Like any good prestige drama, The Good Wife’s characters pride themselves on always being the smartest person in the room. It’s not a surprise, really, as so much of the legal system is bound up in the idea that whoever is smartest, who ever knows how to best manipulate the law to their own will, will ultimately reign supreme. So when the show centers itself around an episode where everyone involved gets shown up in one way or another it can serve as a jolt to the occasionally tedious righteousness that suffuses its atmosphere.
“Loser Edit” divides its time between the show’s three main female characters. At the center is Alicia, who finds herself embroiled in controversy when a basic news story puff piece blows up into a scathing, sultry examination of her past, all thanks to last week’s hackers forwarding Alicia’s emails from the last five years to a reporter. Unsurprisingly, Team Alicia throws themselves into damage control mode, first trying to pressure the television station into killing the piece, before deciding that the only way to mitigate the damage is to release the information on their own terms. Alicia is torn when it comes to lying about her relationship with Will but her qualms don’t take up too much time, which is nice because heaven knows we’ve spent enough time with Alicia’s moral code this season.
Even as the plotting is a bit specious, with the hacking happening so quickly after the election, making it seem as though the writers are grasping at things to have Alicia deal with before she’s sworn in, it works better than it should, simply because it’s nice to have the team back together, working on something that isn’t merely getting Alicia elected. Eli is at his best when he has a finite problem to solve and it was nice to see him managing Alicia’s affairs again.
The story also afforded us an opportunity for Peter and Alicia to come together as equals and try to work through how they are going to whether this storm. This moment is more valuable than it would first appear, as it’s the first time we’ve seen both Peter and Alicia with equal investment in a scandal. Coming together on an even playing field seems to automatically ease the tension between the two and allows them to move past some of the more fraught elements of their past. I’m no Peter/Alicia shipper but I do have a soft spot for marriages that are able to evolve past expectations and land somewhere akin to partnership or comfortable companionship. I do believe that Peter and Alicia love each other and after this scene, I’m starting to think that maybe the two of them could even be friends.
But despite the team managing to minimize the damage of the leaked emails, they are hit with a devastating blow that none of them were expecting. While watching the puff piece they’d worked so hard to preserve as puffy, it comes out that there are reports of voter fraud in the results of Alicia’s election and investigations are underway.
Meanwhile, Diane is hanging out again with her good friend R.D. (Oliver Platt), the moneybags Republican she argued with about abortion before nabbing as a client back in “Red Meat.” Now on retainer, R.D. wants her to play Democratic devil’s advocate for him and his friends as they decide whether or not to back an appeal that supports the rights of a business to deny their services to gay couples on the basis of religious exception, before then asking her to head the prosecution in a mock trial he’s running on the same topic. Diane is skeptical at first but R.D. assures her that he wants her to go for the jugular in order to make sure he isn’t backing the wrong horse. Diane takes him at his word, even bringing in R.D.’s gay nephew to play the part of the man suing for denial of service. R.D. is angry at her choice and the two argue and despite winning the mock trial, R.D. chooses to back the appeal regardless because something about Republicans or the religious or somebody standing by their beliefs.
It’s all well and good, but the only reason the plot holds together at all is because of its timely reminiscence to the Indiana religious freedom act that’s been in the news all week and is a topic well worth discussing at length. However, in their take on the topic, The Good Wife fails in the same way that The Good Wife always fails when addressing topical issues in the political climate. Each time the show tackles something timely, it all boils down to a lot of white people (and often, considering the show, with a disproportionate amount of men), sitting around a room and arguing about what’s best for the rest of the world. Were the show using this as a subversive illustration to how policy gets made in this country, it would be one thing. But in reality, it’s a show about a bunch of straight white people that, when it’s good, lulls you into forgetting about how very homogenous it is, but when it wants to bang the political drum, just ends up seeming like so much tone-deaf liberal rhetoric. Diane isn’t wrong in arguing her case, it’s just that too many times on The Good Wife it seems like they’re all just empty words.
Finally, the chickens are all coming home to roost for poor old Kalinda. If you’ll remember back in the first half of the season, Kalinda fudged some data to get Cary freed from prison, something it turned out she didn’t need to do at all. However, the situation got even worse when, without Kalinda’s knowledge, Diane took the fudged data and presented it in court, something that, now that it’s being investigated, could get her disbarred. On the case is the show’s old investigator friend Andrew Wiley (Tim Guinee), of talking lion fame. Wiley bounces around the office trying to investigate what happened, with his two children in tow, as Kalinda quickly tries to cover her tracks, eventually turning to Finn for advice. But by episode’s end, Wiley confronts Kalinda about her wrongdoing and advises her to come clean sooner, rather than later, as things for both her and Diane will only get worse the longer she waits.
In the end, three brilliant women stand on the edge of career ruin. Alicia may not take office. Kalinda may go to jail. Diane may be disbarred. As smart and as savvy as all three are, it is invigorating to see them flirting with true disaster. Because what good is it being smart and savvy if you don’t have something truly momentous to overcome? The characters only have four episodes left to maneuver their ultimate triumph. Let’s hope they make it.
- Hey, that was Mo Rocca playing the dumb reporter. How fun! Also, Lily Rabe returns as Petra the puff piece reporter.
- Eli accuses Petra of getting her start in blogs. The horror.
- Finn and Kalinda do the old, “Give me a dollar and I’ll give you attorney/client privilege” routine.
- Diane should have left the R.D. think tank the second she walked in and saw Lee Garner, Jr. there.
- I hope that if my emails are leaked that people exclusively read them “Star Wars style.”
- Will and Alicia’s emails weren’t as sexy as I would have expected but I suppose that’s as sexy as you get at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night on CBS.
- Marisa Gold, again, steals every scene she’s in.
- “We are all in trouble now.” When Eli gets worried, I get excited.
- Opening credit appearance: 10:46