The Good Wife, Season 5, Episode 9, “Whack-a-Mole”
Written by Nichelle Tramble Spellman
Directed by Kevin Hooks
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS
Ah, The Good Wife. You’re always good for a thinly veiled riff on a relevant piece of internet culture, aren’t you? “Whack-a-Mole” focuses on Scabbit, a website that is distinctly not Reddit (just kidding. It totally is.) which the FBI uses to crowd source an investigation of a terrorist attack, leading them to suspect Alicia’s kindly professor, who is writing a book on jihad, but not that kind of jihad.
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The show’s interest in social media and internet culture occasionally leads to it being silly and obtuse in a vain attempt to be hip and relevant, but it returns to these issues again and again for a reason. Say what you will about it, but The Good Wife is incredibly skilled at keeping tabs on salient legal issues and building episodes around them. And the old refrain that privacy will be the issue of the twenty-first century means the show will look again and again at these debates. The internet is a fascinating place from a legal perspective, a playground where anonymity is theoretically guaranteed, where law can be subverted or ignored, and where regulation is either nonexistent or completely ineffective. Alicia’s efforts to get an injunction tonight are a perfect example: everyone agrees the legal system is woefully inadequate to deal with the situation, which makes it easy for Scabbit to exploit the law for its own benefit.
The case of the week is actually completely separate from the rivalry between Florrick/Agos and Lockhart/Gardner, at least to begin with. And once the two firms are crossing swords again, it is at least in court this time. The show could do an entire season of episodes in which Will and Diane face Alicia and Cary in court and it would probably continue to be deeply compelling, compulsively watchable television. Though the issues are cutting edge, the whole affair takes on a slightly silly edge as the two sides pirouette around each other and “Whack-a-Mole” benefits greatly from Jeffrey Tambor’s return to the bench. His color commentary adds layers to the legal arguments and he manages to be both glib and completely serious without missing a step. With the interesting wrinkle he throws into his relationship with Alicia at the end (which is completely inappropriate and an ex-parte communication), it looks like we will see a lot more from him in weeks to come and this is a very good thing.
Meanwhile, Jason O’Mara is a new lawyer at Lockhart/Gardner and good God, have we heard this song before. The show basically ran out of things for Kalinda to do years ago, but knows it has a good thing in Archie Panjabi and seems reticent to just let her investigate things and occasionally simmer at men, women, or parking meters. So we get O’Mara’s Damian Boyle, a shady mob lawyer who is going to make Kalinda’s investigation of him very difficult. That she cannot find his birthday and arrest record ridiculously easily seems implausible for such a stellar investigator and, while O’Mara has some fun with Boyle’s complete lack of scruples, it is all getting old incredibly quickly and the plotline has the feel of something off a lesser show. Boston Legal could return to the same well repeatedly because it had no delusions of being above that sort of thing. But The Good Wife is, and should be, better than this.
Speaking of things the show has repeated well past their sell-by date, “Whack-a-Mole” presents yet another installment of the Jackie Florrick and Eli Gold Funtime Variety Hour when Jackie wants Eli to reject a replacement candidate for Peter’s judgeship. It is often fun to watch these two tangle, but this is clearly a C-story with very little relevance and so it is mostly a rerun of things we’ve seen before. Mary Beth Peil is a subtle marvel this week, playing a whole range of emotions without so much as a word, but she can’t save this plot line from feeling like a serious case of “been there, done that.”
The main plot in “Whack-a-Mole” works and that’s enough to carry the episode home, even as both subplots are somewhat problematic. The Florrick/Agos rivalry with Lockhart/Gardner has given this show an energy and vitality it lacked last year, and it would be a shame to see Boyle or the political stuff drag the show back to its season four lows. But the masterplot has enough meat to it that The Good Wife should be able to avoid Kalinda sticking her finger in any ice cream for at least a couple of weeks. And even then, maybe it’ll be Rocky Road.
-“We need money.”…“We’re swamped.”
-“Will, just because someone is wrong for us doesn’t make him right.”
-“I’m a partner at LG…Lockhart/Gardner…”
-“He’s sick of debate.” “Well I don’t give a damn. This isn’t communist Russia!”
-“Your honor, may I approach the bench?” “Oh come on down, it’s a party!”
-“You’re the world’s #1 Mom?” “I have me moments.”
-“You two do know that I have other cases?”
-“Do you miss it?” “I don’t know.”
-“Mrs. Florrick, don’t take this the wrong way, but I was wondering if you would like to get some coffee?”