The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 5, “Shiny Objects”
October 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m. (EST), CBS
“Shiny Objects” is full of the sort of The Good Wife-specific flourishes that show up a few times a season when the show needs a filler episode. The episode brings back Elsbeth Tascioni, comes up with a fascinating case of the week, and manages to comment on technology at the same time. Also, Kalinda was there and man, that girl has problems, amirite? (This has been your periodic reminder that Kalinda is on this show, and that The Good Wife hasn’t known what to do with her in years. While I was shocked and more than a little miffed when Josh Charles decided to leave the show, I have total sympathy for Archie Panjabi making the same decision. She’s been doing great work with virtually nothing for a long time now, and I hope she finds greener pastures for her skills).
Very few shows are as obsessed with technology and the way it affects our daily lives as this one, though its success in actually tackling them is variable. The show always seems on top of it enough to see what’s happening in the world but it often displays your grandmother’s level of understanding of the actual nitty gritty. The malware plotline is a way to drum up tension throughout the hour, though it never really succeeds on that front. It is ripped-from-the-headlines technology as a driver for a fairly standard race against the clock plotline. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, and “Shiny Objects” doesn’t ever make the stakes feel real enough to register. Dean and Alicia get along fine without their files, and Diane seems more pissed off about a cockroach than about potentially losing all of her business records and client files entirely. Any plotline that leads to Diane and David Lee facing off (Especially in her redecorated office, which he has furnished in a very appropriate black), however, has enough meat to it that I can’t complain too much.
As for Elsbeth, “Shiny Objects” briefly feels like it will be an episode about her before it sort of loses interest in that and darts over to something else, mirroring her thought process in ways that seem unintentional. That opening sequence, where Elsbeth free associates on the treadmill, developing a strategy while thinking about a man playing a xylophone and ice cream cones, is visually dynamic and narratively daring. It’s the sort of thing The Good Wife does every once in a while to remind us it is one of the best shows on network television, and it primed me for an episode that would give us some insight into Elsbeth. The character is perhaps the best in the show’s astoundingly strong stable of recurring players, but “Shiny Objects” not only fails to let her shine, it reduces her quirky brilliance to little more than ADHD. Elsbeth Tascioni is flighty and unfocused, to be sure, but she is also deeply intelligent and incredibly adept at using her oddness in her favor by subverting expectations and keeping her opponents off guard.
The idea that Alicia would be able to undermine Elsbeth, or that given the chance, she would choose to, isn’t all that hard to believe. But I found the notion that Elsbeth is so thrown by a magazine cover that Raina decides they have to settle the case a little hard to swallow. This is just another example of the many ways “Shiny Objects” eschews its more interesting elements in favor of trivialities. There’s an episode about Alicia and Elsbeth going head to head that would blow me away, but “Shiny Objects” refuses to be that in more than short bursts. The case of the week, which asks whether firing a woman to cater to clients is sexual harassment, actually has a legally interesting question at its core, but the episode refuses to engage with that either, in favor of spending more time on malware and Kalinda and Lana playing some game where they are fully wrapped up in sheets, like little burritos with warmed over plotting as filling (seriously, how many sheets does Kalinda have on her bed? I know that she likes to have sex with sheets billowing all over the place, because she is a character on The Good Wife, but this is getting ridiculous).
This is an episode that concludes by consciously evoking the pilot and reflecting on all that has changed since that first press conference five years ago, and yet it seems to decide to be that episode only a few minutes before we get there. What could easily have been a bold statement about Alicia’s character arc and the ways she has changed over her years back in the law instead feels like a button that outweighs its jacket. “Shiny Objects” can’t decide if it is a placeholder or the real deal, if it is a filler episode about a tech caper or a case-of-the-week about sexism and cultural ideas. It’s funny, sort of and sometimes, but also heavily dramatic, with the biggest Peter and Alicia fight we’ve seen since the aftermath of Will’s death. It’s an episode with a serious identity crisis, a problematic inability to figure out just exactly what it is trying to do. As a result, it doesn’t really accomplish anything more than making me wish it had tugged at some of the many intriguing threads it hinted at, instead of ping-ponging between them, incapable of landing on a strong purpose. It isn’t a bad episode of the show by any stretch. There’s a lot of good moments here, a lot of great writing and on point character beats. It’s just an example of wasted potential outweighing what we actually see on the screen. “Shiny Objects” constantly feels like it is trying to distract us from how deeply confused it is about what it is trying to do. But like Elsbeth Tascioni, I’m visualizing stillness over here, and the episode never proves quite diverting enough to paper over its problems.
- -“Where’s Cary?” “Here.” “No, Agos Cary.” Oh right. That guy is still here, and still named Cary. Do we know anything else about him?
- “If I fall, you’ll catch me?” “Nah, I’ll be plummeting with you.”
- “Why are all the computers here counting down? I feel like I’m in a Bruckheimer film…”
- “Go ahead, David. It’s a copy of an email. The paper doesn’t matter.”
- “Here I am, a clown in your mind!”
- “I’m sorry, your honor. I’m visualizing stillness over here.”
- “Cockroaches are not romantic.”
> “Shiny Objects” eschews its more interesting elements in favor of trivialities