Eyes Upon You
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Good Wife will have departed at the end of this season as a lexicon of television, having embodied seven seasons and one hundred and fifty-four episodes. It will depart, hopefully, on a strong enough note that may not be this series at its best (season five takes the cake there) but will reflect upon it with the fondness the series does deserve. I may be wrong in my lack of complete optimism and that would be truly great. To give in to some sense of optimism, however, tonight’s episode is easily the season’s strongest. It may not be as thrilling or pumped full of adrenaline as a couple of the earliest outings (in hindsight, those scores were too high), but it has a propulsive sense of direction and for once, other characters are being hit with the plot in a way that remembers to involve their emotional states of being. That in essence has been the greatest weakness of season seven, the season that inherited a lackluster second half of episodes and in large part continued to drive their weaknesses forward as uninhibited strengths. Alicia became the centerpiece at the expense of essentially everyone else and tonight the show finally remembered that other people not only exist but have significant contributions of their own character to make, or towards the plot at any rate. The stakes for the first time in a real, true fashion felt as if they were palpable, germane, and conducive to what the series has always been about from the very beginning, the death of the good wife. The Good Wife’s central theme is much more obvious in hindsight as all things often tend to be, but the ascension of Alicia in this episode highlights a carefully plotted out, overarching character arc that remains, despite the series’s inconsistencies, a pivotal accomplishment in television history. The final sequence is a fine capper to that theme, fading out to one of the best cuts to black I have yet to see.
Alicia’s character arc reaching this juncture is arguably the most organic feeling the show has produced in quite a while and even if each step of her journey wasn’t plotted out meticulously in the writers’s room (which would be difficult, considering renewal wasn’t always on the table), it’s clear that the intention was always for Alicia to break the marriage that had cast so much of her life under a palpable, threatening shadow. When Alicia announced her much-dismaying candidacy for State’s Attorney, Peter standing behind her was a neat pivot to the image that began the series, but it lacked an emotional punch, a legitimate catharsis. The show’s attempt at crafting a parallel when Alicia was thrown under the bus by the DNC and Frank Landau fell flatter somehow, a neat idea on paper whose conclusion was rendered ineffective by a complete lack of intelligence in the storyline itself. Here, however, the moment landed. The emotional heft was buoyed by a feeling of legitimate thrill and excitement for Alicia, bitterness towards a relationship that had stopped working a long time ago and a sense of inevitability that finally achieved vindication. It’s hard not to imagine what Alicia’s life would have been like if she had pulled the trigger when most people would have, but then again it’s much easier to talk about doing so than actually cutting such a significant part of your life off and throwing it into the winds. Alicia knows this and she understands that once more she is at this crossroads where she has a myriad of options, but those options really trim down to her marriage with Peter. That isn’t to say that her most important relationship is to Peter and or that her marriage is the defining part of her life, both counts which arguably are ludicrous.
Alicia left her career for her marriage, a note carried strongly in this episode with the welcome return of Anna Camp as Caitlin. Why she made that choice isn’t that difficult to gauge and one only has to glance across the timespan of patriarchy to note the vast amount of women who left their careers for after their marriage versus the number of men who have done the same thing. Peter broke that bond of trust as thoroughly as humanly possible and Alicia was left alone, stranded upon an embankment of isolation and the public humiliation that was foisted upon her. All the seeming friends left her to the curb except for Will. Alicia slowly built up all that been lost to her on her terms and merits but I never found her arrogant enough to claim all the credit for her own. When Caitlin noted that she was leaving law for her marriage’s sake, the indelible professional Diane wondered if that was what feminism was fighting for. Alicia noted that it was. Feminism was and is about equality of choice, the freedom to go down whichever path one believes to be the right one. Caitlin’s separation from her husband happened and her returning to law was her choice in the same manner. That’s what Alicia comes to recognize as something she wants and deserves. She found company in Jason and now she saw Peter as standing in the way. The key, however, is not that Peter is standing in the way of her and Jason, it’s that he is standing in the way of Alicia’s choice and that’s a key distinction that she gets and Peter simply doesn’t. For far too long that marriage has been standing in Alicia’s way of several choices and time has come for that bond to move out of her way. It won’t be as easy as she expects it to be, but it’s a vital step for the character and an indication that while the show runners may not have had a solid grasp on anyone else, they at least understand Alicia.
Peter is more problematic, keeping relatively stable in large part due to Chris Noth’s consistent performance. It’s not necessarily the show’s loose handling of him as an actual character that’s the entire problem, it’s the political storylines that generally emanate from Peter as a center of gravity that don’t always hold a significant amount of weight. His corruption storyline had stagnated significantly but the usage of Marissa as a tool by the FBI to drag Eli into the mix was a brilliant move that gave the story some much-needed emotional stakes. Alicia has transitioned towards not giving a damn and understandably so and the show, perhaps understanding that, make Eli’s betrayal of Peter rise out of the human relationship that means the most to him. Eli may go to jail for his ploy, which would be bittersweet considering his political conniving over the course of this series, but it makes sense that he would put himself in the path of indictment along with Peter to keep his daughter safe. While that storyline picked up some steam, Cary’s is where the episode loses the most composure. Ever since the trial episode of season six, Cary has been stagnating and this entire season he has been for all intents and purposes nonexistent. Maybe Matt Czuchry pissed the producers off enough to get crappy material or he really wanted those paychecks, but I simply forgot that he was an actual person up until this episode. Unmanned deals with drones and Peter’s feeling of being emasculated by Jason, but an equivalent usage of that title could apply to Cary, who at last gets tired of the idiotic politics of the law firm and quits. He stares longingly at the photos of some beach somewhere, a mere shadow of the character he used to be. This may very well be his exist and if so, it’s a poor one. It follows most similarly the exit of Kalinda and there at least some hilarious, unintended irony in two of the show’s most iconic characters leaving the series so diminished, so nonexistent.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Beautifully composed opening shot
+“So Greek Orthodox, huh?”
+“This fallen woman…”
+The case of the week centered on privacy was surprisingly solid
+“You’re in my way.”
+“You seem a little out of it.”
+“I don’t need to do anything.”
+Nora’s slight smile
+“Peter, you’re always being indicted.”
+“Life’s a bitch, kid.”
Episode Title: Unmanned
Written by: Tyler Bensinger
Directed by: James Whitmore
Image Courtesy: K Site TV