The Good Wife, Ep. 6.13: “Dark Money” plays it safe, familiar, and broad

The Good Wife - "Dark Money"

The Good Wife - "Dark Money"

The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 13: “Dark Money”
Written by Keith Eisner
Directed by Jim McKay
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on CBS

After the relative, unexpected disaster that was “The Debate,” in which the Kings bit off way more than they could chew thematically speaking, it makes sense that The Good Wife would return after its brief hiatus with an episode that mostly plays it safe. Accordingly, “Dark Money” is a total comfort-zone hour in theory, replete with the meta-gags the series has grown increasingly in love with, a legendary guest actor playing sharply against (recent) type, and a set of new plots for familiar returning characters. Should be a surefire slam dunk, right?

Not so much. For starters, the principal returning character of the episode – that is, the one we’ve not seen in a while – is Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker), the bourgeois almost-definite-murderer for whom the series ran out of interesting eccentricities at least two seasons ago, despite Baker’s obvious enjoyment of the role. (For anyone watching HBO’s doc series The Jinx, his profound spiritual resemblance to the even-creepier Robert Durst really doesn’t help matters.) The notion of re-investigating the murder of his wife via a civil case inspired by a trashy crime-series ripoff of his “alleged” crime sounds at leastamusing on paper, but The Good Wife’s TV parodies are getting to be old hat, especially in epsidoes like this one, wherein the legal contortions are especially outlandish. Case in point: the appearance of the ChumHum logo throughout the fictional episode gives them a corporate defamation angle. We’re meant to buy that a search engine is visible for three minutes and forty-two seconds of a one-hour episode of television, and that incidental appearances could amount to defamation, as opposed to free advertising? Even in the context of an exceptionally litigious society, that’s a hell of a stretch, and more importantly, it’s a lame way to cap off a case that is already a literal retread. Actually, the only real payoff comes via Call It Murder, this week’s fake series, when it turns out that its slinky Alicia equivalent has more of a moral compass than thereal Alicia does when dealing with “not”-Sweeney.

The other plots don’t fare much better. Ed Asner makes his first appearance as Guy Redmayne, a big-money Democrat with a personality as toxic as his pockets are deep. The notion of Asner, recently associated with more genteel roles such as his voice work in Up, dropping in as a viciously homophobic lech whose own daughter can barely stand to share a room with him is, again, a perfectly sound one in theory, but he’s written so one-dimensionally that it’s tough to get anything out of his scenes. Finally, in Kalinda Corner, she’s on babysitting duty, looking after poor Dylan Bishop, who’s been the target of a mean ol’ bully, who not only gives him a black eye, but argues that his gangster dad killed his mother. The big twist here is that Lemond’s response is to…call the offending parents. It’s a nice enough moment, and Colter is reliably believable as both a troubled parent and a vicious criminal, but the cumulative effect of these scenes amounts to a shrug.

Ultimately, “Dark Money” doesn’t amount to much, despite the ominous title: Alicia loses a little more of her soul to Redmayne, Sweeney is Sweeney, Bishop is Bishop, and life goes on. The episode tries to inject a little late pathos courtesy of Grace and a tragically heavy-handed Warren Zevon music cue, but it comes too late and after too silly an episode to have any kind of impact. The Good Wife can still do (much) better, yes?

Other thoughts:

The TV version of Colin Sweeney is played by…Dylan Baker, with a funny accent and facial hair, because The Good Wife does this level of TV meta-humour now. Apparently, a lot of people found this hilarious.

We have never needed Finn Polmar more than we need him now.

A small highlight of the Sweeney case: Marissa and Renata bonding over the unlikeliest of subjects. Sarah Steele continues to be a total delight all of the time.

Yes, The Good Wife got Ed Asner to shout the words “I’m talkin’ ‘bout bangin’ that bitch like a five-thousand-dollar-a-night whore!”. That is…something.

“Debbie Conlon is not for sale!”

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