The Good Wife 6.21: “Don’t Fail” Review

The Labyrinth of Law

A Television Review by Akash Singh


Alicia: “I can’t take another failure.”

Finn: “Oh, well then, don’t fail.”

Florrick, Palmer, & Agos? I don’t know if that is going to happen, but it’s something I’m fairly convinced should happen. There seems to be little reason for Finn to reject Alicia’s proposal of starting a law firm with her, and thusly while the cliffhanger of his response falls flat, the prospect is still plenty exciting. Don’t Fail, titled after the hilarious exchange above, is an episode that primarily revolves around Alicia and the critical juncture where she finds herself. The election was thrown out of the mix in as if the entire endeavor didn’t matter whatsoever (well, it kind of didn’t, but whatever). There is simply no return available to her law firm that she had started and at the end of it all resembled Lockhart Gardner more than anything else, perhaps as an ode to irony. Now Alicia has to comprehend where she can go from here, what path she can craft for herself going forward. But to understand the path she can craft, Alicia had to arrive at an understanding of what she truly wants in the first place. That little bit perhaps sounds pretentious and or obvious, but it’s the absolute crux of the structure Alicia’s memoir writer is looking for, the structure Alicia is so desperately looking for.

Alicia begins the episode by absolving herself in tasks that seem inherently logical for someone in her position, if inherently depressing. Like most people dealing with some form of depression, Alicia makes herself busy with cleaning and constructing various things, like the table that later becomes her desk in Zach’s now empty room. Not like most people, she then spends a bit of time calling all of her donors personally on Eli’s directive, which goes just about as well as expected. Amongst the phone calls, however, is a man by the name of Mr. Tatro, whose case Alicia had fought years ago and got him acquitted of attempted murder and was now being retried for murder. Pulling an old case to get Alicia back into the courtroom was a bit of an obvious trick to pull off, but the showrunners executed it well enough here that it worked as a new launching pad for the end of this season and what has rumored to have been the last in season seven.

Seeing Alicia back in the courtroom and fighting cases was a massive breath of fresh air, as if The Good Wife had realized how meandering it had become for those long stretches (the haphazard CBS scheduling wasn’t helpful in this regard) by taking Alicia out of the very place where she belonged. As much as seeing Alicia retain her win would have been gratifying, it wouldn’t have felt germane, earned and that’s not where she belongs. That isn’t to say she doesn’t have political acumen, but seeing Alicia fight in court just has that oomph her sitting in the State’s Attorney’s office wouldn’t have. In the past half of this season, the show has put a lot of focus on real-life political issues that have largely fell flat because they didn’t seem relevant to the show as a whole. But here the attack on the corruption within the policing system feels grounded in reality because it comes out of the courtroom within the context of a case that actually has life and death repercussions.

The best part about bringing a case back from the old is connecting all of the previous threads from the past and tying them into the present, in this case through old case tapes. Incidentally, using the oddly edited sequence with Kalinda and Alicia drinking made me realize how much I’ve missed them being together and Alicia at the end of the episode sitting at that very bar but very much alone was heartbreaking. The true purpose of the vignettes to the past (outside of the case itself) doesn’t truly come into the forefront until the very end when Finn joins Alicia at the bar. The memories of Diane’s toughness, Cary’s competitiveness, and Kalinda’s all-round badassery spark that life within Alicia she had been missing, with Grace’s quote “You’re happier when you’re on a case” encapsulating that burgeoning feeling. Alicia, according to the showrunners at least, has been humbled by the election experience and while the show has failed to adequately depict that through its narrative, Margulies’s performance sells it.

In a memory, Alicia recalls when Jackie was telling Zach that Peter wanted to become like the Czech freedom fighter Vaclav Havel (which is news to me, unlike Jackie assuming that Havel was Russian). Havel had inspired Peter to become someone who would give justice to those who didn’t have it, someone who would help the common person. Peter may be in the current day and age many things, but Vaclav Havel he is not. Perhaps it is the dirtiness of the Illinois political system, the coziness of being a part of the political establishment, and or the sacrifice of morality for ambition, but Peter no longer has that zeal to become a revolutionary. As Alicia thinks about that memory, in her mind a reality kicked in. Maybe it was the right thing that she had to forego the election, not in the sense of fairness because it was anything but, but in what was right for Alicia. Peter’s arena had always been politics, but Alicia had the courtroom. That isn’t to say those in politics can’t affect change (which would obviously be untrue), but for Alicia that office was where Peter’s moral and literal downfall occurred, the office where he lost his integrity. Maybe, just maybe, by staying out of that office, Alicia can truly fight for justice in a place where she knows how to, a place where she can trust herself enough not to give into the easy temptations of corruption. It can be a place where she doesn’t take cases to increase billings, but a place where she can take cases that she truly believes in. That is her own law firm. Finn, are you in? Because we certainly are.

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+Alicia drinking wine amidst the donor calls

+“There’s a hole in your case.”

+“Just like Peter.”

+Alicia’s Carrie wall

+“Kalinda what? Kalinda none of your business.” Alicia’s following smile was heartbreaking.

+“She loved how you stood by your husband.”

+Peter wanting to be like Vaclav Havel

+[The law] “I think it’s neutral.”

+The strip club is now a charter school.

+“Nobody ever tells the full truth.”

+“Can you make money doing that?”

+David Buckley’s score

+Grace interning with Alicia?

+Return of Zach

+“I want to learn from you.” We all do, Audrey.



Title: Don’t Fail

Written By: Robert King & Michelle King

Directed By: Nelson McCormick

Image Courtesy: CBS


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