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

The Good Wife keeps misfiring in “Targets”

Illustration for article titled The Good Wife keeps misfiring in “Targets”

Alicia Florrick works at Lockhart, Agos & Lee now. Remember? Last week, Alicia and Lucca took Cary’s offer to join the firm, but Alicia’s chair reminded her over and over that she didn’t belong. Alicia Florrick works at Lockhart, Agos & Lee now, which seemed like a solution to the ongoing problems with, well, Diane Lockhart, Cary Agos and, to a lesser extent, David Lee. With Alicia, Lucca, Jason, Diane, and Cary all in the same building (even if they’re on different floors), all of the main players of The Good Wife finally occupy the same physical space together, which might suggest they start occupying the same narrative space together. But no, the final stretch of The Good Wife folds Alicia back into her home firm but still has her doing her own thing. On one hand, it makes sense. Alicia is at a place in her life where she does her own thing, where she doesn’t answer to anyone. She came to Lockhart, Agos & Lee for the money, as she and Lucca remind us at episode’s end. She didn’t return to get the band back together again. But on the other hand, Alicia’s continued detachment from everyone else has left other characters—Cary and Diane in particular—behind in middling stories lacking in stakes.

In “Targets,” Cary and David worry Diane wants to rebuild as an all-women firm, so David hires Jason to investigate Diane. Diane, in turn, becomes suspicious of Jason’s meetings with David and keeps her eye on David and Cary. As the new kids, Jason and Lucca note that this is a very weird place where no one trusts anyone. “Targets” indeed returns to the paranoia well, digging up one of the series’ recurring themes. This time, all the closed-door meetings, accusations, and speculation don’t really amount to much. Cary and Diane continue to tread water in the very isolated ocean of aimless plots where they seem to be stuck this season. Will these characters even get the proper send-off they deserve as the show nears its end? There simply isn’t any urgency or momentum to what happens at Lockhart, Agos & Lee in “Targets” (until long after work hours, after security has shut the lights off, but I’ll get to that). Season seven wants so badly to recapture the frenzied paranoia of early season five, but season five had complicated character dynamics providing a solid foundation for all the intrigue. The characters are so unconnected this season that it’s hard to find the emotional stakes in the workplace drama.

As with “Monday,” the writers place much more weight on the drama between Peter and the FBI. It leads to a very fun chess match between Elsbeth Tascioni and her ex, Michael Tascioni, who steps in to help Eli figure out why the FBI is after Peter when Elsbeth suddenly bows out because of a conflict of interest attorney-client privilege prevents her from talking about. As usual, Carrie Preston is fantastic as the scattered but genius Elsbeth, and I’m very sad to learn that this was her last episode on the show ever. At least she’s one of the best parts of the episode though, making for a fine farewell. Still, as enjoyable as it is to watch Elsbeth outmaneuver Eli and the lesser Tascioni, I can’t help but feel like this FBI plot is getting dragged out to the detriment of its suspense. It seems obvious that the investigation has more to do with Alicia than with Peter, and some of the obvious false leads are starting to feel forced. It all comes crashing to an end rather suddenly and without any useful answers or climax, which means we’ll probably be getting more of the same next episode.

Meanwhile, Alicia is off to advise the president (indirectly). It was only a matter of time before The Good Wife, which goes to great lengths to be as topical as possible, tackled ISIS. In “Targets,” it does so in very broad strokes. Alicia serves as a civilian legal adviser on a top-secret committee voting on the legal justification for the targeted killing of an ISIS recruiter who hasn’t technically committed any acts of violence himself but has persuaded others to carry out attacks and bombings. The head of the committee, and the episode, introduce a twist: The recruiter is an American citizen. The storyline digs up some of the dark realities of U.S. international policies and shows just how arbitrary a lot of the rules are for how the U.S. military and government decide who lives and dies. But then, as with the Battle Of The Tascionis, it all just comes crashing to an end rather abruptly, almost as if it never happened. It’s not necessarily a problem that the story is self-contained. The Good Wife almost always includes a case of the week. But this case feels undercooked and more like an unfortunate vehicle for something else entirely: bringing the NSA back into the picture.

The second the camera starts to zoom in on Alicia’s phone, we know where we’re going: to the NSA and its cubicles of kooky Alicia stans! The NSA sector of The Good Wife’s universe lost its appeal a while ago. It fits well with the show’s ongoing themes of privacy (and lack thereof) and paranoia. But if I have to hear someone say “three-hop” one more time, I might scream. The humor of this recurring storyline is played out. The drama of this recurring storyline is played out. There just isn’t anything new there. And as much as I love to see Michael Urie and am rooting for him always, in “Targets,” the NSA is just shoved hastily into an episode that can’t quite seem to find its throughline.

At least Alicia gets some. We return to Lockhart, Agos & Lee for the one and only interesting thing that happens behind those very impractical glass walls all episode: Alicia sleeps with Jason. Now, maybe “interesting” is being a little overly generous for a development that we’ve seen coming from miles away. But the sheer sexiness of Jason and Alicia’s foreplay is enough to temporarily distract from the episode’s mess. Most importantly, Jason and Alicia’s hookup seems to only build on Ruth Eastman’s little wink toward a Florrick divorce last week. I’m certainly not saying Alicia would leave Peter for Jason, but Jason’s post-coital “what are we” freak out makes a good point. If Alicia is so content with pursuing other people outside of her marriage, why not just end the marriage? Now more than ever, she has less political incentive to stay. Alicia has shed just about everything else in life at this point (her children included—where’s Grace?). A very natural conclusion for the series to build to would be Alicia shedding that good wife title once and for all.


Stray observations

  • I know Eli and Michael think they figured things out when they saw Elsbeth meeting with her client, but something tells me she was still one step ahead of them.
  • It’s worth repeating: Carrie Preston is such a gem.
  • Lucca is given nothing to do all episode.
  • So that weird final shot was definitely a metaphor for the episode itself: Everything just came crashing to an abrupt ending!