The Good Wife deals with constantly changing moral grey areas and the word ‘good’ is in the title after all. The notion of what this means has been present throughout whether in the way Alicia is perceived as a woman who ‘stands by’ her husband or in her job that sees the blurring of ethical lines at times. Now as candidate for State’s Attorney Alicia has a brand which suggests moral order of the highest with her Saint Alicia nickname, but behind the scenes she makes compromise after compromise; first with her position on religion and this week with the money she will take to give her campaign the boost it needs to keep up with Prady.
This is far from the first time we have talked about this idea of being good nor is it the first time Alicia has discussed it in such an overt manner as she does at the end of the episode, however The Good Wife manages to discuss this same topic in new and interesting ways as Alicia continues to wrestle in private with how far she will go to get what she wants. With the State’s Attorney race it polarizes the previous quandaries Alicia has faced from her personal relationships to how she conducts herself as a lawyer.
In the past she has more than happily – okay she has been super skeezed by Sweeney on countless occasions – represented Colin Sweeney whereas now she knows she can’t be seen with him in court without negatively impacting her SA chances. Alicia has no time for Sweeney in “Dark Money” openly dismissing him until he calls her bluff and threatens to tell the press where her PAC money is coming from. A compromise in an endless stream is met and she gives him legal advice but refuses to appear in court. Sweeney is cool with this and she does indeed give him something to use on the stand. After the big blowup between Alicia, Cary and Diane at the end of the last episode I was surprised that none of this tension was present this week especially as Sweeney is essentially running to Alicia at any given opportunity and sidelining the lawyers who are actually representing him in court. It does position Alicia on one side with Cary and Diane on the other but there aren’t any repercussions from this screaming match, in fact it is like it never happened.
The version of Alicia on the show Sweeney is suing over – ripped from the headlines “Call it Murder” – is “not for sale” and while this a little on the nose it is something Alicia has to deal with this week. Alicia’s relationship with Prady is cautiously friendly and it would have been so easy for the show to have made Prady another distasteful opponent. It is far more interesting this way and I feel like I’m cheating on Alicia by saying this but I don’t think I would even mind if Prady won this thing, especially as Alicia’s PAC keep stooping to new levels of awful with robocalls targeting areas who might be put off by the rumors suggesting Prady is gay and that he supports gay rights. Alicia is constantly battling her team and calls them out for the West Wing themed Twitter accounts – yes I yelped with joy at the Twitter handle @TobyZiegler44 although I am disappointed the profile pic is the egg of sadness – and the negative campaigning. This is all well and good, but Alicia still takes the ‘dark money’ on offer and money she only found out was available after seeing Prady receive a call from someone called Redmayne.
Guy Redmayne is very wealthy and he has a substantial amount of cash to give to either Alicia or Frank. Redmayne spends most of his chat with Alicia inappropriately pawing at her legs and hands which she fake smiles through, but it is when they get onto the topic of her opponent that things shift from sleazy to horrifying as he uses homophobic slurs to describe Frank Prady and his opinion of Prady has been shaped by the robocalls Alicia complained about to her team earlier in the episode. She is complicit without being complicit. What she could have done is tell Redmayne that his money is not wanted and instead she stays quiet rather than objecting. When Redmayne talks to Prady he refers to Alicia as a sex object suggesting all kinds of degrading he would do to Alicia in bed – which Redmayne is using as some kind of litmus test to see if Prady is gay or not – Prady does not stay quiet and voices his disgust and is greeted with a shoulder shrug comment from Redmayne “right, but I’m rich so it really doesn’t matter.” The moral high ground is won by Prady and Alicia’s campaign just got the financial boost it needed.
Both politics and the law can be shady; we’ve seen Alicia wrestle with dilemmas in both arenas going back to the first season when she removed a hairbrush that could be considered evidence against their client (in 1.14 “Hi”). Saint Alicia is far from saintly and it wouldn’t be all that compelling if Alicia always chose the moral high ground. Money makes a campaign stronger and Alicia wants to win, which is why sucking it up and smiling at this asshole was the right call for her campaign. But she can still feel like shit about it and it would be a concern if she didn’t question the lengths she is going to.
Cue an Alicia sized glass of red, a wine cardigan and a good cry with a comforting hug from her daughter. Grace immediately contradicts her mandate that “everybody is bad in some way” by telling her teary mom that she can’t be bad “because you’re the best person I know.” I will give Grace a pass on this because she probably believes this to be true and she is trying to make Alicia feel better about her moral crisis. This is the season where they have finally figured out how to use Grace effectively and I wonder if this is because there is only one Florrick child to deal with.
The Good Wife’s portrayal of both its legal and political arms shows murkiness throughout offering up a variety of paths these characters might take that could lead to victory despite a dodgy background or could land the least complicit person in jail. Even in the Lemond Bishop story he has to deal with everyday problems and not resort to his usual illegal methods; for him the dilemma between really doing something to the bully who is hurting his son versus doing the responsible adult thing is one of the hardest decisions he has made. Also how dumb do you have to be to bully the kid of a notorious drug kingpin? Kalinda has to decide whether to protect herself or the child in question and it is unnerving to see her so unnerved; Bishop’s kitchen continues to be a hotbed of terrifying tension. If only Marissa Gold could be a bodywoman to everyone (myself included) and point out when there is an awkward silence. She will also bring you milk and cookies.