Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) decision to run for States Attorney leads to a whole host of fires that need to be put out in another stellar episode of The Good Wife.
Let’s bitch it out…
Just when I thought that this show couldn’t get any better, along comes ‘Oppo Research’ – another feather in The Good Wife‘s cap and another excellent showcase for series star Julianna Margulies. The episode’s premise directly tackles Alicia’s vulnerabilities as she swallows the red pill and takes the plunge into the States Attorney race. The result: the titular opposition research that Castro (an unseen Michael Cerveris) will use against her in negative campaigning. The entire episode is essentially a catalogue of skeletons in the closet that can do Alicia harm and oh boy have the people in her life ever been busy getting into trouble.
Roughly a quarter of the episode takes place exclusively in Alicia’s home. It’s a pseudo-quasi bottle episode as Eli (Alan Cumming) and Alicia’s new campaign manager, Johnny Elfman( Steven Pasquale) walk Alicia through all of the fires she’ll have to put out in the few days before Peter (Chris Noth) endorses her and the campaign begins. It’s unsurprising to learn that the Kings, the show’s series creators, are responsible for writing this episode because it not only hums along, it is spectacularly funny and clever. Alicia’s exasperation as she adds to the list of individuals and issues she’ll need to tackle is pitch-perfect, and the direction and editing are essential for ensuring the energy stays high, despite the fact that we’re essentially just watching three people have a conversation around a dining room table. (Side Note: my one complaint is the continued use of Darkness At Noon – or in this case its fictional after-show, Talking at Noon. The pointed quips feels heavy handed and petty in light of The Good Wife‘s well-documented jabs at cable series).
I’ll admit that I initially hoped that the entire episode would take place that night at Alicia’s apartment, but I suppose that it doesn’t completely make sense to have everything occur in the span of a few hours. Once the episode opens up, we bear witness to the fall-out. Alicia successfully navigates some of the hurdles such as excusing Stockard Channing’s Veronica for spanking a child in a department store and using a firm hand to ensure that Zach (Graham Phillips) tows the line regarding Nisa’s unexpected pregnancy and subsequent abortion.
Not everything is put to bed quite as easily, however. I’ve always been intrigued by Alicia’s close/not close relationship with her brother Owen (Dallas Roberts) so his quietly furious response when she inquires (and partially condemns) his affair with a married man who performs bareback sex is unfortunate. And what should be a simple dissolution of services with Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) proves far more problematic after he finds a way to give her what she wants…with a clause that ensures he and his expectations of reciprocation will persist well into the future. Alicia’s campaign hasn’t even begun, but she’s already in a compromised position.
One of the recurring elements (aside from Alicia’s compulsion to consume red wine in Olivia Pope-esque quantities. More on that in a bit) is the incredulous reaction that her declaration to run elicits from everyone. It’s the first question that Elfman asks Alicia when they sit down, and her answer is so personal (it’s highly motivated by Matt Czuchry’s Cary’s treatment) that it’s completely unusable. And although Alicia firmly understands why she’s so driven to dive into the rabbit hole by episode’s end, it seems that no one else can understand her decision. This could be a response to the show’s six season-long treatment of politics as a corrupting influence, but it’s a strange response after the show’s three week use of feminist reinforcement as a driving need for Alicia’s platform. Does no one else see the potential of “Saint Alicia” in office, or is it something else? I hope that as Alicia and the show continue to explore the narrative possibilities of her run that this line of inquiry will continue because I’m genuinely intrigued by it.
- Neither Alicia nor Elfman are sold on the candidacy of the other when they first meet. They’re made for each other!
- Oh god – how much did I not miss Jennifer (Anne Marsen), Grace’s (Makenzie Vega) wacky dancing friend? Sidenote: While I did not enjoy the colour commentary by Talking at Noon, I did enjoy the punctuation of churchy singing from the other room. Just as obvious, but much more effective.
- How many glasses of wine did Alicia consume in this single episode? In my notes, I wonder whether she is a functional alcoholic so kudos to the Kings for actually addressing her drinking repeatedly (at several points showing her pausing before drinking, and then the DUI).
- Question for you readers: was Finn (Matthew Goode) in on the DUI plot? He verbally encourages Alicia to have a drink with him at the bar immediately before she’s pulled over.
- Love Eli’s victory walk before he fires flirty intern Lauren, though it appears that our real concern ought to have been with her mother, Ramona (Connie Nielsen), whom Peter describes as an “old friend.” Hmmm…
- Also: Congratulations to Nielsen for jumping from The Following to The Good Wife. Way to go from the bottom to the top of the television heap in a single season.
- Finally, the way that Bishop is framed when he appears outside, casually leaning against his jet black car in isolated areas, always makes me think of an ambush by a murderer. If Michelle and Robert King ever decide to do a horror-themed episode of The Good Wife, the way Bishop is presented suggests that they could easily do so.
- Eli (when Alicia wants him to say Saint Alicia with irony): “No irony is dead now.”
- Johnny (complaining about Alicia’s apartment): “It’s like a Marx brothers movie in here.”
- Alicia (upon learning that Owen is having an affair with a married gay porn star): “I don’t know how to answer that.”
- Alicia (learning Veronica spanked a child in a department store): “Talk to mom about hitting children.”
- Alicia (learning that Grace is squeaky clean): “Christianity 3, Atheism 0”
- Eli (when Kalinda protests that she’s Alicia’s best friend): “Out of all the lists I listed you find the best friend charge the most objectionable?”
- Eli (learning Peter is in with the intern behind closed doors): “Dammit, it’s like grade school around here!”
Your turn: did you enjoy the “bottle-episode” portion of ‘Oppo Research’? Which of the many troubling revelations took you by surprise? Does Alicia have a drinking problem? And did Finn help set her up? Sound off below.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS