The Good Wife 6.19: “Winning Ugly” Review

The Frailty of Mighty Institutions

A Television Review by Akash Singh


I’ve been really hard on The Good Wife for a while and that certainly has not been out of malice. The show has been a fixture on Sunday nights for quite a while and to have it sit next to Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Homeland for example is indicative of the quality this show has. The show was struck by a languid feeling and that in and of itself was striking after such a sharp first half. The end of last week with the sudden voter fraud allegations were groan-worthy and within the episode itself, it was executed as a last-minute “gotcha” twist that the show hadn’t really earned. I am not going to excuse the laziness of the past several episodes, but Winning Ugly was downright one of the most daring and breathtaking episodes this show has ever done. There were no punches being pulled this hour, each and every single beat landing with ruthless proficiency. It was almost downright cruel how the episode built up expectations of optimism that had been kept in line since Alicia first announced her candidacy at the beginning of this season and then brought them down crashing down in the final minutes. At whose hands Alicia’s fortunes fell was perhaps the cruelest trick of all.

The trickiest bug to completely grasp is in all reality remarkably simple in its existence. Oftentimes, we know quite little about public “servants” – just look at poll numbers that indicate how many people know their elected representatives. With often such little knowledge of who these people are, a scandal can easily paint them in a fashion that will forever color them in the eyes of their constituents. Alicia’s e-mails had already done enough damage in a society where sex scandals are more germane and addictive than any drug found on the street or the shelf of a pharmacy. The voter fraud scandal is just the icing on the proverbial cake. This kicks Alicia into gear and for the first time since Castro invoked the name of Will did I see that spark in her eyes that she was going to get this, damn it! She won, she didn’t rig any machines, and she sure as hell isn’t going to give up without a fight. Every piece of dialogue and body language is delivered with absolutely fiery, with the expected perfection from Julianna Margulies. That rising passion within Alicia makes the twist of the knife all the more tragic.

The Democratic Party is a political party and like any institutional body, it is extremely prone to corruption. Political gridlock has become so polarizing and sharp that the conceits of gerrymandering and like-minded political processes are being pushed further and further into the mainstream for the sake of political power. In the case of Alicia’s run and The Good Wife, the illustrious Illinois Democratic leadership installed voting chips in machines not to ensure that she win the race for State’s Attorney, but that they win the one extra seat they need to complete a supermajority in the State Senate. Alicia has done nothing wrong nor has anyone on her team, but she’s being thrown to the dogs for the sake of a supermajority. A hero of hers, Spencer Randolph, arrives into the fray to help her and Alicia’s hopes rise once more. A man she had admired for so long stood there like her knight in shining armor. The betrayal in the Democratic office shook Alicia, but Peter calmed her down. He quietly asked her if she felt things were going in her way, if Randolph would stand by her. Alicia, steadfast and resilient, plows forward. It takes Randolph about a nanosecond to completely and utterly throw her under the bus. Alicia stares in shock, tears of frustration flowing down her face. She demands an explanation and it is simple. The party comes first. All she has to do now is step down before the recount and “The Party will take care of you.” Randolph’s tone is disquieted, a soft warning barely avoiding becoming a hiss. The veil of democracy is a powerful one, creating an illusion of popular control while the parties orchestrate the play from above, omnipresent.

The metadata fiasco continues to spell certain doom for Diane, who faces disbarment for an offense she had no idea even existed. Geneva Pine, who in a great little moment denounces Castro’s tactics with Cary, nevertheless supports the sentiments behind the decision. The SA’s office wanted Cary to testify against Bishop in order to save his skin and that is the exact same price they are asking for now. Diane will be saved from any charges if and only if she agrees to testify against Bishop. No matter who is in charge, the target of Bishop represents the ultimate Holy Grail for the SA’s office and it isn’t difficult to see why. Capturing the omnipresent drug dealer who’s manages to escape large-scale legal prosecution by running legal circles around them is a tantalizing prize for each SA. There’s a certain aura of invincibility that arrives from being in office and that only feeds into the egos of the men and women that have held this office, each believing that they would be the one to get their hands on that prize and raise their own profile to that of a legal deity. The price seems to escape their sights, the inevitability of Bishop’s swift retribution clouding the horizon, a horizon centered around Cary’s plausibly fatal testimony.

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+“I didn’t think she was a saint…”

+Sharks being cut

+“Stop burning a hole in the carpet.”

+“That’s the thing, I don’t know.”

+The official snack food of Illinois is popcorn

+“At some point, they need to be done.”

+Grace and the video

+“Statistics are nonsense, shiny nonsense.”

+“Well, thank you for tendering.”

+“More for support than illumination.”

+“I want to marry him.” Not anymore, I presume.

+The score this week from composer David Buckley was off the charts

+Alicia telling the truth to Grace

+“Do you want some popcorn?”

+“You could take it to the bank…”

+Ernie Nolan, you ****ing, two-timing bastard

+The return of the one person hearing consent

+Kalinda helping Alicia

+“Dear God, I need a drink.”

+“I’m going after Peter.”

+“And here we are back again, right at the beginning.”

+“It is like watching a remake of Spider-Man.”

+“…a hero.”

+“In politics, there’s always a second round.”

+“I didn’t enter this race for some cushy spot on some stupid commission.”

+“Oh my God… did that just happen?”

+“Be a good Democrat…”

P.S. The image above is not from this week, but I found the dilution of color around Alicia to be a particularly strong foreshadowing and symbol for this episode.



Title: Winning Ugly

Written By: Erica Shelton Kodish

Directed By: Rosemary Rodriguez

Image Courtesy: TV Box Promos @ YouTube


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