The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 7, “Message Discipline”
This week, Alicia Florrick takes a stand. This season has been shaping up to be an examination of Alicia’s morality, and so far, it has given us frequent cause to question where she stands, and if she stands anywhere in particular at all. In “Message Discipline,” Alicia puts her foot down and demands that her campaign not use Frank Prady’s old law school article against him, because its bad politics, sure, but mostly because she doesn’t like the taste of it. She doesn’t know what Prady thinks about Israel and Palestine, she doesn’t see it as relevant to the race, and she doesn’t think it’s the right way to attack him, and she makes her views on all of this known. It’s the most righteous we’ve seen Saint Alicia be all season, and it is refreshing.
This gets complicated, of course, by the final scene, when Alicia tries very hard to make Prady into an enemy he simply isn’t. He tries to explain he only decided to run when he found out her team leaked the article to Castro, but Alicia will have none of it. Prady is a hypocrite who forced her to jump through hoops when he knew he was running (even though Alicia should know a political operative conducting polling and searching for signatures hardly means the candidate they are polling is aware of that, or has decided to run). Prady is the villain, because he has to be for Alicia to be the hero of her own story. It is an interesting way to complicate Alicia’s most baldly ethical decision of the season so far, and to remind us that Alicia Florrick is only human. She’s not a creature of simple amorality, nor is she an unvarnished hero. She’s just a person, with all the inconsistencies and contradictions that implies.
Meanwhile, the Cary plotline is getting to be too much of a parade of horribles for my taste. What began as a solid plotline about the ethical complications of representing someone like Lemond Bishop has turned into a twist-machine of the sort The Good Wife pulls out occasionally, where every new development feels poised to draw the story out further rather than based on solid narrative fundamentals. Cary’s life keeps getting worse because it isn’t time for it to get better yet, and that’s not good storytelling, it’s a broadly telegraphed arc outline that’s started to flatline.
The show is also dealing with some fairly serious disconnect at this point. Alicia’s State’s Attorney run feels like it is in an entirely different show from Cary’s time as a Dickensian Orphan, and while the way Diane shrugs off the one mention of Alicia’s campaign goes a long way towards building the argument that she and Cary just have too much else going on to deal with Alicia’s political ambitions, I still find it hard to believe that the prospect of losing a named partner and the First Lady of Illinois from the firm hasn’t come up at a staff meeting before discussions about what to do with the Twenty-Seventh Floor (suggestion: Kalinda goes there at the end of the season, and then just never returns). Its an increasingly odd choice that is making the two halves of this show feel estranged in ways that do not seem intentional. If this were a story about Alicia drifting apart from Cary and Diane, it would be one thing, but it isn’t that, and that would be a hard story to get off the ground since neither of them has ever been much of a friend to her. Instead, I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know The Good Wife well enough to know it is planning a revelation that will tie these two stories together; I just wish the seams weren’t showing quite so much in the interim.
What is working, maybe better than anything else the show is doing at the moment, is Alicia’s friendship with Finn Polmar. There’s a comfort level between the two that has drifted into intimacy neither seems to know the exact contours of. It isn’t romantic, necessarily, at least not at this point, but the two have a bond that transcends friendship and moves into some less certain territory. They’re open with each other, perhaps more open than they are with anyone else, and the multiple scenes of them just sharing drinks and their feelings with each other are fantastic. Finn resigning from the State’s Attorney’s Office means he remains the show’s true White Knight, but Matthew Goode has imbued him with enough charm that he never comes across as the Boy Scout he might in lesser hands. Watching he and Alicia together is something just short of magical, and even though the rest of the episode feels a bit jumbled and disconnected, these moments shine.
At this point, the cracks in season six of The Good Wife are apparent. The show isn’t in a particularly bad place yet, though this marks three episodes in a row I have been less than thrilled with. Robert and Michelle King have pulled out of much deeper nose dives before, and honestly, most of these problems feel like the sort of things the show runs into at this point in most seasons, when the arc is still heating up and the show needs to play for time until it can kick the next act into gear. The stall tactics aren’t working very well, but then, that will become easy to forgive if this is all headed somewhere worthwhile.
- “The longer I work here, the more I realize there’s always a reason behind the reason.”
- “Alicia, you’re not writing a poem. You’re practicing politics.”
- “I believe it. The elderly…crime…thing.”
- “This is the most important advice I’m ever going to give you, Alicia: Questions are for dopes.”
- “Ok. I’m going home to get drunk.”
- “Look, I’m learning a lot from you guys, but you need to learn something from me.” “He’ll run, you’ll lose.” “Maybe.”
At this point, the cracks in season six of The Good Wife are apparent.