November 8, 2015, 9:00 p.m. (EST), CBS
The Good Wife has spent years meticulously crafting a layered universe full of recurring players and plotlines just waiting on simmer until something turns up the heat. “Lies” is a fun episode in part because it features frequent payoffs to these plotlines, whether it’s the return of the NSA or the voter fraud scandal threatening to return to haunt the Florricks. “Lies” is the sort of heavily serialized outing this show uses sparingly, but the type of episode that makes The Good Wife one of the best dramas on network television.
The NSA has lurked over this show for seasons now, providing both a recurring source of laughs (the goat obsessed analysts are always welcome) and a darker look at just how far our surveillance state has already gone. They function as fun meta-commentary (the analysts don’t want back into Alicia’s life because she’s a threat, but because her life is so juicy), but also as a reminder that everyone on this show has skeletons in their closet. Everyone has things they would rather keep private. And on The Good Wife, nothing stays buried forever.
That’s what makes the reveal that Peter was part of the voter fraud scandal and basically threw Alicia under the bus all the more gutting. We can see Peter and Alicia bonding again a bit here, and we know it is all just set up for the huge fall that will come when Alicia learns Peter has screwed her once again. Alicia and Peter have one of the more complex relationships on this show, and while it is frequently back-burnered, there is plenty to do with it as Alicia adjusts to another new political status quo.
“Lies” also gives us the best Lockhart Agos & Lee storyline of the season so far, as the hiring committee interviews Monia, an accomplished black woman who is given far from a fair shake in the hiring process. This is where the episode is at its sharpest. We see early on the gauntlet of micro aggressions Monica endures (from Howard guessing she is Nigerian to both Cary and Diane commenting on her Baltimore upbringing like that means she might know where Wallace is), and the characters at the firm never fully seem to grasp just how out of touch they are with Monica’s struggles, or with what she might bring to the table. Even Diane is so busy trying to assuage her white guilt and feel like a good liberal, she barely registers the ways she is flat out failing to help Monica, nor to even recognize her as more than an opportunity to make a diverse hire. This is sharp storytelling, and the show sticks with just how discomfiting the whole thing is. Lockhart Agos & Lee would likely have diversity issues in real life, and it would be full of people making arguments like we hear tonight, about hiring the most qualified candidates, about hedging bets and avoiding risks, and about hiring for diversity. No one saw Monica as a candidate in her interviews. All they saw were their own preconceived notions, and even when those were positive, they stand as an insult to Monica’s basic humanity. “Lies” gets that, and its smart about the ways its characters fail to.
Then there is Eli, who has had consistently my favorite plotline this season, as he struggles with the consequences of his revenge plot, this week including his newly discovered (though not new) deep-seated loyalty to Alicia. Eli was willing to taint Peter to oust Ruth; he was even theoretically willing to down Peter’s campaign to complete his revenge. But when he sees Alicia on that stage, he is forced to second guess his plan, and to look someone he cares about in the eyes as he contemplates a revenge scam in which she is basically collateral damage. Alan Cumming is, as usual, doing great, subtle work, and this season is finally giving him a showcase. More of this, please.
“Lies” hinges on our understanding of these characters and the world they live in. This episode reminds us that, as procedural as The Good Wife can be, this is a heavily serialized show where actions have consequences, and where lies will ultimately be revealed. This is an episode about our characters’ shortcomings. But more than that, its an episode that reminds us the fuse that will take all of these people down was likely lit a long time ago.
- “I need a quote from you about Peter.” “Do you need it to be true?” “True-adjacent.”
- “He told me that the most powerful men are the ones that no one knows exist.”
- “Do you ever wonder why I’m hearing this from you instead of Peter?” “What? No. What do you mean?”
- “Let me ask you a question I ask all the summer interns. If you were on a desert island…”
- “Sometimes to stop the cancer, you have to endanger the patient.” “Oh my god. You’re like an evil scientist.”
- “I liked Monica, alright.” “But she doesn’t look like you.” “That’s not fair.” “A lot of things that aren’t fair are true!”
- “A Catholic gym? Is that a thing?”
“Lies” is the sort of heavily serialized outing this show uses sparingly, but the type of episode that makes The Good Wife one of the best dramas on network television.