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.