You watched The Golden Globes, but The Good Wife is still new and it’s debate time!
Let’s bitch it out…
Following last week’s debate prep, ‘The Debate’ features the real deal as Alicia (Julianna Margulies) faces Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce) in the combat arena known as live TV. For my money, the events surrounding Alicia’s performance prove why she ultimately won’t win this election. The early parts of the debate focus on how overwhelmed she is: her handlers are all nattering in her ear, the lights are too bright, and she can’t see the audience. Even little details such as the pen not working and the single piece of tape prove too distracting. The result is body language that to the casual viewer looks uncomfortable, awkward and unfocused. Clearly these overly structured interactions – 10 second rebuttals, 45 second questions – don’t work to her benefit, which is being able to make calculated, reasoned responses. Despite being able to think on her feet and score points in the courtroom, politics and its accompanying idiosyncrasies continue to prove challenging to our favourite Chicago lawyer.
Contrast Alicia’s performance in the “official” debate with her assured delivery and ability to work a room when she and Prady take the conversation to the kitchen. As protestors march on city hall in the Peter (Chris Noth) / Eli (Alan Cumming) storyline, Alicia and Prady debate how a victory for them would affect the race wars to an audience of cooks and wait staff. The result is transformative: Alicia is back in her element. Her delivery is strong, she’s more confident and she naturally plays to her (now visible) audience to get them on side. While Elfman (Steven Pasquale) initially balks at the informal debate, by the end he’s encouraging a waiter to record it. Prady’s handler, on the flip side, desperately ushers him away and moments later he announces- via his website no less – that he’s cancelled the debate.
Prady’s decision to postpone may be a tactical error (as Alicia’s team suggests), but as we saw in the first half of the episode, Prady is much more adept at the formally structured events than Alicia is. Even if the kitchen debate goes viral, the televised debate is sure to garner more views and inform more opinions and Alicia didn’t perform well. We may know that she’s a better candidate and by the end of ‘The Debate’ when she stands up to Diane (Christine Baranski) it feels like a turning point because she’s finally embraced her ability to win, but given what we’ve seen, this may be a contest that she’s actually already lost.
Lurking in the back of Alicia’s storyline is the one that occupies Peter and Eli. The Good Wife has proven remarkably topical in recent years, but I imagine series creators the Kings and their writing staff didn’t anticipate that the events from Ferguson would still be so relevant when this episode went to air (hence the caveats that open the episode over footage of police in riot gear and black protestors). Like the best “ripped from the headlines” cases, the series is less interested in examining which side is right; The Good Wife is interested in exploring the debate from different angles.
Peter spends the episode arguing with the Chicago Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Franny (Rachael Harris) about the optics of sending police in to deal with potential rioters following a not guilty verdict in a racial profiling case involving white cops and a black victim. In proper Good Wife form, this highlights the political nature of decision-making (Peter, Eli and Franny don’t care about the case so much as how they come off looking). Perhaps understanding that there’s rarely a situation that isn’t complicated by multiples stories, the evening is further complicated by the bombshell that journalists have photos of Peter and Ramona (Connie Nielsen) together.
While I’m pleased to see the end of this particular storyline as Peter ultimately sends her packing, I do question whether tit needed to be included in what is already a very busy episode. Sure it allows Alicia to go on a rant against a journalist who asks her about the photos during the debate, but it just seems unnecessary to overcomplicate what is already a full-to-the-brim episode. But maybe that’s just my opinion?
The final piece of the triangle sees Diane and Cary (Matt Czuchry) battling David Lee (Zach Grenier) is a mostly standalone storyline. The implications, on the other hand, are apt to be huge. The case itself is hardly immaterial since the firm has now lost Neil Gross (John Benjamin Hickey) as a client, but more importantly Diane and Cary have brought Lee back into the fold without consultation. Alicia is (quite rightly) pissed at this decision, which also harks back to last week’s episode when Alicia was too busy doing her own thing to stay abreast of Cary’s defence strategy. Now she’s back on the outs, determinedly focused on winning the election with Elfman, but wondering what else Diane and Cary are up to in the office across the hall. Hope no one was expecting an easy ride now that the three of them are partners and Cary is no longer looking at jail time. It looks like the in-office fighting is only just beginning!
- Last week’s kiss between Alicia and Elfman may have meant nothing to her, but the look on his face (caught by Sarah Steele’s Marissa) suggests that it may have meant something to him.
- My love/hate relationship with Peter continues. I’m annoyed that he continued to sleep with Ramona after Alicia flat-out confronted him, but his admission to Pastor Isaiah (Gbenga Akinnagbe) that it’s too late to be a good person is surprising. I didn’t expect Peter to be so reflexive about being a terrible person.
- Kudos to the episode director for putting us firmly in Alicia’s shoes so that we could experience how overwhelming it is to participate in a televised debate. The roving camera and the brightness of those lights were really effective at reinforcing how disorienting it would be.
- Marissa (after hearing that Peter “broke it off” with Ramona): “Yeah, stuck it in and broke it off”
- Eli (arguing why his black assistant won’t riot): “You’re more…suburban”
Your turn: Do you think Alicia lost the official debate and won the kitchen debate? Was it a victory when Prady bowed out? Is Alicia going to go to war against Diane and Cary? Are you excited to have David Lee back? Is Peter more or less of a douchebag for finally kicking Ramona to the curb? And is Elfman falling for his client? Sound off below.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS