Tuesday 31 January 2012

Reaction Post - It was a strategic move.

The Good Wife: 3x14 Another Ham Sandwich.

While watching the episode, I started to wonder why it was exactly that I was rooting for Will to get off easily. There is a version of this story in which the perspective is slightly different and we the viewers don't immediately choose to believe that he did indeed not suspect that the judges were ruling in his favour because they expected something back. We've been expertly set up to be firmly on Will's side: we assume he didn't lie, we assume he never looked at the numbers and wondered (even though thinking of Will as naive seems kind of absurd?), we assume that Wendy Scott-Carr is the villain of the story because clearly, she's been set up to be the villain. She's out to take revenge on Peter (but not in that way the trial gave her an opportunity to). But really, the numbers, and the fact that some of the judges have previously been presented as not quite tarnish-free, kind of raise the question of whether this case should have really disappeared. I wonder if any of this will have repercussions beyond the hint at the end that Wendy isn't quite finished with Will yet (because really, this has never been about Will, and this is just Wendy, lashing out, unless she does find a way to make this about Peter in a way that works for her). 
Last year's Ham Sandwich also beautifully connected many of the loose threads of the season, and this year's does so even more exquisitely. Alicia, mostly kept out of the loop by Will, finally realizes the gravity of the situation and in an impulsive move decides to go to Peter to talk to him (after Diane's: "I don't want you to feel responsible or obligated to do anything. I mean, responsible is the wrong word. We've never considered you an exstension of the State's Attorney's office and you've never acted like one so again, I leave it to you."), only to realize that she needs to make this appeal in a private setting, not in the official one. 
Alicia's first conversation with Will after finding out about the grand jury is a wonderful throwback to Will's apology to her after they broke up: 
Will: I'm sorry.
Alicia: No. Why? I am.
Will: I didn't tell you because I didn't want this to become...
Alicia: You did not need to explain.
Will: This is legal. It's not personal. 
Will apologizes because he didn't tell her about any of this, Alicia apologizes because she assumes that the situation would be different if it wasn't for Peter - and all of this is still based on limited information. The grand jury trial is interesting because everybody goes there with the primary goal of either winning or making the implications go away, but there's a whole collection of other motivations as well: keeping the affair with Alicia a secret, winning points against Peter Florrick (Wendy), proving themselves after a potentially harmful career move (Dana) and confronting strange contradictory allegiances (Cary).
The episode was also interesting because... in a way, Kalinda only ever loses in her personal relationships. The very thing that makes her almost unbelievably powerful and omnipotent in her professional life is basically her kryptonite whenever she attempts genuine human connections - she got out of having her life exposed last season, but she did lose the one person she values most of all - and yet, there is also a potential danger in making her so infallible. It was kind of predictable that Kalinda would have a plan and eventually outplay Dana, because Kalinda doesn't do ultimatums. She fed her wrong information, she set them up for defeat, and Dana never saw it coming (and as much as I enjoy Kalinda's triumph, in a way, it also required adjusting my perception of Dana, who I always thought more apt at all of this than she turned out to be). It was beautiful to see Wendy's entire case come apart because so much of it was based on Kalinda's information, but still... there is a certain narrative danger in arguing that Kalinda's ONLY weakness is Alicia Florrick, and nobody else who is part of the game can beat her. This isn't necessarily a criticism of the episode which was one of the best of this season, in my opinion, but perhaps a cautious note for the next season (or hopefully, the next couple of seasons). I also really enjoys the way the camera often turned to Cary because he realizes that this was going awry way before everyone else and his reaction to it was to be amused rather than concerned (since he was never a fan of the whole case to begin with).
Another favourite moment of the episode: the confrontation between Peter and Alicia. I liked the moment because they are dealing with the separation so well; they don't have fights, they are extremely professional and non-confrontational (which made me like Peter for the first time since the show started): but their relationship with each other is unresolved. Peter never expressed his feelings about Alicia and Will. Alicia never expressed her feelings for Will to Peter. Their entire current peace depends on neither of them discussing their feelings.
Alicia: It keeps your hands clean at the expense of...
Peter: At the expense of who? Will?
Alicia: No. My firm.
Peter: And Will.
Alicia: Yeah. My boss.
Peter: The boss you are sleeping with.
Alicia: Peter, if that's the issue here then let's talk about it.
Peter: Of course that's the issue.
Alicia: There is nothing between us.
Peter: My god. You have changed. I used to be able to tell when you lied.
Alicia: You think I'm lying?
Peter: I think you're manipulating the truth like a pro.
Alicia: Well, you would know about pros.
Peter: Well, you got me there. What do you want, Alicia?
Alicia: I want you to stop this grand jury.
Peter: No. That's what I used to do. Things that worked but were wrong. Not doing that anymore.
Alicia: Peter your problems wasn't that you did things that were wrong, your problems was that you did things that were wrong against your family.
Peter: That may be so, but that has nothing to do with this. Will Gardner is not my family. Good night. 
Alicia assumes that Peter is only pursuing the law suit because he is out to harm Will, when in fact, there is evidence to support his claim. I love Alicia's defence against Peter's attack - she still does resent what he did to the family, of course she does, so he can't win this argument that she shouldn't be sleeping with her boss. He won't protect Will just because Alicia cares about him, but in the end, he also doesn't pursue this any further when he realizes that the case is lost, and even more importantly, he resents Wendy for bringing Alicia in and trying to prove Will's failings by exposing his affair with an employee (which was a ridiculous move doomed to fail, and an interesting contrast, because Kalinda cornered comes up with plans that work perfectly, while Wendy just makes things worse with hers.) Elsbeth's grand strategy also works: subtly, she brings Peter into it again and again, and in the end, the jurors wonder who HE is, and whether they shouldn't be looking into this guy that has come up in the proceedings repeatedly, so that Peter can't help but drop the case.
Favourite part of the episode, though: Will gets off, and they are having a massive if awkward (dancing lawyers) party at L&G, and the person that calls Alicia isn't Will... it's Kalinda, testing the waters, trying to figure out where things stand. And Alicia hesitantly thanks her for calling but turns down the offer to join the party (but not because of Kalinda...) and both of them realize at the same moment that things are getting better rapidly after all the glacial movement towards each other in previous episodes.

