"On Tap" S2 / E8
- B+ Community Grade
Man, The Good Wife is a show that spins a lot of plates, but even for this show, tonight's episode was freakin' complicated. Along with the usual viral video wars that double as Peter's campaign plot, you've got the revival of the Alicia/Will romance plot, Diane plotting to start a new firm with the slimy David Lee, and Blake and Kalinda's escalating rivalry, which has extended to him framing her for assault. Oh, and an FBI wiretap case of a city Alderman (Mykelti Williamson), centering around anti-Muslim sentiment, that somehow extended as far as the Obama administration and managed to tie a bunch of plot strings into it somehow. "On Tap" was at times a little dizzying, but it's impressive to see the show's writers reaching for this level of complexity.
One problem with them reaching so far is that invariably they will come up a little short, with some of the intrigue feeling a little shallow. I've complained about it before but Blake vs. Kalinda still isn't working for me. Archie Panjabi has me convinced that Kalinda is scared because she's a good actress, and she conveyed the slight slip of her usual poker face well this week (again, the show manages to use Cary without putting him in a courtroom). But I still don't buy that Blake could ever really get one over her; he feels so small-time. At this point, I suppose the danger is largely his unpredictable temper, but I'd like to see this little skirmish wrapped up soon. Bring back Lili Taylor instead!
Alderman Matthew Wade's corruption case also got short shrift to an extent, given how much writer Leonard Dick was trying to do there. Wade is a celebrity politician (a former Detroit Piston), but he represents the poorest part of Chicago; he's in trouble for accepting some dirty money, but while the Feds are alleging it's to do with Islamic extremists, we find out it's really connected to getting gang leader Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter, who was in last season's "Flies") more territory. The climactic scene of the plot, where Will, who's Wade's buddy, confronts him over the gang thing and chides him for playing the race card, felt a little too rushed considering the complexity of it all. Instead, it felt just like Will was lecturing him and reminding us, the audience, that Wade's behavior was not cool. But I don't think the audience of this show really needs that kind of a lecture, mixed in with some winking references to rising "anti-Muslim sentiment" so the show can stay current. Consider just how far the firm has to reach to get the case dropped (bringing a fictional Obama adviser into the mix); there was more territory to explore here.
No matter; because the case brought us to a much more interesting mechanism to shake up some of our longer-running plots, as Alicia listens to FBI wiretaps of Wade talking to just about every political figure in Chicago. That means, along with fictional Obama adviser Ruth Yamaguchi (modeled, I assumed, on Valerie Jarrett) both Eli and Will crop up. The Eli tapes were a clever way of shedding a little sympathetic light on the character—he's outraged that his daughter wants to go on a kibbutz to Israel, and he praises Alicia's intelligence—as well as hinting as more intrigue in the future, some crazy plans he hasn't let Alicia in on because "she's burdened with this thing, a conscience." Best of all, it alerts Eli to the fact that he's being wiretapped by the FBI. I've been worrying that Eli might disappear from the show once the campaign is over, but I think the writers have more plans for him in store.
The Will tapes, of course, relate to a more personal matter. Basically, he's talking to his buddy Wade about that message he left Alicia in last season's finale, having a good ol' man-to-man chat over the phone about a girl who never called him back. OK, so maybe it's a little implausible, but it's still an impressively clever way to draw the curtain back on that deleted voicemail for Alicia, and the enforced gap of silence on the tape (because it's a personal call) at the same time keeps her guessing. I wasn't thrilled with just how melodramatically this revelation was played (thudding music, extended slo-mo, tears building in Alicia's eyes), but they know this plot is a major hook for the audience at home, and I guess they're gonna milk it for everything they've got. Similarly, the last-minute "cliffhanger" (where Tammy, Elizabeth Reaser's character, walks in just as Alicia's going to ask Will the big question) was kinda lame, but I'm still hooked on what happens next, so I guess I just should throw up my arms and admit they got me.
Finally, we've got Diane making her own power play rather than sitting back and letting Derrick and Will have all the fun, even if she does have to hook up with the wonderfully jerky David Lee in the process. She tries to bring Eli aboard her planned new firm, but he says he'll go where Alicia goes, which means she's gonna be in the middle of this thing, for a change. I don't know how far the show is going to take this, but breaking up Will and Diane is not something I can condone, as much as I enjoy Zach Grenier and Michael Ealy. I'm all for more intrigue, but their late-night chats, dripping with cynicism and humor, are one of the show's great strengths.
- Zach's plot irritated me too much because I hate the Becca character and how easily manipulated he is by her (and his girlfriend, who wants him to wear an earring). The resolution, with a YouTube video mocking Grace posted by Childs' campaign, should have more interesting repercussions.
- Reaser, on the other hand, remains extremely charming to the extent that I don't want Will breaking up with her. It's too bad she gets bored by his legal talk, because I want her to be a lawyer so he can hire her after splitsville.
- I liked the ancient-seeming CD player Alicia had to listen to the wiretaps on; we're now in an age where CD players can be clunky antiques!
- Ana Gasteyer makes a welcome return as the pedantic Judge Lessner, leading Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle!) to try and out "in-my-opinion" Diane every time they argued.
- Another guest star: J.D. Williams, who was Bodie, my personal favorite on The Wire, in an all-too-brief appearance as a clerk who's probably in a gang. He deserves so much more!