The Good Wife, Ep. 6.07: “Message Discipline” a rare transitional outing

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The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 7: “Message Discipline”
Written by Craig Turk
Directed by Matt Shakman
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET

The vast majority of serialized dramas – even the best of them – require the occasional transitional episode to get their season arcs from point A to point B (or D to E, or whatever). The Good Wife has gone long stretches without having to rely on any of those, either by packing its seasons full of incident or ignoring long arcs in favor of colorful one-offs. “Message Discipline” is an unusually traditional transitional episode of The Good Wife; it’s a classic “put the pieces in place” episode, one whose implications could be either fascinating or routine, depending on where the Kings decide to take things.

None of which is to say that not much happens in “Message Discipline,” merely that it mostly happens in the episode’s final few minutes, before we can know how any of this will play out. The biggest waves are made by CBS interview personality Frank Prady, played by series newcomer David Hyde Pierce. Eli and Elfman have determined that Prady is prepping for his own S.A. run, and since he’s “a bigger brand” than she is (a tough concept to sell us on, by the way, given that the show’s universe is so thoroughly established and he’s never shown up before, but so it goes), that may spell her downfall. While it’s great that this shakes up the race a little bit, especially with Castro being such a one-dimensional douche, the notion that Eli would be so convinced that Alicia can’t possibly beat Prady is more than a little off. Eli is acutely aware of Alicia’s skills at adapting to fluid political situations – why does he doubt she could handle Prady as an opponent just because he’s well-liked? It doesn’t help matters that, as written by Craig Turk and played by Pierce, Prady comes across as sharp but hardly a gamechanger. Still, these contortions allow for a great final sequence in which Prady formally declares to Alicia that he’s running. He claims he hadn’t made up his mind until he was ironically swayed by an attempt to smear his name (supposedly from Castro’s camp, actually Eli and Elfman’s doing); Alicia doesn’t buy it, citing the evidence presented to her by Eli.

Given the tone of the sequence an the series’ general allegiance to Saint Alicia, it seems likely that Prady is full of shit, but having Prady be an earnest would-be public servant is by far the more fascinating option. Here’s a guy who built a support base from the ground up, with no (apparent) ties to special interests or other nefarious sorts (such as, just to throw one example out there, ruthless drug kingpins), with what he claims is a genuine sense of outrage at the political status quo. Alicia claims – twice – that she abhors “reality TV” both in the literal sense and as a handy shorthand for a certain kind of petty, personal politicking, but if Prady is the real deal and our hero is the pretender, that’s the more exciting story.

The rest of the hour is given over to the Cary Agos case, which takes a turn down memory lane this week by reminding us of Cary’s time as an ASA. Most of this winds up as boilerplate Good Wife – Cary is accused of stealing evidence, Peter is implicated, turns out it was a third party connected to Bishop instead – but there are a few notes of interest. When Florrick Agos attempts to subpoena Peter, he enlists the aid of his new legal aid, Ramona Lytton (Connie Nielsen), whose entire subplot in this episode is clearly meant to remind us of Alicia’s early days of re-entering the workforce; she even acknowledges the comparison herself. This results in a uniquely disorienting sequence in which the show’s trademark classical scoring switches to “quietly rousing” mode as Lytton successfully counters Florrick Agos’s play. The episode is actively backing the efforts of a character we’ve only just become acquainted as she obliquely helps to put Cary back in jail. How about that?

Lastly, there’s the small matter of Finn Polmar, who finally leaves Castro behind with the hopes of starting his own firm – and hey, Alicia has some free office space now! This has to be a feint, with Finn obviously bound for a steady gig at Florrick Agos. As comforting a presence as Matthew Goode has been on the show – he’s been a rock of decency in the wake of Will’s death and the subsequent shitstorm – he hasn’t had much of a chance to flesh out the character beyond “unusually decent guy in a cynical environment.” “Message Discipline” makes a point of opening with Finn’s POV, and he gets more screentime than usual given his decision to resign, but he could really use a few more notes. It seems inevitable that Finn and Alicia are bound for a crash course of some kind – especially given that they’ll be sharing office space, and they enjoy each other’s company just a little too much not to at least entertain something extra – but I trust the series to do something more interesting than “Will and Alicia 2.0.” Right?

Other thoughts:

This week in Good Wife realpolitik Bingo: Ferguson and police militarization! Israel! Palestine! Abortion! Still counting down to the inevitable GamerGate mention.

The scenes of Cary and Kalinda being kept apart by an invisible 30-foot barrier were beyond ridiculous, though not as ridiculous as Kalinda making an anonymous call to the S.A. office without altering her voice. C’mon, Kalinda – no one else sounds remotely like you.

Alicia actually exclaims “horseshit!” during her prep with Elfman, which is blanked out, but not in that silly “oh, a noise got in the way” fashion we got a couple of seasons back. This is a really smart idea, especially if it gets us away from characters using the word “frig”.

By far the funniest moment of the episode: Eli and Elfman’s hilariously awkward body movements while watching Alicia’s mild trainwreck of an interview.

Is Diane ever going to get a story again?

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