The Good Wife offers a glimpse into Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) ‘Mind’s Eye’ and the results are illuminating.
Let’s bitch it out…
“Your voice sounds better.” “I’m finding it.”
Alicia Florrick has a case of laryngitis (not a cold!). The “illness” from which she suffers in this episode, however, has much less to do with being unable to speak, than how and what to speak. Without a literal voice to speak, Alicia spends the episode living inside her head, working out her life and providing us VIP access to the proceedings. ‘Mind’s Eye’ is a fascinating portrait of a woman that we’ve spent six and a half seasons getting to know, but breaks the mould by giving us unparalleled access to her thought process.
More than three quarters of this episode takes place inside Alicia’s mind as she grapples with ongoing issues. The set-up is that she’s on a fixed schedule: she has three hours until an interview that may determine the outcome of the upcoming States Attorney race, now only a week away. This is a storyline that has dominated the series’ sixth season and one that has effectively removed Alicia from most of the goings-on around the law firm environment that gives The Good Wife much of its structure. Thanks to the laryngitis, Alicia is even further removed: early in the hour politico adviser Elfman (Steven Pasquale) and body woman Marissa (Sarah Steele) advise Alicia to rest up by staying put and keeping offline. She’s not just in her own storyline; she’s basically cut off from all of the other characters in the show.
In ordinary circumstances this should make for one very boring episode. And for some viewers this may be just that: a mild “bottle”-esque episode where nothing happens (this is me imagining unhappy viewers in the same way that Alicia does with her opponents).There are several areas occupying Alicia’s head space and the fact that they feed into each other and prompt her to go back and forth offers insight into not only the complex layering that the writers are grappling with, but how frenetic Alicia’s life has become. She’s grappling with her opponent Frank Prady’s (David Hyde Pierce) likability with the Conservative paper that could determine her fate, the status of Louis Canning’s (Michael J. Fox) wrongful eviction suit that could bankrupt the firm and last, but certainly not least, a bevy of semi-repressed personal issues. It’s undeniable that the focus on Alicia’s daydreams and imaginary interactions don’t produce the same kind of courtroom drama or plot driven mechanics we’re used to seeing on the show, but this kind of deep-dive into the character – at a pivotal point in time – certainly makes for a memorable episode, if not a surprisingly adventurous one for a show in its sixth season.
One of the elements that I appreciated most is how the other characters challenge and revise Alicia’s narrative. I’ll confess that I’ve held entire conversations in my head, anticipating the responses of friends, co-workers and my husband just like a chess match. Alicia’s thought process follows the exact pattern that we would expect: she’s methodical, argumentative and just a little playful (her take on Alan Cumming’s Eli as exasperated and curt is completely in tune with his character, which is what makes it so funny). Alicia needs to plot things out, so she imagines how they might go down. For example, an exchange with Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) is played out first with Alicia as a scene partner, then reinterpreted with Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) replacing Alicia in the role because Alicia assumes Kalinda is more suitable for the task. Alicia’s success can be attributed to her keen mind and attention to detail and now we’re learning that it’s also because she revises her assumptions and approaches in nearly every way (even if at times she is over-thinking, as exemplified by the way that the other characters interject to question their own portrayal).
By episode’s end, only three hours have passed. We’ve seen Alicia create a few lists on how to handle Prady and her Conservative interview, as well as Canning’s suit (with a dash of Bishop thrown in for good measure). We’ve seen Alicia go for a music-enhanced walk, nearly get hit by a car, and reminisce about her sex life with lovers past and (anticipated?) future. And throughout, we have learned more about how Alicia thinks, processes and experiences the world than we have in any other episode, and maybe the entire series. It’s hard not to applaud ‘Mind’s Eye’ for its audacious willingness to experiment with the show’s format. Love it or hate it, this is a pretty unique episode.
- Let’s get to the good stuff: the sex. The phone conversation that sees Will (Josh Charles – or at least his voice) morph into Elfman and then Finn (Matthew Goode) is fantastic. Not only does it confirm that Saint Alicia is a regular person with a healthy (albeit fictitious) sexual appetite, but it’s solidly racy and sex-positive. At least now we know that Alicia is actually thinking about sex, even if she’s not having it.
- That look with Elfman in the car (and the goodbye to Will) suggests that she may be up to get down in the near future.
- Too bad that the body double hired for the balcony scenes looks nothing like Josh Charles. He’s doing the voice – why can’t he show up for filming, too?!
- Speaking of sex, how about those Peter (Chris Noth) / Kalinda scenes? This is a strange case of the external world seeping into the internal world of the show. Over the weekend The Good Wife was at Paleyfest and the core cast was there…sans Kalinda. During the Q&A, the same “Alicia can’t forgive Kalinda for sleeping with Peter” line was used when it was asked if the former friends will share physical screen time before Archie Panjabi’s departure. The visual mechanics of Alicia’s hallucination certainly support this assertion, even as reports began surfacing in the “real world” that Panjabi hadn’t even been invited to Paleyfest. As much as I like the actress, perhaps once she’s gone we can move on from the rumours and speculation; the offscreen stuff is starting to distract from the onscreen world.
- The brief glimpses of Zach (Graham Phillips) in Alicia’s imagination show him as a homeless deadbeat. It’s hilariously on point with what Alicia imagines should happen to her disappointment of a son. Ultimately she finds the courage to forgive and call him, but hangs up after getting his voice mail. Does she sign off because of his mention of “sleeping it off” or just because she doesn’t reach him?
- Considering the back and forth Alicia has had about Grace’s (Makenzie Vega) religion, it’s interesting that she ultimately uses her knowledge of Grace’s text messages and the request from Canning’s wife, Simone for prayer to gently nudge Grace back towards her faith.
- The Diane (Christine Baranski) and Cary (Matt Czuchry) of Alicia’s imagination are remarkably similar to real life, but they do seem to need her to save them a lot. Perhaps Alica has the Saint Alicia moniker not because she’s perfect, but because she envisions herself as perfect?
- The Best Lines are all variations of the same joke, in that they feature characters questioning or even mocking Alicia’s representation of them. By speaking to the camera directly, however, these moments make viewers complicit in Alicia’s (unreliable?) narrative in a way that is far more meta than any Chum Hum = Google reference from the show’s past. Is this how we see these people, or are we merely trapped because we’re seeing things from Alicia’s point of view? Food for thought.
- Marissa (reminding Eli that the Zach question is new): “It’s not even the first time because we’re just in her imagination thinking about it-”
- Peter (to Alicia, when she imagines him and Kalinda flirt/talking): “We don’t talk this way and you know it.”
- Zach: “Why am I being used as an example of what not to do? I’m at Georgetown.”
Your turn: did you like the unconventional approach ‘Mind’s Eye’ took? Was there anything surprising in Alicia’s imagination? Do you think that she’ll engage in a sexual relationship with Elfman? Will Canning really die? Sound off below.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS