Screen / The Good Wife

The Good Wife: “Red Zone”

Sure, Alicia’s a good person, and sure Alicia cares, but she does care plenty about her image. Alicia’s never strayed away from presenting a composed version of herself, despite whatever inner turmoil she may be facing, and she’s not an open book. When her first focus group comes around, Alicia realizes how little people know her and how little some like her. One of the participants labels her as “entitled” and “selfish”, and Alicia becomes obsessed with this stranger’s idea of her despite a what has always seemed to be a general self-certainty which leads her on a painful attempt at looking like a “better” person.

Alicia thinks it’s enough to actually be a better person, unable to grasp the nuances and complications of being a politician. She volunteers at a soup kitchen, at Finn’s suggestion, but she’s wearing her work clothes and on the phone with Eli while scrubbing a pot she’s already cleaned. Anyone else would have no problem picking out the issues in this particular moment, but it all flies right over Alicia’s head, and she’s surprised when it blows up in her face and Eli has to remind her that politics isn’t about actually being anything, it’s about the appearance of being something because no one actually knows her, and it’s impossible to honestly know a candidate in a race.

It’s actually hard to know Alicia in any respect. Even as people who follow her lives weekly, we don’t see Alicia break down very often. She’s very controlled, taking a glass of wine and watching bad television, sitting in her former lover’s office and mulling over his death. But there’s very little Alicia actually puts out there for other people’s consumption other than when she’s in the courtroom. Her case this week is helping a college student fight for the expulsion of her rapist, first as a “silent advocate” then as her attorney as she sues that university for not doing all they could. Alicia’s had some morally objectionable clients in the past, but it’s clear that she cares about Jodie and wants her to have the fair shot she deserves. Even when Jodie’s fine with the university expelling her rapist for marijuana possession (rather than raping her), Alicia’s ready to continue her push. She cares a lot, and would probably make a good State’s Attorney, a fact she knows well especially when compared to the current one.

But strangely, Castro drops out of the race, and there’s nothing said about it other than a throwaway line from the a fake news broadcast. It seems to show the production issues behind the scenes (maybe Michael Cerveris wasn’t going to be available anymore), but with Castro out of the picture it opens the door for Alicia to start examining why she really wants to run for State’s Attorney. Until now it’s been about how Alicia views herself as being naturally opposed to him because he’s a “bad” guy and she’s a “good” one. But if Prady’s her only opponent now is Alicia still going to feel the need to push so hard? She talks a bunch about how she hates politics (and she’s not very good at them either, let’s be real), but will this force Alicia to admit that she wants the power and prestige that comes with the position?

It’s Alicia who manages to help Cary out when it comes to testifying in his own case. It’s a good scene to include, with the two of them in very different places in their respective lives. Alicia, who’s just as obsessed with public perception of herself as Cary, tells him to stop trying to defend himself and let a jury realize how he’s being mistreated which means handling himself better during his testimony. Now that we’ve heard the damning recording that implies that he instructed Bishop’s crew in moving their drug supply, Cary’s the only person who can contest its validity. Which means Viola Walsh (Rita Wilson) turns up to help him prepare, and it goes terribly. His case looks worse and worse every week, and even at the end of this episode it’s bittersweet. Cary figures out how to handle himself on the stand, but there’s still the matter of getting to the stand and what will happen there.

Then there’s Kalinda who has no problem with how people see her, however that may be. Morally, she’s always been more gray than the others and even more unapologetic for it, but as the season is shaping up its Kalinda with the shining armor and the moral compass that points due north. Cary’s got a whole host of gray-hued issues, and Alicia hasn’t yet said a word about her Lemond Bishop-funded PAC. Bishop has become this season’s most unifying piece, linking everyone together despite their differing storylines, and Kalinda’s the one who’s sharing the most screentime with him now. She’s both a good ally and a good enemy for him as she struggles to keep him satisfied while also making sure her own interests (those being Cary and Lana) are safe. But that goal doesn’t look like it’s going to fare well for Kalinda who’s always walked a thin line with Bishop, a line that will only get thinner now that she’s lied about Lana’s case and backed out of placing some kind of surveillance device in her wallet.

Kalinda’s been woefully neglected in recent seasons, and with this one being Archie Panjabi’s last The Good Wife seems prepared to send her out with a bang. She’s gotten better material than she has in years, between revisiting her relationship with Lana to her and Cary finally having a frank discussion about what they are.  While Cary’s violating parole to see her, Kalinda’s taking advantage of their court-mandated distance to spend time with Lana, and she’s forced to confess to Cary that she wants to see other people, even if he only wants to see her.

Stray Observations

  • Diane’s eyeroll at Viola Walsh was superb. Her eyerolls at everyone are wonderful.
  • Kalinda with her hair down!
  • It’s interesting that Louis Canning appeared in this episode. He’s one of those characters who’s constantly making Alicia question her idea of him. She knows he’s absolutely terrible and milking his health issues in court, but she’s also sympathetic to his apparently rapidly approaching death and agrees to visit his wife should he die.
  • Sorry for the lateness of this review. The real world is catching up to me.

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