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The Good Wife, Ep. 6.18: “Loser Edit” dutifully ticks off its season-arc beats

The Good Wife, Ep. 6.18: “Loser Edit” dutifully ticks off its season-arc beats

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The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 18: “Loser Edit”
Written by Luke Schelhaas
Directed by Brooke Kennedy
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on CBS

When word came down that “Loser Edit” would be another issue-driven episode of The Good Wife – this time, gay marriage was to be the focal point – there was a collective cringe. Was this to be another “Debate” scenario? The good news is that no, The Good Wife didn’t shoot itself in the foot to that degree this week. On the other hand, “Loser Edit” feels very much of a piece with much of the so-so back half of this troubled season: where The Good Wife once exhilarated, it now mostly ticks off plot-beat boxes, however pleasurably.

There’s an array of appealing guests this week, though most of them don’t get much to do. The most prominent is the returning Lily Rabe, whose nosy reporter Petra Moritz returns to do her little best to run a piece driven by the leaked emails from last week’s outing. Rabe is never not utterly compelling ti watch, but Moritz is depicted as dopey one minute and cunning the next, as the episode’s story demands it. She is in total control for the first act, until she allows Alicia to buy time by promising an all-access interview she should have known was a ruse; nevertheless, at episode’s end, she again gains the upper hand with a scoop on alleged election fraud. OK, then?

Elsewhere, Frankie J. Alvarez, late of the dearly departed Looking, gets a nothing-y part as Petra’s editor, and Oliver Platt is back as Republican powerhouse R.D,, this time with the appealing but underused Michael Zegen (Benny Siegel from Boardwalk Empire) in tow. Once again, he offers Diane a chance to embark on a battle of wits and morals, this time with gay marriage as the battleground. As a former debater, the mock-trial conceit of this subplot should have been catnip for this viewer, but as with the abortion debate in “Red Meat,” several of the last notes ring false. Diane bringing in R.D.’s nephew is absurd on a dramatic level, since we know the mock trial has no real stakes, meaning it just makes Diane come across as petty and vindictive. Her point about the necessarily personal dimension of legal practice is a fascinating one worth spending an episode on, but doing so in the context of a mock trial is bizarre. Once again, as in “Red Meat,” R.D. is allowed off Diane’s hook by resorting to some flowery nonsense weighing the earnest convictions of dyed-in-the-wool gay marriage detractors against the fairweather politics of the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton. That’s a false equivalency and a featherweight rhetorical flourish that Diane should be ripping apart, not gazing upon with admiration. Come on, writers.

“Loser Edit” also marks the return of a character most of us had likely forgotten about, the other other Good Wife investigator (seriously, where the hell is Robyn?), Tim Guinee’s Andrew Wylie, AKA The One With The Kids. (He’s best remembered for prompting one of the series’ funniest-ever sequences.) In his first appearance since the season three finale, Wylie quickly deduces Kalinda’s falsification of evidence, and thanks to a consult with the ever-helpful Finn Polmar, who seems to be duty-bound to lend aid to everyone on this show no matter how unethically they’ve behaved, she learns that the wrong move could doom Diane thanks to her presenting the data as legitimate evidence in court. With only four episodes left for Kalinda at most, it seems pretty clear that the Kings are orchestrating a self-sacrificing exit for the character that will allow her some measure of redemption in the face of all she’s done, particularly against Alicia. (Really, though, the notion that Kalinda slept with Peter at some previous, unseen junction in the series’ backstory always felt like an empty contrivance meant to drive a wedge between Alicia and Kalinda because…reasons.) That’s the trouble with this back half of the season, besides the fact that the stakes just don’t feel as weighty as they used to: it feels very much as though the season plot is serving the needs of the series, rather than the other way around. Part of the exhilaration of season five was watching the show blaze forth in bold, even insane directions, while paying attention to its characters’ inner lives and shifting allegiances. Season six, meanwhile, has hitched its fate to a handful of plotlines that haven’t really done anything to advance the series’ pet themes or our understanding of its characters, and what’s worse, it’s utterly drained the characters not party to those plots of anything to do while they wait for their turn. (Again, I’m left wondering if there are unspoken budgetary concerns at work.) It’s getting late in the game to expect that The Good Wife might flaunt expectation again by pulling out a spectacular conclusion to a troubled season, but, technically, stranger things have happened.

Other thoughts:

Excellent use of the exhortation “scurrilous” from Eli this week.

“You started this. You created the myth of St. Alicia.” Eli, the source of all evil, as usual.

I didn’t mention the Alicia-Peter tete-a-tete about “controlling the narrative,” mostly because I’m deeply bored of the series rehashing their dynamics again and again, although I did enjoy Alicia calling Peter on breaking out his “sex face.”

“Love is a word that is so exhausted.” Preach!

New Good Wife drinking game: new-media name check. Double shot for “Gawker.”