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The Good Wife: “Message Discipline”

Even Alicia Florrick is mortal

B+
Julianna Margulies (CBS)
Julianna Margulies (CBS)
B+

The Good Wife

"Message Discipline"

Season 6 , Episode 7

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This week, we get to watch Alicia Florrick scramble for once, and it’s delightful.

Alicia has been absolutely slaying at every turn all season, and while that’s always exhilarating to watch, it’s also nice—fun, even—to be reminded from time to time that Alicia is, after all, human. And this week, her humanity shines when she stumbles a little bit. First, she goes to potential new State’s Attorney candidate Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce), and fails to convincingly deliver the endorsement ask Eli feeds to her. Alicia Florrick is great at many things, but faking sincerity apparently isn’t one of them. Then, when Prady extends her an invitation to be on his show, Alicia prepares for a bombardment, but ends up bombing when Prady asks only easy questions. The scene is perfectly blocked and supremely awkward, and I loved every second of it. Alicia knows how horribly she was, and after, tells Eli: “I’m going home to get drunk.” Alicia Florrick for President, y’all.

By episode’s end, Alicia’s back to her best self, firing on all cylinders against Prady when he gives a passionate speech about why he has decided, after all, to run against her in the State’s Attorney race. Alicia sees right through his bullshit and calls him on it. Looks like Alicia has a new enemy, and who doesn’t love warrior-princess-mode Alicia Florrick?

And then there’s Cary. Poor, poor Cary spends most of the episode looking hopeless. If there’s anyone who’s truly reminding us that all these characters can fall at any point, it’s not Alicia with her bad interview, but Cary with his profoundly shitty luck. At one point, he dares to think aloud that the State’s Attorney Office might be thinking of dropping the case. Alicia gives him the saddest “good luck,” and it’s pretty much how everyone feels at this point. And it turns out, they aren’t dropping the case at all; they’re strengthening it with a charge of prior crimes. The charge is serious, and when Diane pulls Cary aside to tell him the testimony is killing their defense, all Cary can say is “I know.” Czuchry doesn’t say much tonight, but he doesn’t have to. He continues to showcase some of his best work, convincingly selling the weight of Cary’s downward spiral and the major shift in the character’s tone.

But while Cary has some truly emotional moments in this episode, they don’t quite seem to be connected to the larger narrative framework. One of the biggest problems this season has been the disconnect between a lot of the main players. In particular, Alicia and Cary seem to be in completely different worlds, and that seems especially apparent in this episode which features very little interaction between the two. Initially, Alicia wasn’t allowed to be his attorney, but shouldn’t that not be true anymore now that Lemond Bishop isn’t a client? I just find it hard to believe that Alicia and Cary—and Diane, for that matter—wouldn’t be interacting with each other more in relation to this drug case. The obvious explanation is that The Good Wife might be letting the seams of scheduling conflicts show a bit. But whether it’s for a behind-the-scenes reason or not, the very minimal interaction going on between the show’s leads really works against so much of what this show does well.

The strain on Alicia and Cary’s relationship caused by the way they disagreed over the decision to bring Diane into the firm began to open some really complicated, interesting facets to the dynamics of Florrick Agos. Their relationship was starting to reminisce of the constant turbulence between Diane and Will in the Lockhart Gardner days. They argue and play power games with each other, but at the end of the day, they’re still partners, and that means something. While Alicia’s States Attorney race is finally starting to work as a premise, it’s also almost too separate from her Florrick Agos life. The campaign offers a lot of excellent moments, and that’s certainly true of this episode, but there still seems to be a lack of cohesion between this and the other main arc with Cary at the center, and Cary and Alicia’s relationship seems to have drifted, inexplicably, too far into the background.

Meanwhile, one of the relationships that’s really being explored in depth this season is that between Alicia and Finn Polmar, who keeps getting more and more charming by the week. This episode is punctuated nicely with intimate drinking scenes between Alicia and Finn that call back to the early days of Kalinda/Alicia tequila sessions. Actually, Finn really is the closest thing Alicia has had to a friend since Kalinda, and we get to see a different side of both characters when they’re together. There’s an openness and a vulnerability to the way they talk to each other, and the shipper within me wants to scream at them to make out already, but even if their relationship doesn’t become necessarily romantic, there’s something very real and emotionally complex building between these two characters.

Kalinda and Cary’s complicated relationship also shines in this episode, and the emotional character work happening between these two almost make up for the fact that either of their relationships with Alicia have been explored or developed in a while. Even though they’ve betrayed each other countless times, Kalinda and Cary are all tied up in each other. Their relationship is confusing, even to them, and the fact that it doesn’t fit within neat little lines is what makes them so great.

Stray observations:

  • I’m really worried about Kalinda Sharma. We know Archie Panjabi will be exiting the show at the end of the season, and presumably Kalinda’s departure will be connected to everything that’s going on in this drug case against Cary, and this episode hints that Kalinda could be stepping into very life-threatening territory for crossing Bishop yet again. But Kalinda has been so underused recently in the show that killing her off would be so, so cruel. HAVEN’T WE BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH?
  • I’m really liking Connie Nielson’s Ramona. Her quiet but confident maneuvering in court is very endearing. I’m just not sure I really see how all of this stuff with her, the intern, and Peter is going to eventually come together or make sense, but I’m also not really sure if I care yet.
  • Finn Polmar resigned! So he has more time to drink with Alicia! And he’s going to rent out an office in her building! Where does the making out fit in this equation?
  • Eli had a classic Eli scheme-face going on for most of this episode.
  • A literal guitar solo started playing when Alicia was going in on Frank Prady.
  • Speaking of music, this is yet another episode that is perfectly scored, thanks to series composer David Buckley. Sometimes, this show is just so strong with its scoring, editing, and direction that it unfolds almost like a ballet. This episode is definitely an example.
  • Alicia doesn’t watch reality TV.
  • Texting on TV is used most often as a way to dump information, but in this episode, Kalinda and Cary share a powerful, heartbreaking moment entirely over iMessage. It’s a weird thing to highlight, but The Good Wife is one of the only shows I’ve seen that frequently allows really emotional interpersonal moments happen over technology instead of in person. It’s just a small detail that doesn’t seem like much and yet makes this series so dang good. Cary could have just said “I miss you” to Kalinda in person, but there’s something so much more effective and beautiful about the way it’s staged here, with the text message, Cary’s glance back with a sad smile, and Kalinda’s face as she reads his words. It instantly reminded me of Will’s unfinished voicemail on Alicia’s phone. The writers pack so much meaning into little things like a text conversation or a voicemail on this show. Seriously, I’m not even a big Kalinda/Cary shipper but I could talk about that text message conversation for days because there was just so much there. That’s just really fucking great writing.