Sunday, 13 October 2013

Are You Having Any Fun?: on The Good Wife’s “A Precious Commodity”

Well, are you…? Having fun, that is?

Well, no one on The Good Wife is. But that doesn’t mean that the audience isn’t. Things have not been as uncomfortably taut at Lockhart/Gardener since early season 2 and even then, amidst the Derek Bond madness,  it was not to this degree. The firm is bursting at the seams and the slow move to the inevitable throw down is both parts excruciating and exhilarating for us watching.

As much as the end of the last episode hinted at heavy-handedness, having Diane throw Will under the bus at just the wrong moment, it’s great to see the show moving forward with the repercussions with such gusto. “A Precious Commodity” picks up just as the last episode ends. A pensive Diane heads into Will’s office to confess what’s happened. It’s a significant move because, whether working in her own interests or not, Diane’s fidelity (well, relatively) to the firm has been paramount. Will doesn’t take it well, especially when Mandy Post calls fishing for information about the stolen money from a decade ago. It’s hurting the firm, he tells the partners. Diane has got to go.

It’s a nice movement of ambiguity on the writers’ part because we’re never sure if the article really is hurting the firm, whether Will is being paranoid, or just vindictive. Or, a combination of all three. It’s left up to us to judge. So, the partners begin planning an exit strategy – how much is worth having Diane out of the firm immediately? Add that to the dilemma of Alicia still, uncomfortably, wafting between the old firm and the new firm Will approaches her to take up Diane’s mantle as managing partner turning an already awkward situation into something rife with underhandedness. You can't stay Alicia, Cary argues. I don't know that, Alicia thinks to herself. What to do? What to do? No wonder no one is having fun.

In a move that I’m sure can’t be incidental the case of the week lines up as a lovely comparison to the issues at the firm. The precious commodity of the title could very well refer to Diane’s worth as a name partner, but it’s also about the abortion case that Alicia and David Lee are working. The surrogate doesn’t want the abortion that the parents of the foetus insist is essential as per the advice of their doctor. It’s precious commodity that has everyone fighting for the rights to it.

So, on the case – as usual when things at the firm are as riveting as they are now extraneous cases feel, well, extraneous. Having David Lee tag along with Alicia gives Grenier a chance to stretch his legs and antagonise his opposing chair (hey, Christian Borle). Aside from the its metaphorical use as a parallel to Diane’s precious commodity the case is best used as a way of making Alicia more uncomfortable being kept so close to the too slick David Lee to be at ease. Similarly not quite at ease at their workplace is Peter who has had sexy-ethic lady Marilyn brought back because things weren’t looking too well. I’m still queasy about this arc because it necessitates Peter being especially weak-willed which is probably but still too easy a road to tread. Marilyn is good at her job, and Peter is attracted to people who are good at what they do - he's friend with the shrewd Eli, he's married to the savvy Alicia, but this could be great, it could not...

A similarly easier road, but one playing out better than you’d expect is Grace and her quest for sexiness. Even if Grace irks on occasion, Mackenzie Vega is one of the better teen actors on television and the scene with her and Margulies (“I want people to think I’m pretty”) eerily echoes Alicia’s “Why didn’t you like me as a child?” to her mother last week. The mother/daughter waters can always turn so muddy. Like every relationship in a family.

And that family thing? That’s the essential bit here. Like the case of the week which sees the surrogate getting too closing to the parents only leading for heartache in the end is the same with the Diane issue. Diane and Will and Lockhart/Gardner have always functioned, or pretended to function, as a family which is what makes the tearing at the seams so tender, so gnarly and so hurtful. There will never be a satisfactory settlement for Diane because they’re hurting her by pushing her out. But there will never be a satisfactory apology from her to Will because she betrayed his trust with the interview. Alicia will never feel completely comfortable at the firm, and may not when she leaves because of how close she has been to Will and Kalinda* is still left not sure which side she’s straddling as she keeps investigating her bosses. The precious commodity isn’t the foetus or even the firm. The precious commodity is peace of mind and contentment. When you’re content you can have fun. But no one IS having fun because no one has that feeling of contentment anymore.

“We need to leave this week!” Alicia tells Cary at the end of the episode. She’s hoping she can find peace of mind by leaving as soon as possible. Would that it was that simple.

Further Notes
  • KALINDAAAAAA! It didn’t fit into my actual review but Kalinda is investigating Diane’s lapses for Will. In typical Will fashion he's trying to sink his opponent by any way possible, but that's not the crux. It’s not until with a third of the episode left we realise that Kalinda doesn’t know that Alicia is jumping ship with Cary. Even though the two haven’t interacted face to face since (I think) Season 4’s tenth episode, they have communicated via phone and the sense of investment in their relationship, on Kalinda’s part at least, is palpable. It does demand a suspension of disbelief that savvy Kalinda would show her emotions, but it returns us to the season 2 notion of Alicia being her “tell” (one of the few persons about whom she shows true emotion) and it’ll be interesting to see where he knowledge of this information goes.  
  •  Eli and Marilyn arguing about ethics is turning out nicely for Cumming and George, who –questionable eyeliner or no – is doing nice work.
  • “What happened after you brought Evan back to the room?” “Well, we double –, I mean we had a threesome.” A witness speaking about a threesome as The Good Wife keeps having fun with the censors.
  • Staying is a mistake; you’ll always be under Will. You finally have a chance to get out from under him. Oh, Cary Agos, and your velvety voice sending out innuendos.
  • The episode was, alas, not as Diane focused as it seemed it would be but Baranski still brought her usual A-game to it giving each scene the necessary oomph.
  • But, really, Diane can’t leave, right?

Episode Grade: B+/A–
Episode MVP: Christine Baranski, even with little screen-time. Runner Up: Zach Grenier, being a showboat

Were you having fun with this episode?

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