again and Gloria Steinem shows up to tell her she should run (and then, to be very funny in Alicia’s subsequent fantasies). This narrative stall is a bit irksome, if only because we all know Alicia is going to run. In an episode full of filler, this slight movement in what will likely become the season’s major plotline actually made the episode’s throw-away nature even more obvious. Yet when you can do something as enjoyable as “Dear God” on an off week, you’re probably in pretty good shape, and The Good Wife has long exceled at making these sorts of trifles memorable enough to be worthwhile. Amen.
- “Why don’t we begin? Let us pray.”
- “Well, if its possible, then isn’t it possible that this seed on his land is just…part of God’s plan?”
- “This is Kafka in action.” “The longer I live, the more I realize that everything is Kafka in action.”
- “It’s a bad idea to run, Alicia. Very few saints survive oppo research.”
- “Mr. Gold, Mrs. Florrick is here to see you.” “Thank you for your precognitive powers, Nora!”
- “I have to get to church.” “Good, atheism doesn’t play.”
- “Just answer the question. Just tell the truth.”
- “You can’t pick and choose!” “I’m a lawyer. That’s what I do.”
- “I realized I wanted justice in this world, not the next. You?” “I don’t know what I want.”
- “Would you do a good job? You would.” “Well that’s not the point.” “I think it is the point.”
- “You could make it all the way to the Supreme Court, Alicia. You’re
- “Ed, you control the food. And when you control the food, you control the people.”
- “Do you still believe in God?” “I do. You?” “I don’t think I’m genetically built for it.” “I didn’t think I was, either. Until I was.” This little moment pretty much single-handedly made up for the ham-fisted earlier scenes.
- “Alicia, I’m tired. I need you to take over for me.”
- “Do you have something to say to me?” “No.” “Men always have something to say.”
- “If I ran…what’s the plan?”
Periodically throughout a season, The Good Wife likes to throw its characters for a loop by forcing them to advocate in a forum unlike the ones they do battle in on a daily basis