Editor’s Note: Kate was traveling over the weekend, thus the one-day delay. Consider this an open thread for the first half of this season of The Good Wife. And enjoy!
By Kate Linnea Walsh
We begin “What Went Wrong” with a slightly distracted Alicia and her colleagues defending a police officer, Lauryn, accused of killing her husband. The judge instructs the jury to only consider judgments of “guilty of first-degree murder” or “not guilty,” but the prosecution – led by Cary – is afraid they didn’t make a strong enough case for that, so they offer a deal: Lauryn pleads guilty to second-degree murder (and gets four years in prison). When the defendant asks for Alicia’s advice on whether to take the deal, Alicia says: “I think that you need to make that decision, Lauryn. You can’t defer to anyone else. You know what you did. You know what you didn’t do. You also know sometimes that doesn’t matter.” Alicia’s words aren’t really helpful to Lauryn, but the fact that Alicia came up with those words – especially the last sentence – encapsulates the way her character has evolved over the past two and a half seasons.
Lauryn doesn’t take the deal, and the jury decides on a guilty verdict. Alicia and her colleagues immediately start talking to jurors to figure out what went wrong, because everyone – prosecution, defense, and the judge himself – is surprised by the verdict. Something clearly happened, because in just one round of voting, over half the jurors changed their votes to guilty. It may have had something to do with outside evidence about one of the witnesses that the foreman introduced, but Lockhart/Gardner can’t use that because they found out about it by going through the trash from the jury deliberation room without permission. Instead, they must play a game of cat and mouse with the State’s Attorney’s office as Cary and Dana follow Alicia and her colleagues around and try to stop them from getting useful information from the jurors – a game that culminates in Cary throwing Kalinda in jail for a while. Lockhart/Gardner finally convinces the judge to declare a mistrial based on a technicality: The judge himself accepted a juror’s Facebook friend request during the trial, which counts as unauthorized outside contact with a juror. Everyone knows that something weird went on with the jury, but everyone also knows that this Facebook friending had nothing to do with it. It’s a perfect illustration of the point the show likes to make about using the system to get a desired (or even correct) outcome, even if the means end up having nothing to do with the motive.
While the Lockhart/Gardner lawyers are looking for evidence, Dana uses the threat of the judicial corruption investigation to try to scare the judge into deciding against Lockhart/Gardner, but he’s not playing. The investigation itself, however, is still going on, and Wendy Scott-Carr dramatically confronts Will at the basketball court where so much of the supposed corruption was alleged to have taken place. She tells him that he’s not her real target – Peter is. (She also tantalizingly mentions that Peter used to be part of Will’s basketball game. I’d love to know more about the history between Peter, Alicia, and Will.) In an echo of the case, Wendy, too, is using the system she’s been given to accomplish her own objective. Now, does she mean that Peter is literally the target of the investigation, or that she plans to use the publicity of the investigation to gain support for another run against Peter when his term is up? It could be either, but I think she meant the former, because she said “Peter’s clean this term. But he wasn’t his first term, was he? And you know where his weaknesses lie.” Will: “Well, I know a lot of things.” I’m sure he does. When he refuses to talk without a lawyer, though, she says the next time they talk will be in front of a Grand Jury. Will calls her bluff: “Okay. So be it.” That should be interesting.
It’s interesting that Scott-Carr specifies that Peter is clean now, because in this episode we finally saw his corruption firsthand. Peter and Alicia have decided to deal with Grace’s behavior by sending the children back to private school, but the headmistress claims there is no space for them. Peter first tries to charm her – and he can be very charming. This scene went a long way to showing the audience how Peter how garnered so much support and loyalty, both personally and professionally, in the first place. When charm isn’t quite enough, though, he openly threatens to use his position to expose the criminal records of a variety of the school’s teachers, and the headmistress gives in. I almost wish we had gotten a scene like this earlier in the show’s run, as an illustration of the way Peter operates. It’s also fascinating that this episode in which we see his corruption at work is also an episode in which we see him act as a model boss and father in other scenes. I don’t talk about Peter much, but the writers’ refusal to make him into either villain or victim is part of what makes the underlying fabric of the show so strong.
Alicia spends much of the episode slightly distracted from her work, both because of the issues with her children and because of the fallout from her break-up with Will. They semi-awkwardly agree that they don’t want things to be awkward, and Alicia marvels at Will’s assistance that they can “just decide it and it’s so.” This is the flip side of what Alicia told Lauryn about the truth not always mattering – sometimes it means that you’ll be convicted of a murder you didn’t commit, but sometimes it means you can decide your way out of an emotional meltdown and just declare that everything will be fine. Alicia’s lonely, though, so while Peter has the kids, she goes out drinking with her brother. I always love seeing Owen, especially when he agrees with me, and this time he was making the exact point I made last week: In this moment, Alicia has obvious, practical solutions to her problems at hand, but won’t use them. As Owen points out, if the secrecy and the “boss thing” are the reasons why she doesn’t want to commit to Will, she could get divorced and quit her job to work for a different firm. Alicia demurs, and leaves us wondering whether the show made Peter so likable and charming this week to lay groundwork for a reconciliation.
Throughout the episode, Diane notices Alicia’s preoccupation and calls her on it, but also offers to take a more active role in mentoring her. Diane is suddenly gung-ho about Alicia pursuing the partner track, and cautions her that it’s better to be associated with other powerful women than with powerful men. She obviously means Will, but it’s a funny thing to say to someone who’s already associated with the State’s Attorney in the most public way possible. Is Diane’s attention a reward for the break-up, or is it a power play? Since Diane thinks Will ended things, does she want his supposedly scorned ex as a partner on her side in future disputes? Diane doesn’t want people’s personal lives interfering in their work – unless or until she can use them for her own means.
We don’t get another new episode until January, so I hope you all enjoy the holidays, and we’ll catch up in the new year!
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