The sky is falling and everyone on The Good Wife is under fire as season six heads into its final few episodes.
Let’s bitch it out…
Thanks a technological snafu, I had the extreme displeasure of seeing the final few minutes of ‘Winning Ugly’ before the rest of the episode. It’s a very different kind of viewing experience when you know that Cary (Matt Czuchry) will offer himself to Geneva Pine (Renée Elise Goldsberry) in Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) place and that Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) dreams of being States Attorney have less than 44 minutes to live. On one hand the experience had me cursing the failings of my PVR, but it also offered a very interesting perspective on the episode (a bit like The Good Wife meets Memento).
‘Winning Ugly’ is all about the decisions that come back to bite you in the ass. It’s a tense episode that features not one, but two boards – yet another variation of the endless court case of the week that The Good Wife is so skillful at avoiding even in its sixth season. Both of these boards were teased last week when Kalinda’s involvement in the metadata scandal prompted her to seek out Finn’s (Matthew Goode) services and the election voting scandal dropped like a hammer in the final scene.
While there are similarities between the two boards, the feel of each is unique. Alicia and Marissa (Sarah Steele) go into the election board cautiously optimistic, especially when party rep Landau (Mike Pniewski) reveals that famous civil rights lawyer Spencer Randolph (Ron Rifkin) has volunteered to represent her. The case itself has ups and downs, with Kalinda’s tech friend Howell (Jacob Babinsky) alternately helping, then hurting her case with information about the hacking devices discovered in the voting machines. At every turn, however, Parillo (Remy Auberjonois) calls for a recount, eventually breaking down their defences until Landau hauls Alicia and Eli (Alan Cumming) back into his office to ask her to step down.
It’s the first of several great scenes for Margulies. Initially Alicia assumes Landau is joking; then she’s stunned when she realizes that he means it. Finally there’s outrage when he offers her a spot on a random committee of her choice down the road. She explodes, but he and Spencer Randolph hold her fate in their hands and before she even realizes she’s been betrayed, the knife is in her back and her run as SA is over.
On one hand, this is incredibly frustrating. We’ve spent the last eighteen episodes building Alicia up to this and now, in just a single episode, it has been thrown aside and dismissed. (Side Bar: For those who never liked this storyline, is this like the Christmas of narrative resolutions or is it a slap across the face considering what you’ve endured?) While I find myself caught someone in the middle, I find Alicia’s swift fall from grace another reminder about the lack of power an individual has. Alicia may have felt badly about winning over Prady, but at the end of the day, it hardly matters because “the Party” were the ones in control. Maybe Alicia never really stood a chance and this simply ended up being her hill to die on. We’ll never know because she’s already done by the time she takes that final stunned elevator ride into Peter’s (Chris Noth) arms.
Watching these events unfold with prior knowledge didn’t lessen the feeling that the switch in her fortunes occurs very swiftly. One moment it looks like Randolph and Alicia have it in the bag, then suddenly Parillo is swooping in the kill and Landau is kicking her to the curb. Contrast this with the slow, methodical demise of Kalinda and Diane (Christine Baranski). We’ve seen things falling apart for several weeks now and despite the input from Cary, Finn and even David Lee (Zach Grenier), all we can do is watch everything fall apart and return to the terrible days when Cary seemed destined to go to jail, only with Diane swapped for Cary. When Geneva Pine appears in Diane’s office to outline the plea deal and she explains that what they want is the same they wanted before, Bishop (an unseen Mike Colter), I had to chuckle in despair.
Diane says it all when she murmurs: “Here we are. Back at the beginning.” Narratively this is a bold statement by The Good Wife’s writers, a reminder that the entire season has been a circle and we’re “back at the beginning” without even realizing it. Does this diminish any of either story line’s emotional impact? I would argue no, but that’s because I think the show deserves a long leash due to its consistent quality. I imagine that’s not unanimous among other viewers, however.
- Wiley (Tim Guinee) returns briefly to give Diane a head’s up/wind her up. It’s a great scene, filled with humour (Wiley’s kids continue to be ripe sources of comedy) and pathos (Diane’s steely reaction as she orders him out). Seriously, though, when does Guinee get his own show?
- Is there any doubt that Kalinda will die now? It seems inevitable that she will either a) testify against Bishop and be killed or b) be cut down in the line of fire protecting Cary when he tries to testify to save her. I’m bracing myself for disappointment.
- The video featuring straight-faced actors read salacious emails that Grace (Makenzie Vega) watches is another one of The Good Wife’s riffs on pop culture. AV Club suggests it’s like a Funny or Die video, but it kind of reminds me more of Kimmel’s Mean Tweets segment.
- As much as I like Ron Rifkin, Spencer Randolph didn’t get quite hit the mark for me. He is introduced to much fanfare from both Alicia and Marissa, but we barely see him action before he throws Alicia under the bus. It might have been nice to build him up a little more before using him as a villain (though perhaps we should have expected that given our experiences with Alias).
- Finally, just in case you don’t know how awesome Diane, please review the scene when she confronts Kalinda about the metadata and they pull her silently into Finn’s office. So simple, but so amazing.
Best Lines: All Marissa all the time!
- Marissa (when Alicia asks for a coffee): “How long do you need because there’s a falafel truck downstairs”
- Marissa (as Randolph woos the Election Board): “I wanna marry him.”
- Marissa (when Randolph confirms he’s going after Peter): “Dad’s not going to be happy.”
Your turn: are you happy that Alicia’s SA story line is finally done? Do you like the contrast between the two boards? Is Kalinda 100% doomed to die now? Is Christine Baranski the best? And where do we go from here? Sound off below.
The Good Wife takes a breather and returns in two weeks on Sunday, April 26 at 9pm EST on CBS with ‘The End’