Monday 24 October 2011

Reaction Post - I never had any power, did I? It was all rigged.

The Good Wife: 3x05 Marthas and Caitlins.

Recently, a friend asked me to watch Pushing Daisies, which I'd never really gotten around to seeing, despite the great reviews it got from people with  preferences otherwise often overlapping with mine. One of the recurring themes, or rather, the primary obstacle, on that show are secrets. Characters keep them not for selfish reasons, not to be able to hurt each other, not for power, but because they fear they might hurt someone, or lose someone they love, if they are revealed (this is a bit ironic considering that their job is to uncover other people's secrets and solve crimes, but again, it's never about power). The show is lovely, but The Good Wife reminds me every week that Pushing Daisies is utopian in its assumption that an entire set of characters can be uncorrupted by the world they live in, even if one of them possesses, arguably, one of the most potent powers imaginable. 
Characters on The Good Wife do keep secrets for "good" reasons unrelated to power sometimes: Kalinda's entire struggle last season to keep Alicia from finding out about the affair was about preserving a friendship. Alicia hesitates to tell her children about why she finally left Peter in order to preserve their image of him as a good father. Yet, more time is spent on characters trying to obtain information that will put them in a more powerful position, trying to keep things secret in order not to lose power, being corrupted by their desire for power. Marthas and Caitlins was still mainly about who characters think they are and strive to be and how the two don't always correlate (and how beautiful was the slow reveal that it comes down to whether Alicia was and is a Martha and a Caitlin!), but it also ended with a potent secret being revealed, one that changes the dynamics of existing relationships and perceptions of character just as much as Kalinda's exposure did last season. Alicia spent the entire first season struggling against the notion that she got the job at Stern/Lockhart because she was well-connected (either through Peter or her past with Will). She was disgusted when she found out that David Lee wanted her to hire his niece. And then... Will had to tell her that he owed David Lee a favour because once upon a time, Alicia was a Caitlin, not a Martha. She was hired because Will wanted her hired, over a candidate with better qualifications. Alicia might have felt connected in spirit with Martha who likes to watch foreign movies and works well alone but prefers being part of a team, and irritated by the bubbly, super-competitive Caitlin whose hobby is  "tramp boarding" (skate boarding on a trampoline! Without wheels! Duh.) but when it comes down to it, three years ago, she wasn't hired for her accomplishments. I can't wait to find out how this changes her relationship with Will, because she might have actually preferred finding out about some misdeed in his past rather than dealing with her conflicting feelings about Will forcing her to corrupt her own ideals (even though he did it, well, for love, or pre-love, or whatever). His "Caitlins often surprise you" after he reveals that Alicia once was a Caitlin was either an attempt to console her for something that can't be changed now, or a fundamental misunderstanding on his part of who Alicia wants to be. Even worse, the episode also portrayed her as someone so desperate to explain her emotions and to gain some kind perspective that she was willing to discuss them with Celeste Serrano, of all people. 

The case of the week was the big air plane-disaster-thing everyone's been talking about previously: Diane is representing the families of the passengers, Celeste the families of the crew members who died in the plane crash. The episode starts with their main witness shooting himself, which, according to Celeste, isn't such a bad thing because he wouldn't have done well in the cross-examination (this was a small moment but it says so much about who she is - Diane was thinking the same thing, but would've never admitted to it loudly). They find out that the one person able to testify for them might be... Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker), the ever-returning super-creepy-guy, the Hannibal Lecter to Alicia's Clarice currently in prison for murdering a stalker, but not for killing his wife which is what he is famous for. Colin uses the information he has to obtain freedom, and Cary showcases that he now possesses the power within the State Attorney's office to make decisions on his own (when he gets Sweeney to wear a wire and make sure that a soon-to-be-released Aryan Warlords guy remains in prison - this was a pretty brilliant move and he also used Imani Morehouse for his own purposes AND played into Peter's obsession with running a super-clean office - Kalinda would have been so proud). Dylan Baker plays the character well enough to keep him interesting, but I hope that the show only uses him rarely - he does have the curiosity and insight to reveal things about everybody who is confronted with him and that makes him interesting, but if he returns too often he is in danger to turn into The Borg in Star Trek: Voyager
Kalinda: Yeah. Everybody needs it quick. 
Peter. David Lee (hired to look out for Alicia's interests in case she should ever decide to divorce Peter) points out to her that he might seek spousal support eventually, considering he earns less money than she does, Alicia reacts predictably by laughing in his face because Peter is (and I think that she is quite right to assume this) too proud to ever ask her for money ("He'll come after you for everything.", responds David Lee, which might be foreshadowing or just prove that everyone but Alicia lives in a world that is dark and horrible). The more dangerous secrets lurk somewhere David Lee can't see them, even though they play out in the same building: Eli is starting to work on Peter's campaign for Governor by trying to convince the Democratic leadership to make him a keynote speaker - but, as the episode progresses, he realizes that other operatives know more about his troubled marriage than he does, and there is nothing Eli Gold hates more than NOT KNOWING. He doesn't know because Kalinda made sure he wouldn't, even though he really started suspecting that something was wrong when she decided to walk away (shooting Alicia, forever behind a glass pane, a rueful look).
The question is what Eli (who admits that he is working on the campaign on the side, and this has been his goal, his holy grail, to make Peter Governor and who knows what else) might do once he finds out that the only way to frame the divorce in a positive light from Peter's perspective (or the perspective of his career, at least) is to reveal that Alicia has been sleeping with Will, her boss. I wonder if Peter would be willing to use this, (I think he would destroy Will's career without hesitation, but putting his own family in danger and potentially hurting his kids in the process isn't something he'd do?), and, more relevantly, if Eli would even give him the choice. The episode hints that Peter's priorities are different from Eli's when he puts running a clean office (and doing the right thing by keeping the white supremacist in prison, even if it means that the headlines will blame him for releasing the "wife-killer") over winning the keynote speech, but Eli's "... and what does Kalinda Sharma have against you?" was definitely a teaser for how things will be in the future. And isn't it interesting how everything connects?