  • Carrie Preston does this magical thing with Elsbeth Tascioni where we see the billion of thoughts rushing through her mind at any given point in time and then there's this moment where things connect, and she just KNOWS. She's better at this game than any other character we've previously seen and I think this is why she couldn't possibly be a regular: it's like that one super power that would just solve all the problems so you have to invent ways of making it less potent or make the character unavailable. 
  • In a kind of useless subplot, Eli did exactly what Celeste proposed to Alicia when she was struggling with hiring Caitlin: he used her and made her life a living hell in order to get back at David Lee. I loved the resolution of the story, because there was something incredibly vile about two powerful rich men playing chess with female characters (David was using his connection to Alicia): Caitlin proved herself incredibly useful and Eli had to admit it and say "thank you".
  • There was something about two power-driven people competing over GLAC, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Chicago, but I lost interest halfway through Eli's weird, weird sex life. I wish they would find a way to involve him in the major story more instead of giving him the comic relief side-plots. Eli-Kalinda had so much potential!
  • "This is lacking subtlety"
  • Elsbeth creates an even more terrifying version of David Lee when she tells him to be charming. 
  • Alicia's a gay icon: "Your suffering has made you iconic". 
  • Will we see more of Dana? Hitting Kalinda, instead of trying to outplay her or score points with smart moves, kind of proved that she isn't really cut out for this game. This was also interesting because Kalinda does care to a certain extent, but not as much as she does about Will and Alicia - which Dana should have realized, because Kalinda TOLD her previously. Underestimating her capacities is never ever a good idea - as Blake Calamar well knows.
  • Kalinda's reaction to Will's "I owe you" was interesting, because - "No you don't" - because she did it for Alicia? Because she doesn't like the idea of "owing" favours to friends on principle because this is the one way in which she distinguishes between the job and the people she cares about?
  • Elsbeth immediately realizing that the whole thing was just a game to hide Will's vulnerability was also brilliant. 
  • Cary! Cary hates the idea that Wendy uses something he told her in confidence. Cary hates that they are sinking so deep to try and win their case when they should be able to win it based on the available evidence, and he thinks that if they can't, they should just admit their defeat. Things HAVE changed. Cary enjoyed joining that State's Attorney's office precisely because it meant that he could change the story that he tells about himself - he is now one of the good guys, and Wendy is taking this away from him. 
  • "I gotta go talk to my kids". But THEN SHE DOESN'T, when she realizes that the transcripts will not be released since Will hasn't been indicted. 
  • Will and Diane dancing. They are truly awesome parents, in a way. 
  • "Thank you for your service. My assistant will validate your parking." BOOM.


RosieP said...

Alicia assumes that Peter is only pursuing the law suit because he is out to harm Will, when in fact, there is evidence to support his claim.

Even if there is evidence to support his claim, the only reason the investigation against Will began in the first place was Peter's desire to harm him. Even that was pretty obvious.

cathy leaves said...

Wendy Scott-Carr made the investigation exclusively about Will though. Before she came in, it was more about the firm's connection with Bishop. I took Peter's argument with Alicia to mean that he was unwilling to stop the grand jury because he was upset about her relationship with Will (plus it would have been awkward if the State's Attorney was seen to help his wife's boss?) but I don't think that it was the sole reason for the investigation itself.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that harming Will never occurred to Peter - he is possessive and not above abusing his power - but Will also took that money back in Baltimore (so he isn't beyond scrutiny) and the firm has won an unlikely number of cases.