Monday, 9 January 2012

Reaction Post - You have a failed romantic notion that what you are running here is a family.

The Good Wife: 3x12 Alienation of Affection.

Wow, what a great start into the new year! This is my favourite episode of the show this season, and I am trying to figure out what exactly has changed - and if anything, it's a subtle thing. Everything just came together perfectly in the episode. The case-of-the-week was about the firm itself and connected many points previously made: the firm is struggling financially, regardless of how often Diane chooses to call it a "temporary problem", Eli doesn't play well with the other kids, David Lee doesn't care about rules, Diane, often blamed for her idealism, DOES know how to run the firm and how to deal with her partners' difficult personalities (my favourite part about this was how the partners were set up like quarrelling children and Diane as the one sensible grown-up telling them to just stop - and surprisingly, Eli and David did stop, regardless of their individual plans for revenge/taking each others' power). 
Lockhart & Gardner are haunted by an old divorce case when the couple, meanwhile reconciled, decides to sue them for "alienating affection", some kind of relict from olden times when marriage was still sacred. As things progress, it turns out that loads of people in the firm have screwed up: David asked Kalinda to hire a prostitute (But not to sleep with him! Just to help him acquire a DUI! - "You have such lofty goals when you start a law firm. Dreams of fighting injustice, righting wrongs.", muses Diane), Julius messed up when he helped the wife sell the firm, Alicia (then still new at the firm) misplaced the one vital piece of paper that would solve all their problems. 
The episode also succeeds at being light-hearted while shedding a foreboding and terrifying light at the practices within the firm: David Lee doesn't hesitate to perjure himself in order to stay out of trouble, and he asks her to do the same (and, because she isn't the same woman who misplaced the rider two years ago, she kind of does). He weasels a signature out of her in order to forge the document they are missing - and that whole thing just brought out the best scenes of the episode. Kalinda realizes that Alicia could end up being the one responsible and her face just tells you everything you need to know about how much she cares about her, especially when she sees Alicia's reaction to realizing that she may in fact have lost the rider, or never even signed it in the first place. She immediately (and absolutely devastatingly) insists that Alicia should lie about not remembering because there is nothing else she can do ("I'M GONNA WRITE THIS DOWN AS A YES") - but then, david ex machina and the document is found - except Alicia realizes that she didn't really sign it, that this is all part of David's game. And Kalinda realizes that Alicia realizes, and faces-wise, this whole scene is just absolutely stunning. David Lee's reaction too - he knows that Alicia knows, and he is essentially grinning inside because now he has made her complicit in this because really, nobody gets away clean in the end. Diane tells her that it's not really wrong because she doesn't REALLY know, not in the judicial sense, but they both know that it's at least morally questionable and to top things off, Cary is disposed (and expected by the opposing side to disqualify the document) and does the unexpected honourable thing, even calls them "outstanding, competent, ethical attorneys". 
Alicia. Thank you
Cary: You're welcome.
Alicia: I... I don't get it.
Cary: Oh wow.
Alicia: What's so funny?
Cary: Things change. 
Back in the first season, when Cary and Alicia were competing for the same spot, Alicia didn't rat him out when he came to the office high - and, wondering why Alicia wouldn't take the opportunity to destroy his chances, they had a conversation about not actually hating each other, about how this story with the scorpion that inevitably kills the frog because it's in his nature is only used to excuse bad behaviour. Maybe I've just chosen to ignore it before, but this is the first time that I really do believe that Cary enjoys being on the other side for once because it allows him not to have to make these choices. He realizes in the conversation that the document probably was forged (because why would Alicia be so grateful if she didn't doubt the provenance?). I think Cary really enjoyed walking out of that room clean, and Alicia absolutely hates that she can't.

