‘The Good Wife’ Season 6 Episode 4 Recap: “Oppo Research”

“I like clarity. I like rules that tell me what’s right and what’s wrong. (…) I just wanted to be inside something that made sense to me.” – Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife, “Oppo Research”

“People just think there are black hats and white hats, but there are black hats with white linings. And white hats with black linings. And there are hats that change back and forth between white and black. And there are striped hats. Evil rests in the soul of all men.” – Some Guy, Darkness at Noon (The Good Wife, “A Material World”)

For as much time as The Good Wife spends sending up quality cable dramas, they sure have fully embraced the oh-so-subtle message that lurks at the heart of each series: There’s no such thing as black or white. Continuing this season’s trend of examining the murky grey area that all of existence constitutes, this week’s episode of The Good Wife focuses singularly on Alicia’s burgeoning state’s attorney campaign and the potential pitfalls therein.

In truth though, the opening quote was heartrending in how much it exposed the true nature of Alicia’s character, as well as exposing where her actual vulnerabilities lay. That statement, wherein she goes on to specify that she entered into law not to help others but to exist in a binary world she could make sense of, revealed the constant uncertainty and moral quandary each day represents for someone who, at heart, just wants to know and follow the rules. We’ve seen Alicia bend the rules before and carefully find ways to operate within the statutes, if not the spirit, of the law but even such compromises must weigh upon her soul. Or, perhaps not soul per se, as Eli would really prefer she refer to herself as “an agnostic… who’s struggling” but her conscience, at the very least.

Alicia is also quick to admonish her new potential campaign manager Johnny Elfman (played by Steven Pasquale; seriously, does The Good Wife‘s casting director just stand outside Broadway backstage doors with a big burlap sack and drag new guest actors to the set? Because… that’s not actually a terrible strategy) that she’s no superhero shortly after wishing that Eli would stop referring to her as St. Alicia. Seeing how she believes that no good news lasts, it figures that deifications probably don’t last long, either.

Ultimately, the show knows that Alicia is right to be concerned. It’s not any easier to be a woman in politics on TV than it is to be a woman in politics in the real world. Or a woman on TV. Or a woman. (Follow me, here.) As fun as it is every time the series delves into its cheeky ribbing of cable dramas, there were some very clear messages underlying this episode. In the Talking at Noon aftershow of Darkness at Noon, (actual) creator of FX’s The Americans and (actual) actor/comedian Carmen Lynch have the following exchange:

“I hate her.”

“The wife? Why? She was just trying to protect him.”

“Because she took away his guns. She wants him not to be normal, not a badass.”

“I just think she’s so repressed, she had to do something.”

“Oh, she’s definitely repressed…”

The exchange is amusing, yes, but also representative of plenty of conversations that swirl around typical conversations involving the female characters on typical antihero show. The most notable of late perhaps being that of Breaking Bad’s Skyler White, who spawned such vitriolic hate online that the actress who portrayed her, Anna Gunn, penned an op-ed on the topic for the New York Times. But wives aren’t the only target of cultural abuse online, if GamerGate or — ugh — “The Fappening” have taught us anything. Merely being in possession of a vagina or supportive of those who are is enough to invite the scorn of untold numbers of Internet strangers who may then feel free to release all of your personal information on the internet, threaten you with physical harm, and/or force you from your own home. So ingrained is this philosophy now to our culture that when Eli asked Alicia if she wanted the red pill or the blue pill, with regards to continuing her campaign, my brain screamed, “Oh God, anything but the RED PILL!”

This is what lays in wait for Alicia as she chooses to move forward with her campaign. As much as she’d like to think that the biggest problems are those easily scouted, like sudden abortions or surprise spankings or salacious sexual escapades (or God forbid a secret lovechild), she’s much more likely to be laid low by things far more nebulous, like falling prey to societal expectations of working mothers and loyal wives or having her own shades of moral grey coming to light. Thankfully, she has that grassroots PAC to support her.

This is going to get ugly.

Quick hits

  •             The opening minutes of this were a scream. From the perpetual chorus of Grace’s school choir, to the sudden arrival of Jennifer, the world’s dancingest tutor, to Elfman’s muttering, “It’s like a Marx Brothers movie in here,” it was all perfection.
  •             As was most of the episode, honestly.
  •             Smooching: None. This is getting ridiculous, to be honest.
  •             “Okay. ‘Talk to mom about hitting children.’ Next?”
  •             Lemond Bishop’s Etsy button store is going to put my Alicia Florrick bumper sticker store to shame.
  •             I’d be concerned about Alicia’s alcohol consumption but it can’t be any worse than Olivia Pope‘s. Or anyone on Mad Men. Or Cougar Town. Wait, is every character on television a functional alcoholic? Dang.