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The Good Wife: “Message Discipline”

Is Alicia a terrible politician?

Perhaps. She’s so inherently against it, and its values, that it’s hard to see how she could ever end up being good. Politics are messy, and everyone knows it, but can you play the game of politics without, you know playing the game? Alicia’s been resistant to this from the start, and “Message Discipline” has her wading into the land of more awkward televised interviews. Alicia handled her last one, on the complicated topic of religion, much better, but when she’s put with Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce), who may be considering a State Attorney run himself, Alicia’s suddenly flailing.

It’s a very surreal thing to see Alicia Florrick flail. We haven’t seen her truly frazzled since the pilot. Despite how alternately hectic and downright awful her life can get, Alicia’s always appeared very collected and put together. But now she’s on a campaign and trying to ensure a victory so enter Eli and Elfman, throwing advice at her that she struggles to follow to make that happen. She crosses her legs at the ankle so she sits up straighter, and she works on her pivot as Elfman suggests. But while she goes into her interview with Prady prepared for questions about Cary’s legal battle, Zach and Nyssa’s abortion and Peter’s rumored affairs, she gets gentler questions that she completely bombs.

Of course politicans give bad interviews all the time, but Alicia’s struggling against Eli and Elfman the entire time. She wants to take their advice, but she also thinks it’s all terribly stupid. She awkwardly uses a detail about Prady’s mother being attacked in her retirement home only to be told that it never actually happened, and she immediately vetoes  their suggestion of releasing a damning article about Prady’s views on Israel. She’s just as awkward when Prady comes to her office, but once he announces that he’s suddenly decided to run, Alicia’s back in her element, working better with an adversary than with a potential ally she has to woo. She doesn’t like asking for things (which makes me wonder about the last time Alicia asked for something from someone), but she has no problem calling Prady a hypocrite and kicking him out of her office.

Alicia’s upward trajectory is interestingly paralleled with the return of Connie Nielsen’s Ramona, who becomes Peter’s new personal attorney. She’s in the same boat Alicia was in six years ago, returning to the law after staying at home to raise two children. She’s softspoken and self-conscious with her comeback, almost being bowled over by Eli and the (actually really mean and annoying) Judge Glatt but an obviously good lawyer. She and Alicia’s warm relationship does make things extra complicated, depending on how the weird scenario between Ramona, her intern daughter and Peter actually ends up resolving itself. If Ramona’s supposed to be reminding us of Alicia, then is Peter supposed to be Ramona’s Will, hiring her not only out of some faith in her abilities but also out of respect for a personal (romantic?) history?

Ramona’s more integrated into the show than her abrupt arrival would have had me predict as she’s immediately thrust into Cary’s legal drama as Cary’s accused of burying evidence for Lemond Bishop when he was Deputy State Attorney and working under Peter. Though Peter wiggles out of being forced to testify, it’s Kalinda working overtime behind the scenes to find a way for Cary, whose situation only continues to get worse. Their relationship is still confusing when compared to the rest of their interactions, both with each other and without, but they have nice moments together. Forced to accommodate the 30 feet rule, they talk through text messages in which Cary tells her that he misses her, a moment made especially sweet by Cary’s sad smile and Kalinda’s responding expression. Kalinda’s working very hard to help Cary, even continuing to work against Lemond Bishop by finding the missing witness and convincing him to turn against Bishop.

In comparison Cary doesn’t have much to do, or even say this episode. He’s there, looking something like a befuddled puppy. Things just keep getting piled on to the point where it’s looking like this will never end for Cary. Every victory is dashed almost instantly, and even when Cary has a potential out right in front of him he can barely come up with a way to take advantage. A worried Diane asks him about his years at the ASA office and Cary only replies to her declarations of how terrible this is for him with “I know” but tries to convince Kalinda not to use Peter. While Kalinda, Diane and Cary are all working together on this, Alicia is conspicuously absent.

Alicia and Cary have been in different places all season it’s seemed, Alicia with one toe in Cary’s legal drama and the rest of her dealing with her campaign. When Diane comes to her about Wagner and his cousin being killed in a car accident, the only two people who could potentially help Cary’s case, Alicia assumes she’s talking about Prady’s article, for a moment forgetting there’s even something else going on in their world. Hers and Cary’s interaction this episode only amounts to her tepid and preoccupied support of him as he heads off to court with Diane in various instances. For an episode that began with Finn cryptically advising Alicia to distance herself from Cary, after an episode that had Alicia refusing that very notion, the two are in such different worlds that they might as well be following everyone’s advice.

Alicia’s spending more time with Finn who’s been particularly neglected this season considering Matthew Goode’s series regular status. We get to see more of him as he pursues Cary’s case, finding more damning evidence, then being told of Cary’s innocence and taking said knowledge to Castro. For some reason Finn’s really surprised by Castro having ulterior motives in pressing for Cary’s prosecution as if Castro didn’t spend the back half of the last season trying to blame the courtroom shooting on Finn’s shoddy legal work. But at least Finn being in the same building as Alicia will make it possible for them to make out see more of each other though I worry who will replace Finn as the prosecutor on Cary’s case.

Stray Observations

  • Eli: “Alicia, you’re not writing a poem. You’re practicing politics.”
  • Judge Glatt is not a fun judge okay. Not fun at all.
  • Trey Wagner’s in hiding, but he answers the door without looking through the peephole? Okay.

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