A note from your blogmistress: Since four of the six shows you most wanted recaps of happen on Sundays, I’ve asked my good friend and Good Wife maven Kate Linnea Welsh to help out with that show. If you’ve got questions or observations about the recaps, send ‘em to me, and I’ll pass your emails on to her. This post contains spoilers through the first episode of the third season of The Good Wife.
By Kate Linnea Welsh
Season two of The Good Wife ended with a newly separated Alicia disappearing into a hotel room with her college friend and now boss Will, but when season three picks up, such private concerns are put on the back burner as Lockhart/Gardner is thrust into a hot-button case: a prominent Muslim client asks them to defend a Palestinian student accused of starting a fight between Palestinian and Jewish students at a local college’s interfaith event. A Jewish student was murdered the same night, and Cary, now working for Peter, manages to manipulate Alicia and the defendant into exchanging the riot-related charge for a murder charge. The questions raised at trial revolve around the location of bias: Do we assume that the victims were attacked because they were Jewish, or that the defendant was arrested because he was Muslim? Or both? The controversial, high-profile nature of the case leads the lawyers to bring up a potpourri of other issues, as they discuss everything from cross racial identification to the relationship between violent video games and real-life predilections to whether a professor’s radical political views can be used against his student.
Of course, the case ends up not being about religion or politics at all. One of the defendant’s roommates was the real killer: he was in love with the victim, and this was actually a crime of passion made to look like a hate crime. While I suppose this ending was useful as a reminder that people generally act as individuals, not as representatives of a demographic group, I was frustrated that the resolution neatly allowed the show to get out of really dealing with the any of questions it had raised. It did, however, allow Eli Gold to give this funny-but-true summary of what a case like this wound up meaning for groups whose fundraising is dependent on public perception of these issues: “Is it good for the Jewish League Fund? I don’t know. A Muslim was the killer, but he was also gay and sleeping with our guy, so I would call that a classic mixed message.”
Eli – who now works for the firm – is dealing with another aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian issue when he agrees to mastermind a campaign against anti-Muslim bigotry even though he suspects part of the reason why he’s hired is to make the campaign look good by having a Jewish person involved. I thought the strategy he came up with was generally good, though he might need a bit of an education on the overlap between Arabs and Muslims and the debate over the role groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are playing in Egypt: “Link the Arab Spring to the American Revolution. Who is the Islamic George Washington? Who is the Islamic Paul Revere?” As always, though, Eli’s motivations are mixed, and he ends up dropping the client after using this campaign as leverage to manipulate a prominent Jewish novelist into hiring him instead. And we get another slant on this week’s issue when Grace’s new tutor displays casual, unthinking racism by filming a “Bollywood” video on the subway using a team of Arab-looking soccer players as a literal backdrop.
The Good Wife does a nice job of showcasing the way that seemingly-monolithic institutions like government agencies and large law firms are actually just collections of people who have their own agendas, connections, and shifting loyalties — and that this isn’t necessarily good or bad, just the way things have to work. Cary and Kalinda’s friendship has in the past led to information exchanges that actually help innocent people, but this week, Cary passes falsely incriminating evidence to Kalinda in the guise of “help.” Kalinda doesn’t really hold it against him, and instead faults herself for not checking it out thoroughly; indeed, everyone’s using everyone on this show, and they’re refreshingly open about it. (At one point, Eli says he doesn’t like being used, and Alicia is only half joking when she replies, “Really? Since when?”) Some connections, though, are a bridge too far. Now that Peter’s back in office, I really hope some clients will ask to be defended by someone other than the state’s attorney’s wife. If news of Alicia and Peter’s separation and Alicia and Will’s relationship gets out, this image issue could affect all of the firm’s defense business: Who’s going to want to hire a firm where a name partner is sleeping with the state’s attorney’s wife? And on a related note, it looks like Alicia’s struggles with work/life balance will be taken to a new level this season now that she can throw in guilt about her marital situation.
One thing I wish this show did more often was deal with the actual political positions taken by Peter and others, and there are hints that we will be seeing more of that this season. Eli’s stated reason for working at Lockhart/Gardner was (at least partially) that he wants to run a gubernatorial campaign for Peter, and at the very end of this episode, he finally approaches Peter about the idea. Peter insists that he has to concentrate on his current job, but he doesn’t actually shut Eli down. I hope Eli continues his plans, not least because of the issues a gubernatorial campaign would make the show explore.
Other lingering questions: Did anyone see Will and Alicia at the hotel? If not, I’ll be disappointed; on this show, it seems unlikely that they’d get away with no external consequences or PR issues. When Will talks to Kalinda about pretending to feel things, does he mean with Alicia? What’s actually going on with Grace’s tutor? Was the “Bollywood” video actually designed to be used against Peter? Did her plan to help set up a computer scream “she’s a spy planting tracking software” to anyone else, or have I just been watching too much Burn Notice?
Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn’t involve dead animals.) She’s a senior editor at TheTelevixen.com, on staff at Vampire-Diaries.net, and writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog (http://katelinnea.blogspot.com). She’d love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea