Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Wife: “Dark Money”

Illustration for article titled The Good Wife: “Dark Money”

“Dark Money” is a perfectly fine episode of television. As an episode of The Good Wife, it’s pretty mediocre. It isn’t tone deaf like the last episode before its winter break. As I figured, “The Debate” was really a one-off endeavor, a chance for the show to try—and fail, spectacularly—to comment on the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Except for a quick mention of skipping out on the debate from Prady, most of last episode’s drama seems forgotten.

After a several-week break, I guess I was just expecting The Good Wife to snap back with one of its distinctly brilliant episodes. But “Dark Money” sort of just eases us back into things with a business-as-usual feeling. Again, it’s fine. There’s some good stuff here. But it’s also kind of boring, and The Good Wife is hardly ever that.

Part of the problem with this episode is the main problem of this whole sixth season: All the major story arcs are just so disconnected. Thematically, they mostly contain a lot of the same major throughlines that The Good Wife has explored since the beginning: desire, the convergence of personal and professional lives, the murkiness of justice. But in a very literal sense, the show’s main characters all exist in completely different worlds right now. That’s certainly true of this episode, which places Cary and Diane in another Colin Sweeney case, Alicia in her campaign, and Kalinda and Bishop in some strange subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere. Cary, Diane, and Alicia are barely in the same room at the same time tonight, and it’s a weird choice, because this is one of the best ensembles on television, but they seem weaker when divided.

Maybe if Alicia’s campaign were a more compelling arc, it would work. In terms of character growth, the campaign has been great for Alicia. We’ve seen her slipping into her darker side, and cutthroat Alicia can be super fun. But the campaign just doesn’t have the juice it needs to be an exciting part of the show right now. This week, Prady and Alicia both attempt to court Guy Redmayne, a rich but homophobic and sexist asshole. In her meeting with him, Alicia pushes back against his physical and verbal sexual harassment, but when he tells her he’s supporting her campaign and gives his reason—“I don’t like fags”—Alicia doesn’t turn the dark money down. Prady, on the other hand, openly rejects Redmayne in their meeting when Redmayne continues to grossly denigrate Alicia. From purely a campaign strategy perspective, Alicia’s smart to take Redmayne’s money. But I just don’t know if I fully buy that she really would. By episode’s end, she’s definitely feeling some regret, but Alicia has buried herself so deeply in this campaign and it’s becoming harder and harder for me to remember why. Does she even remember?

Meanwhile in their little universe, Diane and Cary are trying to prove Colin Sweeney didn’t murder his wife…again. If it weren’t for Dylan Baker’s consistently stellar performance, I’d be a little more irritated with the show for coming back to this well. But alas, once again, Mr. Sweeney finds himself in a courtroom, only this time it starts out with a defamation case against Call It Murder, a TV show that depicts a pretty precise retelling of how he killed—ahem, allegedly killed—his wife. It’s an amusingly meta move for a show that rips many of its week-to-week cases from the headlines to tackle a defamation case about a show that rips its stories from the headlines. But you can see all of the twists in tonight’s case coming from a mile away. These Sweeney cases all tend to follow the same pattern.

So that just leaves Kalinda, who is the most removed from everyone else right now, making it hard for me to believe the character’s send-off is going to be emotionally grounded in the rest of the show. Tonight, Bishop calls in a favor and asks Kalinda to pick up his kid Dylan from school every day for two weeks. There’s a lot of suspense that builds to nothing, and that’s sort of the point. We’re made to believe—as Kalinda does—that Bishop is up to something here, when really it turns out that he’s just a dad who feels disconnected from his son. Fine. Bishop’s normal dad problems have been a part of what makes him interesting as a villain. But I’m not super into Kalinda just being used as a device to humanize Bishop here. The whole side plot could have been executed without her, and it feels like the writers just truly have no idea what to do with her character anymore.


Stray observations:

  • In the last two minutes, the show and Alicia Florrick both remember Grace exists.
  • Every time Colin Sweeney returns, I become more and more sure he really did kill his wife, and I think Alicia does too, which is why it also becomes harder and harder for me to swallow the fact that they keep him on as a client. But I guess it all just comes down to money.
  • I love all of the fictional shows that exist in The Good Wife’s universe, because they’re all so bonkers and over-the-top that they seem like Kroll Show parodies. Call It Murder is no exception.
  • I miss Finn.
  • I don’t miss Peter.
  • “I’d like Marissa to stay.” - Alicia Florrick, but also me, because Sarah Steele is a goddamn delight, but man did I roll my eyes hard when she says she joined the IDF for her novel.
  • It’s only a matter of time before it gets out that Bishop is financing Alicia’s PAC, right?