"‘The Good Wife’ Open Thread: The Death Zone"
By Kate Linnea Welsh
This second episode of The Good Wife is all about perception and the burden of proof, as Lockhart/Gardner defends a mountain climber whose book about his brother’s death accuses another climber of refusing to help his brother and stealing his oxygen tank. When the case is dismissed from an American court, the British plaintiff takes it to a court in England, where the burden of proof in libel cases is reversed — instead of the plaintiff having to prove that he was libeled, the defendant must prove that what he wrote was not libel. The book wasn’t published in England, but the plaintiff himself bought a few copies from Amazon, solely to have grounds to bring the case — and Will, whose sense of right and wrong crops up at interesting times, is outraged and accuses him of “libel tourism.” When evidence from another book is suppressed because of a super-injunction — and previous discussion of it in the press inadmissible because of a super-injunction of the super-injunction — Alicia has Eli’s Twitter ninjas create enough hubbub to make it into a current news story. It’s further proof this show has perhaps a better understanding of social media than any other show on TV. The British lawyer, of course, is outraged: “Where is the respect for our laws when any young thug with a computer and a Twitter account can circumvent a lawful injunction?”
As the British trial progresses via videoconferencing, the culture clash gives the show plenty of space to make points about class and power. When Alicia points out that the plaintiff is rich and the defendant is not, the lawyer immediately scoffs, “Oh, let’s not make this a classist issue, shall we?” And when the same lawyer tries to threaten Will, he suggests that real British strength lies with the struggling commoners rather than the refined aristocracy: after a long monologue disavowing tea and cucumber sandwiches, he concludes with “I’m the England of football hooligans and Jack the Ripper. And this England don’t play nice, and they don’t play fair, and they don’t. Ever. Stop.” (Will’s hilarious response: “When you want to intimidate someone, don’t use so many words. Intimidation isn’t a sonnet.”) Meanwhile, much is made of the fact that Will and Alicia’s cohort on the defense is a solicitor rather than a barrister, and Irish, to boot. The judge deliberately calls him O’Brannon rather than Brannon – making his name sound more Irish than it is – until he decides to show his respect for Brannon’s argument by suddenly getting his name right. When Brannon apologizes to Alicia about his “inbred deference” to “greater rank,” she says she has the same problem but is “trying very hard to change.” It could certainly be argued that trading her powerful husband for her powerful boss is not necessarily the greatest step toward this change, but at least Will’s American Revolution sexual fantasies sound more fun than the fantasy of an intact marriage with Peter.
Perception and proof are up for debate again as Lockhart/Gardner are invited to apply to handle Peter’s office’s outside work. Will is skeptical from the start, and makes Diane do the pitch alone, but won’t tell her why. While Diane thinks that Peter’s hesitance stems from a concern about the appearance of a conflict of interest if he hired his wife’s firm, Peter insists that he’s actually worried about Lockhart/Gardner’s dealings with Lemond Bishop — and so wants the firm to voluntarily submit to a departmental audit. Diane suspects that Peter might be out to get them, but is hesitant about turning down his business for no hard reason. When she fishes, Will refuses to say anything but that Peter is trying to run a clean office – which is true, so far as we know, but certainly not the whole story. And when Diane asks point blank whether Peter and Alicia have separated, Will won’t answer. It’s possible that he’s just trying to protect himself, of course, but I like the implication that Will understands that the fact that he’s sleeping with Alicia does not give him the right to speak for her. Diane, who has definitely been watching them, finally shows up at Alicia’s apartment, ostensibly looking for Peter, to try to figure out the situation for herself. I really hope the separation becomes public soon, because on a show so obsessed with social media and surveillance, it’s starting to seem ridiculous that no one has noticed where Peter is living. (Or at least no one has made it public. Will certainly knows, and I suspect that Eli and/or Kalinda have figured it out but are keeping quiet for their own reasons.)
And in a B plot that seems unrelated to the rest of the firm’s goings-on — at least so far — Eli is approached by political strategist Mickey Gunn, who wants him to pitch a crisis management strategy for handling a candidate’s potential. But the strategist won’t tell him who the candidate is or what the scandal is about. Eli is not amused — “This is b.s. It’s like a bake-off without any ingredients.” — but he plays along, and at least this gives the show a chance to finally put Eli and Kalinda in a room together. Eli asks Kalinda to figure out what the scandal is so that he can put together a proposal, but Kalinda sees that his real plan is to use the information to blackmail Mickey into hiring him, and Eli is immediately smitten, asking, “How have I never met you before?” After a false start involving a former senator and a nanny, Kalinda realizes that Mickey is changing sides and considering working for a Republican in the presidential primaries. She and Eli figure out who it is, but the candidate looks too good to be true — again, this episode is all about perception and proof — and Eli concludes that Mickey was trying to get them to do his vetting for him for free. (Interestingly, the show was careful not to reveal the candidate’s name or face, which makes me wonder if there’s some sort of stunt casting in the works. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether the show does decide to do a presidential primary storyline this season.) In one of The Good Wife‘s trademark nods to real politics, Eli uses the Anthony Weiner scandal as his example in describing his strategy of containing a scandal by controlling the spin, as Weiner did not. Could Eli have actually kept Weiner in office, as he claims? It wouldn’t surprise me.
Other lingering questions: Eli thought Kalinda looked familiar because he came across her under her other name while researching Peter at some point, right? Was Grace’s line about computer problems a throwaway, or proof that that tutor was indeed up to something nefarious? Where is Jackie these days? And just for fun — as which Revolutionary figure do you think Alicia would dress up, if they were indeed going to play out Will’s fantasies? Abigail Adams strikes me as the logical choice.
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