Tuesday 22 October 2013

Reaction Post - You talked about the money.

The Good Wife: 5x03 A Precious Commodity.

This an episode about a thousand things, as per usual for The Good Wife, but it also has a kind-of theme that runs through all the stories - what happens when certain things are commodified? 

Case of the week: Alicia, employed by a family to represent an 18-year-old student called Tara who is carrying their baby as a surrogate, decides to follow her instincts and helps the girl pro bono when her interests no longer align with the genetic parents of the baby. The episode isn't about surrogacy as a question itself, but it raises certain potential issues in terms of self-determination and what pro-choice even means when there are two mothers (both in some biological sense) who disagree over what should happen with a baby - Kathy (played by an absolutely magnificent Janel Moloney, who will hopefully be in all the things in the future) wants Tara to terminate the pregnancy after a test reveals that the baby has a 85 % chance of suffering from a terminal disease, Tara wants to keep the baby, based on the remaining 15 % chance and the fact that she can feel it moving. A Precious Commodity does a good job at preventing the episode from just being about a murky debate about pro-choice vs. anti-choice - Kathy herself is pro-choice but considers that it doesn't apply due to their specific arrangement, Tara never articulates her struggle in terms of self-determination, and if anything, the one-liners that some characters provide in the course of the episode seem beside the point (the firm's partners, united in a different complicated matter, reveal their respective political affiliations this way, but it says more about them than about the case and about the fact that this really isn't about any of them either way). As the case goes on and gets messier and messier, one of the things you get out of it as a viewer is maybe that even the most rational, kind, empathetic people end up contributing to gross things (but we already knew that from the show before) - like, when all other opportunities seem to run out, the Isenstadt's lawyer attempts to tarnish Tara's character, David Lee jumps into the case early on and is at his creepiest when he is pretending to be sympathetic, and the way money plays into this whole thing in general (hence - commodification) is terrifying. Can the Isenstadt's ever claim any kind of high ground if they are threatening to financially ruin Tara unless she has an abortion? Does Tara have the right to monetize having an abortion? In a long line of disturbing cases TGW has tackled, this one comes pretty close to being on top (also for lines like "It's not your decision" and "It's our child, our choice" - because in a way it's murky but not murky at the same time, since it ends up being about Tara having the right to decide what happens to her body, and nothing else). 

Elsewhere (which, in L/G terms, mostly means "right on the other side of the glass wall"), Diane immediately admits to Will what she did (talk about his past and "the money" to Mandy Post) and as the full extent of it starts to reveal itself, Will just gets furiouser and furiouser, until he finally chooses to oust Diane. We kind of only see the business side of it (because this is the kind of people and friends they always were - and business is deeply personal). He knows that Diane wants to leave and will leave, especially now that the interview supposedly assured her nomination for the Illinois Supreme Court, so the rational thing to do is to negotiate a severance package - except Diane is too proud to be ousted from a firm that she built. It's a very nasty custody fight, essentially, fought between two people who care very much both about the firm and each other, and Alicia is right in the middle of it, still making up her mind about the future, especially when Will offers her a promotion to managing partner. Cary is the one to tell her that Florrick/Agos is her chance of breaking free (and it's like she didn't even realize she had to, before that, but every interaction with Will afterwards makes her realize that it's true) - because none of this is any fun anymore, once appreciation and friendships are negotiated and terminated through money. 
Since The Good Wife has decided to be that show at some point last season, one of the most emotionally painful scenes is a very quick one - Kalinda finds out from Robyn Burdine of all people that Alicia is leaving (her), along with Cary Agos, and is stunned into silence after a barely composed "she didn't say anything". Robyn replies, "It's supposed to be a secret" - which, considering the role that secrets have played in their relationship, is the most painful possible answer. It's a secret Kalinda wasn't in on, because apparently, the lack of on-screen interaction between the two corresponds with a lack of tequila-drinking off-screen as well. What's left at L/G for Kalinda now? 
  • What Christine Baranski does at the beginning of the episode - with Diane desperately trying to keep her composure as she walks into Will's office - is amazing. So is everything else she does in the episode, but the body language in that scene, the way she carries herself as she walks, says everything. 
  • Alicia has a great moment of where hanging out with the fourth-years talking about fonts and stuff has her so invested in the new firm that she has a moment of "oh, that could be me" realization when Will mentions the danger of someone else taking Diane's clients away from the firm. 
  • Meanwhile Peter Florrick is like an episode and a half away from trying to sleep with his newly reinstated (in Chicago) ethics councillor, also because she's never heard of Dan Brown or something. Considering the theme of the episode, the scene in the beginning was a nice nod to the fact that in politics, family and marriage and kids are ALSO a commodity. 
  • (Also Alicia struggles with seeing how that internet site commodifies her daughter while Grace formulates her new identity, which is always a precarious struggle, but hilariously for now that includes fun scenes of Alicia vs. youth pastors and Zach being quietly protective and concerned in the background).

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