  • One of those strange things that I've never explicitly mentioned: The Good Wife does quirky and weird all the time but it doesn't seem OTT. It would seem absolutely OTT in a different show, but the specific way in which the characters are strange or choose to do strange things fits perfectly into The Good Wife, without undermining the seriousness. David Lee isn't any less threatening because he occasionally wears historic uniforms. Elsbeth Tascioni isn't so good at her job despite her weirdness, she's good at it BECAUSE of them, because she is constantly under-estimated while her brain comes up with incredibly effective strategies (to think that Will has been struggling with this whole business for half a season and Elsbeth comes in and completely changes the game with one simple phone call!). 
  • THAT OPENING SCENE! Everything about it was just beautiful. Diane in her ballet flats looking at modern art, the conversation about "the spot" (where you can see the artists' signature in just the right light"), the guy's come-back about his made-up accent he uses to "impress women in museums", and the inevitable "You've been served", repeated two more times for Alicia and Will, all of it set to upbeat classical music. The things this show has done with music and sound (mostly for comical effect)! Also, sometimes I forget that I grew up watching Christine Baranski in Cybill and how utterly brilliant she is as Diane Lockhart. 
  • "Not to pry... did you enlist?"
  • Also everybody's faces in the scene with David Lee: Alicia's and Will's complete inability to take him seriously while he was wearing the uniform. 
  • Will blabs about his issues with Wendy-Scott Carr on the phone with Diane, not knowing that Alicia is in the room too and overhearing things: right, she doesn't even know yet, does she? Did we ever really find out why he chose to keep this a secret? Because he didn't want this to be about Peter? Because he doesn't know that Alicia already knows about that money he took back in Baltimore? Anyway, when he does tell her (not exactly what is going on, but that he is in trouble), she recommends Elsbeth Tascioni. 
  • The opposing lawyer's reaction to the cold Chicago weather was like a companion piece to this week's Portlandia ("My lily-white skins! What is that?") - Alicia argues that the infatuation with seasons is "about change", lawyer replies "yes, change. It's monstrous" - which also sort of works as commentary on Alicia's life recently (not to say that change is necessarily bad, but this episode especially pointed out how much Alicia and her circumstances changed since she was new at the firm). 
  • Eli is an equity partner now, but his involvement in the firm (and the only thing that pries him away from his phone) is limited to an outraged "what is going on here?" when he realizes that this might cost him money. 
  • David Lee, on his reasons for suggesting that the husband was unfaithful: "SHE WAS WANTING TO RECONCILE WITH THE BUM!". Thanks David. Not helping. 
  • I also love that they set up Will with two lawyers who were both equally uncomfortable (the first one was just gross and smarmy, the second, though played by the always wonderful Mr Gilmore, suggested that his best-case-scenario was going to prison for two years and losing his licence) so that Elsbeth Tascioni in all her phone-kicking "the construction guys like to play tricks on me" (because of course in Elsbeth Tascioni's world, they would - random people bark at her over the intercom, after all) glory totally seems like a sound choice. 
  • When the lawyer blamed Alicia for sharing her own personal stories with her client during the divorce, I had this immediate thought that Alicia as she is now would never make this mistake: she would try to empathize, but never reveal so much about herself. Weird - because in part this carefulness and guardedness probably comes from Kalinda. 
  • Diane's reaction to the Australian guy successfully defending himself against a rabid opponent was a perfect call-back to her attraction to the neo-con gun expert: to quote Miranda, "I have never been so aroused" (while she tries to rationalize her reaction). One of my wishes for the remainder of the season: more Diane Lockhart. She also kind of unexpectedly saved the day since the guy decided to get in her good graces by sharing that the no-longer-ex-husband was cheating on his wife again - and those pictures finally made the lawsuit go away for good. 
  • Eli's reaction to his confrontation with David was also amusing: basically, "I was going to leave but now that we are doing this whole macho thing of comparing how powerful we are, I am totally going to stay, like, you have no idea how much I am not going to clean out my desk". 
  • Elsbeth Tascioni. She likes anything with bears (oh, her evil plan: indicating to a reporter that Wendy Scott-Carr was looking into the three most trustworthy judges on the bench, therefore insuring that Wendy would drown in a sea of angry phone calls with absolutely no way of getting back at her because she would need trustworthy judges for that). Because she is actually the awesomenest. 
  • Will is finally served at the end of the episode. Wendy doesn't seem like the kind of person who gets more pleasant when with her back against the wall, so...

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