Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reaction Post - What do you have that could hurt me?

The Good Wife: 3x09 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. 

Sometimes I feel that there is this darker, more serious, less hopeful show lurking beneath the surface of The Good Wife that is never quite allowed to emerge because there are forces holding it back, be it that the producers of the show have a different vision, or that the network requires the core of the show to be accessible to a wider audience than that darker show could have, or simply that the world of The Good Wife isn't actually that dark place. It wasn't even the main case that reminded me of the fact this episode - the soldier sitting the bunker somewhere in Nevada, pressing a button and unleashing a drone attack on tiny people on a computer screen - but the way the Cary-Kalinda-Dana storyline is evolving. Who would have expected that the person that I would regard as most confusingly fucked-up this season wouldn't be one secretive investigator, or the guy who is running a law firm but also secretly sleeping with one of his employees, or Peter Florrick, but the guy who's been infatuated with her since day one?
I've mentioned before that I've found aspects of the season so far frustrating, but I think that this will all make a lot of sense in retrospect (arguably, the best way to watch the show would be to wait for the season to be over and then watch the whole thing in a couple of sittings, but that would require patience and the superpower to avoid spoilers). The pieces are all set for the inevitable showdown now, I think. The firm is "under attack", both because Will is now under investigation (and not because of his drug dealing client, but for his own potentially corrupt self!), Eli just lost them their most profitable client, and too many people know about Will and Alicia for this not to eventually become a public issue. Peter remains uncomfortably off-screen (regardless of whether this has to do with Chris Noth's availability or not, it is effective), which only helps to foster the eerie sense that nobody has any fucking idea what he really wants. And then there's Jackie, and the unshakable feeling that one confrontation won by Alicia isn't going to make her go away (the moment when Alicia finally shared her suspicion with her children - that Jackie is trying everything to get Peter sole custody - was one of my favourite this episode). If we're talking Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - who knows wtf is going on with Kalinda? She is playing Dana and Cary to protect Will but the absurd thing about her character is that despite all her observational skills, her perceptiveness, her incredible ability to read people and situations, she has no idea what is going on in her own head, and she can't figure out her own motivations. She is playing Cary, sure, but it is also more complicated than that, and she isn't going to figure this out unless she talks about it to someone who can give her perspective - but the only person she DOES talk to, in this episode, is Dana, who is so deeply involved in the game that she is the last person who could help. Will isn't the only person who needs to stop, but Kalinda doesn't have anyone in her life to tell her to do so, at least not until Alicia finds that a conversation with her has become inevitable. 

Random notes: 

This week's case: a female drone operator is accused of disregarding vital information before starting an attack and killing innocent people, which brings Will and Alicia back to military court (and the very same judge they faced last time).  

Alicia, hilariously, asks about the drone pilot, because she hasn't read a newspaper in the past eight or so years and is completely misinformed and naive about the US military (file under "things I do not buy"). This was probably meant to fit into the "inapt at technology" thing the writers are trying to pull off but COME ON. I know about unmanned drones and my country's edgiest technology is whatever was tossed out by other countries 20 years ago (also, the "unmanned aerial system" thing could have tipped her off). 

Alicia and Will pursue different lines of defence for their client (nobody else has been charged, sexism), but by far the most uncomfortable - and the one that ultimately failed - was the argument that she was just another soldier on the battleground, despite sitting in a trailer in the Nevada desert, and that the same rules that protect soldiers from being prosecuted for accidentally killing civilians in action should apply to her, in spite of the fact that she wasn't in danger. There are so many unresolved issues regarding the changing nature of warfare through technology - and this is one of the cases where society is hopelessly behind technological innovation. If the idea of an algorithm (termed the Kill Chain - and yes, this is a real thing) determining the value of civilians doesn't make you question some aspects of This Brave New World... We don't know if the Sergeant disregarded vital information, but the argument of the judge after finding her guilty does hold up: "The problem with the charge of scapegoating is that it doesn't acknowledge that at a certain point, you must hold people accountable."

"You wound me, Sir."

Kalinda tells Will that he can "exhale" (and "do something nice for someone" - heh) because Peter has stepped down from the investigation - and then Wendy Scott-Carr comes in (remember her - I think she was ready not play entirely fairly in her campaign against Peter?), apparently still holding a grudge and determined to make the investigation ABOUT WILL, not about Bishop, because she thinks that Will is running an operation that systematically bribes judges he plays basketball with. I assume we are meant to know that Will isn't actually doing that (unless TGW really is that other show and there will be a shocking reveal at some point). 

Also, sort of discomforting foreshadowing: 

Cary: Actually, the case doesn't involve his wife.
Wendy: Actually, we don't know that yet. 


Wendy: We know your hands are clean, Diane. 
Diane: How do we know that? 
Wendy: You're right. We don't know your hands are clean. You can demonstrate your hands are clean by working with us. 

The bad-ass award of the week goes to Diane Lockhart, sadly underused this season so far, successfully suppressing her rage at Will in her confrontation with Wendy and then coldly and very matter-of-factly telling Will to stop sleeping with Peter's wife. "Peter Florrick is coming after you because you are sleepin with his wife. Don't lie to me. It's wrong. You are his boss. He is the State's Attorney. Even if it wasn't wrong, it's not smart. Stop sleeping with his wife, do you understand me?"

Other things that make me wish Diane Lockhart was my aunt: "WE'LL DRINK. I'll put you in a cab. You will sleep it off. You won't feel good in the morning. You'll come in late, but you will come in."

