The Good Wife: "Marthas And Caitlins" - A low bar for caring

Quite simply, this was the best episode of the season so far. The premiere had sequences which were just as strong, but “Marthas and Caitlins” was the first time The Good Wife has fired on all cylinders the way The Good Wife can.

The case of the week was intriguingly winding, powered of course by the return of Dylan Baker’s deliciously reptilian Colin Sweeney. Even as both Baker and the show relish every morsel of sociopath chic the character brings to the table (including an overt Silence of the Lambs nod), Sweeney stops just an inch shy of being a cartoon. His fetishistic embrace of power—finding a way to wring every drop of manipulative potential out of cooperating with first Alicia and then Cary—is a perfect funhouse-mirror reflection some of the series’ key themes. He’s a warped aspect of this world, but an aspect of it nonetheless.

The main story also drew in elements of the season’s long-term character arcs. Alicia’s reasonable reluctance to fully trust Will finally begins to manifest in a scintillating final scene between the two. Is he destined to let her down, as Celeste warns and Alicia momentarily fears? After all, revealing that he played favorites to bring Alicia into the firm does nothing to dispel our picture of him as a calculating cynic—it just so happens that his calculations happened to achieve a positive outcome three years ago, which is no guarantee they always will in the future. He did still give her the hollow hiring assignment in the first place, with seemingly no compunction.

In another precarious ethical balancing act, Peter’s evolution as state’s attorney sees him tilting towards “clean-cut public servant” over “ambitious politico” (or for that matter, spurned husband) this week, much to Eli’s consternation. It also gives the main case a way to link up satisfyingly with Eli Gold’s B-Story Factory, which heretofore had existed on a (hilarious) island of bumbling cheese executives. Shades of the tension between politics and morality that propelled so much of season two.

“Marthas and Caitlins” even chiseled out the strongest material of Lisa Edelstein’s guest arc so far, by positing her as something of a devil on Alicia’s shoulder…but not an unsympathetic one, given the undertones of her inebriated advice. Celeste is petty, hypercompetitive, and a shade nihilistic, and it’s all to easy to imagine how that was hardened by years in a Darwinian professional environment that’s even less forgiving towards its female inhabitants. There but for the grace of God—God in this case being political connections, a stable family, and a relatively robust support network at Lockhart Gardner—goes Alicia.

 

Other notes:

  • Dayumn, David Lee, you’ve always been an all right dude, but when you turn on someone you are genuinely unnerving.
  • At three episodes, the meshugas about Grace’s wacky dancing tutor is the longest running plot so far this season, if I’m not mistaken.
  • “Don’t blame me, you guys wanted equal treatment. You can thank Gloria Steinem.”
  • “How selfless of you.” “Yeah, well. I’m a caring individual.”
  • “See? Isn’t this fun?”
  • “’Hor-ror?’” “Yeah. What’d I say?”
  • “Why me? Why not O.J.?”
  • “I hate irony. I heard America’s irony-free these days.”
  • “Trampboarding.”
  • “We’re lovers.”
  • “Next time I’ll get some long benches in here.”
  • “I don’t want him getting killed. That’s a pretty low bar for caring.”
  • “No. But I don’t have any male friends either.”
  • “Just remember, Will is like me. He’ll always disappoint you.”
  • “Caitlins often surprise you.”

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