The Sorting Hat
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Good Wife has always made an effort to incorporate social realities into its mainframe and that aspect of the series has always given it a sense of grounded realism despite its more fanciful flights on occasion. When it manages to incorporate those realities into its storyline that simultaneously does the double job of advancing its characters and not just its narrative, The Good Wife strikes gold. Here they strike that gold twice in a row. In three direct movements, the show tackles racial profiling in department stores, euthanasia, and for profit educational institutions, tying them neatly into the story as if effortless (even Reese Dimple’s inclusion doesn’t feel forced for the first time). The racial profiling story has an end twist that is a little predictable, but not in a way that feels nauseating or overwhelming even. It’s a much more nuanced presentation of racism than the debacle of The Debate in that it actually acknowledges its privilege. There’s no overwrought suggestion of how to solve racism from privileged characters with an affluent background. There’s instead a simple presentation of the racism that black Americans experience in the most innocuous of circumstances. The audience’s skin crawls but the camera never preaches once. The narrative becomes that much more powerful.
The Good Wife is a show that undergoes a fair number of transitions (just look at the sheer quantity of times that Florrick Agos has undergone a change with a name partner attached). One of the best decisions the show has ever made in regards to those transitions is placing Alicia firmly within the strange world of bond court (stranger to Alicia, anyhow). On a metaphorical level, placing Alicia in what is considered a lower rung of the legal career mirrors her reality well. On a character level, it forces her to be a lot more intricate and intelligence off the top of her head, joined together with quicker thinking. Ninety seconds or so per case, after all, forces one to do so or fall quickly to the wayside. Even more so, it brings Alicia firmly out of the confines of an ivory tower to which she had become accustomed to before that rug was slowly taken out from underneath her feet. On a plot level, the cases are far more interesting and provocative not because they’re outlandish, but because they’re instead far more grounded and relatable. Colin Sweeney is fun for an episode, but there is simply no comparing him to a college student working two jobs a week but trying to take classes at the same time to care out a better life path for herself.
Cary remains window dressing for the show at this point and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Czuchry had a contract clause as to where has to appear, regardless of whether or not his scenes hold any character weight at all. That being said, Howard turning into a major player on ageism was fantastic, largely because it made him in any way relevant for the first time in a meaningful fashion. Diane, put on the back burner for so long, had almost faded into irrelevance, despite showing to the world every week that Christine Baranski could do no wrong. Reese Dimple’s cases so far have largely been a monumental disappointment from my point of view, serving largely as a stepping stone for the show to steep into social issues but in the most stagnant, preaching way possible. Here, the case centers around a young woman who chose to end her life because the pain was becoming intolerable and there was essentially no hope that there could possibly be a cure for her. Diane fights the case against euthanasia and her own personal beliefs, fueled by her incessant opponent in Louis Canning. It’s a fantastic case that she does lose, but part of her perhaps was glad that she did so.
Eli’s arc was the most fascinating and at times downright thrilling. Despite Margo Martindale lighting up in every scene she’s ever been in, Ruth’s main rationale for being hired was her expertise and political acumen. So far she had displayed very little of that ruthless (pun intended) tact and efficiency but she brought it home on both occasions, recovering nicely from the hilarious debacle that was Mama’s Homespun Cooking. Eli tries to use Jackie against Ruth (drawing from his own experience) and do the same with Grace, but Ruth spins it home nicely, laying the groundwork for the future smoothly. Eli sees another chance when media outlets begin to compare Peter to Marco Rubio, which isn’t exactly a comparison that would win any accolades from a general Democratic candidate. A grinning Eli bursts into Ruth’s office, only to be overhear Ruth’s glee that Peter is now in second place in the polls. I’m just as surprised as you are, Eli. Marissa (welcome back!) has returned from Israel and she is at least able to see that Eli’s obsession with Peter’s gubernatorial office is approaching something really close to an obsessive addiction. She tries to get him to run an important Israeli campaign instead, but by the end of it all, Eli can’t let go and remains on as Alicia’s chief of staff. By the smile on his face, his plans should be a delight to behold.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (Taxed):
+“I can’t live with the pain anymore. I don’t want to live with only misery to look forward to.”
+Perps by the Pound
+Numbers on criminals
+“Sometimes it doesn’t make a difference if you did it or not.”
+“This is not To Kill a Mockingbird.”
+Eli and Jackie, always a delight
+Reese’s play to make malpractice insurance rates to go higher
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (Payback):
+“You’re sounding like Marco Rubio.”
+“What did you get out of this, beside this luxurious office?”
+“Turn smaller cases into larger ones.”
+“Oh no, I think we could all benefit from that answer.”
+“I’m thinking of taking pole dancing classes.”
+“You want Netanyahu out, here’s your chance.”
+“Why don’t you put that in your brochure?”
+The for-profit college targeting veterans
+The team of Alicia, Lucca, and Jason are an amazing team. That being said, his less-than-conventional methodologies might come back to haunt them.
Episode Title: Taxed
Written by: Leonard Dick
Directed by: Jim McKay
Episode Title: Payback
Written by: Stephanie Sengupta
Directed by: Craig Zisk
Image Courtesy: LA Times