Another relevant question is what happens when Celeste's interests start to correlate with Eli's, which really can only be a question of when the tiny world places them in the same room. 
Celeste: So, you and I should get drinks. Trade whore stories.
Alicia: Horror?
Celeste: Yeah. What did I say?
Celeste's story for Colin Sweeney: 
Celeste: We're lover. We've been keeping it secret for months.
Alicia: I really don't wanna talk about it right now.
Celeste: She's breaking up with me for a man who is not worthy of her.
The episode starts out forcing Celeste and Alicia to work together, but eventually and specifically after being shouted at by David Lee for refusing to be complicit in nepotism ("You were given this test because you're unimportant and you can take a hint. So take the hint or we'll take it out of your hand". Wow. Ouch.), she turns to Celeste because that other person that she would turn to is currently reduced to staring longingly (in a platonic way, of course) at her through glass walls (another recurring theme in the first half of the season). Alicia KNOWS that Celeste wants to hurt her. She also should realize what it means or might mean that Celeste knows about her affair with Will, but she is currently lacking the guidance she used to enjoy in the past, the person quietly telling her how to play the game rather than losing against people more selfish and power-driven. Getting drunk ("telling truths to strangers" drunk) with someone who isn't even trying to hide her intentions to hurt you personally and possibly also politically? Not the best decision Alicia ever made. Also, I might be wrong but I had the impression that Celeste was considerably less drunk than she pretended to be. 
Celeste: You know the best revenge?
Alicia: Hide his Bluetooth.
Celeste: No. Hire his niece and make her life hell.
Alicia: Oh my god, you are so right!
Celeste: You'll never do it.
Alicia: I will do it. I am not a good person.
Celeste: Yes you are, shut up.
I just don' like women. I find them uninteresting.
Alicia: Excuse me?
Celeste: I don't like women. They are all competing with me.
Alicia: Don't men compete with you?
Celeste: No, they don't. You have female friends?
Alicia: No. But I don't have any males one either.
Celeste: That's so sad. I'd be your friend but I can't.
Alicia: Why not?
Celeste: Because. Will.
Alicia: That's right.
Celeste: I don't like you being with him. And I'll break you two up.
Alicia: How?
Celeste: How will I do this? I will tell you about him.
Alicia: Well, go ahead, give me your worse.
Celeste: No, I like you.
Alicia: See, that's your problem. You built it up too much so if he hasn't buried a hobo in the desert I will be unimpressed. 
Celeste hints at some money that was stolen but returned later, and Alicia makes fun of her for not really having any shocking stories after all, but Celeste ISN'T bad at this (and she really isn't "transparent as cellophane"). "Just remember. Will is like me. He'll always disappoint you. Just remember. Will is like me. He'll always disappoint you."

In a smaller, we'll-see-if-this-will-be-relevant-later subplot, Peter found out that his lovely daughter now does videos with her 22-year-old tutor, objected, but Alicia wanted to solve the problem with a "fly-swatter instead of a bazooka". In a ridiculously awkward conversation, she told Jennifer The Tutor that she couldn't be friends with Grace any more after not really understanding how someone could do something "for the internet" (the moment was mirrored brilliantly later in her reaction to Caitlin's "hobby"). Jennifer and her lilac balloon pants walked away and later Grace was in tears because she lost her only friend, because all of her other friends are apparently now no longer around (so the religion thing disappeared along with the religion-thing-related friend?). 

The episode also randomly featured two Mad Men-alumns (maybe nobody from The Wire was available)- say hi to Ken and Bethany.

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