I am also curious about Cary, who seemed very hesitant to pursue the investigation but was ready to jump the train once Wendy showed up. Did he just hesitate because he thought his readiness to investigate Lockhart/Gardner would make it seem like he was still holding a grudge against them for firing him? 

Alicia figures out that Jackie was looking through her files because despite being unable to find the on-switch, she apparently managed to activate the camera and make a recording of herself (okay, show, suspended disbelief - not that I know Macs or what sequence of accidental key strokes would have to be involved in this) - and her kick-ass reaction to it is changing the locks, telling her children that she thinks Jackie's agenda is winning Peter sole custody, and then confronting Jackie when she shows up at her door.

Jackie: You're hurting your children. 
Alicia: I might be, but that's between me and them, and I would never take your word for it. 
Jackie: They are not safe with you. 
Alicia: Go ahead, Jackie, reach into that bag of tricks. What do you have that could hurt me? 
Alicia: Look at me, Jackie. Look at my face. You no longer have the power to wound. 

The conversation is also incredibly gratifying because Jackie's two arguments to support her "Alicia is a bad mother" theory is that Zach might be dating Eli's daughter (she is Jewish!) and Grace is locking the door when the tutor is around (she might be gay!). I sort of feel bad for Mary Beth Peil for having to play a horrible person (to me, she will always be Jen Lindley's grandmother...) - but this was Alicia being completely certain that she was doing the right thing, asserting power, and all of this while being involved in a case that she couldn't possibly win. 

"Get your coat, let's buy you a car"

Eli is running a campaign in Washington to somehow fit cheese into the new "My Plate" food pyramid (is that an actual thing or just a tongue-in-cheek comment on "pizza is a vegetable"?) and meets with people from vegetable, bread and corn, proposing his very own creepy whole-food-person-idea - but eventually he loses against an opposing lobbyist (played by Amy Sedaris). I might have enjoyed this whole storyline more if her character hadn't been just another extremely capable operative using the fake naivety-strategy to appear less dangerous and win in the end because people underestimate her. Sometimes, The Good Wife forgets that there are shades of grey between Celeste and Nancy Crozier (I guess Alicia is a shade, but it would be nice to see the same complexity afforded to guest characters). The important developement: Eli uses the firm the client that would have their budget from all the horrible red that comes with being idealistic. 

Kalinda hilariously fails to turn a teacher into a less attractive person for the sake of the committee, regardless of Diane's glasses. 

"We need to talk to the bread people."

"When you're dead, Eli, you know what the polite thing is to do? Get a shovel."

Diane: Do men really have that much success in their lives that at the first setback that comes along, they get all weepy? 

Oh. Well. Let us get into the Cary-Kalinda-Dana conundrum. Objectively, Cary and Dana have an incredibly dysfunctional relationship that they are now nourishing by using the IDEA of Kalinda. They use Kalinda to make each other jealous, they use Kalinda as some kind of gratifying fantasy. I was actually surprised at how dark this storyline is turning out to be because Cary has always been a fairly simple (I don't mean necessarily uninteresting or boring) character in terms of motivation, but now... now it seems like Cary is going a bit mental. The whole thing is fucked up already because they are all using each other in different ways - Kalinda and Dana are using each other for information (Wendy told Dana to "cultivate" her source, literally, and we don't really know Dana well enough to have any idea of how far she is willing to exploit a relationship for personal gain), Cary is using Dana to get over Kalinda, Kalinda is still kind of using Cary because she always is - and that wouldn't even necessarily be complicated if there wasn't this additional layer of emotional need that the characters themselves don't grasp. 

Also, conversations I wish had never, ever happened: 

Dana: It's not gonna work. 
Kalinda: What's not gonna work? 
Dana: Seducing me. 
Kalinda: I don't wanna seduce you. 
Dana: You don't? 
Kalinda: No. Too easy. 
Dana: Hey. What's the point anyway, I don't get it, without a penis involved that's like baseball without a bat. 
Kalinda. Well you get it when you get it. 
Dana: Oh, deep. 
Kalinda: It's different. A woman's lips, and, and when you get a woman excited, it's not like a man. 
Dana: I hope not. 
Kalinda: It's not aggressive. It's slow. Suspenseful. 

I know that I let one of my favourite fictional characters of all time get away with a similar inquiry ("What do lesbians do... in bed?") - but Dana is no Naomi Campbell, she is a fairly recent addition to the cast and someone we, objectively, know fairly little about, and there is still a chance that Kalinda is in over her head for the first time ever (with that one obvious exception) because things relating to Cary are complicated ("You wanna hurt Cary?" / "No"). Dana tells Kalinda that Cary is also trying to hurt her, somehow, through her, and I assume she means "by hurting Will" not "taking me away from you because you obviously care so much about me". Basically, at this point, this whole storyline could go so terribly wrong that I shudder to even think about it. Also hi, past scripts to Kalinda, "slow and suspenseful, not aggressive" doesn't exactly cover your past hook-ups. The ultimate grossness occurred when Dana used the conversation to turn on Cary (because lesbians and bisexual women and the male gaze usually don't lead to good things, see also: straight porn). Whiskey Tango Foxtrot indeed. 

The musical supervisor is having loads of fun this season (Awolnation's Sail is all over this episode), and adds to the weird feeling that I've been having for a while, that The Good Wife is secretly a Showtime show hiding underneath a CBS-cloak (especially since Homeland is on the same night, and this episode weirdly felt like a companion piece). 

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