Sunday, March 1, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Good Wife' - Alicia Asks for Campaign Donations & Colin Sweeney Returns with a Defamation Law Suit in 'Dark Money'

CBS' The Good Wife - Episode 6.13 "Dark Money"

When Colin Sweeney accuses a television producer of basing an unflattering character and show on his life, Diane and Cary must prove that they are capable of handling his case as Alicia focuses on the race for State's Attorney. Also, Alicia competes against Frank Prady for a major campaign donation.

I think we've reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to Colin Sweeney. In the past, I've always enjoyed the character and the charisma Dylan Baker brings to the role. He could pop up once or twice a season for some legal troubles. More importantly, his name is easy to namedrop whenever someone needs to talk about the shady clientele at Alicia's firm. But now the problem is: Is there anything actually new about Colin Sweeney at this point? Every time he pops up on the screen it seems like they're recycling the same story about his dead wife and his sexual fetishes causing problems for the firm as well as his new romantic relationships. He literally faces trial again for killing his wife in this episode. It starts innocently as a defamation lawsuit, but it's soon revealed to be a trap to get him tried for her murder again. No new information is introduced. There's just the same back-and-forth of whether or not he did the crime and whether or not the lawyers can get him acquitted of it again.

More and more lately, The Good Wife enjoys showing a representation of the television industry. It is a critically-acclaimed show. And now, it's having some fun mocking the ideas and tropes that are so popular in the industry. Usually though, it's just as a cutaway joke. Darkness at Noon is one of Alicia's favorite shows about an anti-hero leading man. It feels ridiculous while still being in line with something that could actually be produced. This episode introduces Call It Murder into the TV universe. It's a law procedural whose cases are "ripped from the headlines." That storytelling device has been popular for decades now. Even The Good Wife has used it in its episodic stories. That claim of "ripped from the headlines" does open up the possibility of defamation. And so, I like that The Good Wife is digging into the shaky legal ground of this business of operations.

It's a solid idea that gets bogged down from Colin Sweeney of it all. Because he's a recurring character on the show, his cases need to be tailor-made to him a little bit more. The show could have gone all in with the defamation angle. That would have been intriguing. Instead they decided to pivot back to the murder which has shaped so much of what Colin Sweeney has been on the show. It doesn't open him up to anything new in this world - or in his relationships with the main characters. Diane and Cary have to take lead on this case because Alicia is too busy with her campaign. He doesn't trust the two of them to adequately handle this case and frequently runs to Alicia for advice. I like that he knows she'll give a more honest answer on how to win without perjuring himself. However, Alicia really doesn't want to put up with him and his various antics this week. And then, the only reason the case is settled is because Alicia threatens the TV producers and their lawyer with an even bigger lawsuit because Chumhum was featured throughout the episode. It's a resolution that comes out of nowhere. It has nothing to do with Colin Sweeney and a ton to do with the various people the firm represents.

The more interesting story comes from Alicia trying to get money from a wealthy businessman. The show typically does casting really well by giving actors something unexpected to play. Ed Asner has played this pervy old man type before. It's not a very engaging role but it is very important in showcasing how this campaign has started to wear on Alicia and Frank. It really has felt like this campaign for State's Attorney has gone on forever, hasn't it? The seeds of it were being planted a year ago right after Will's death! How much more of it is left? But more importantly, will Alicia be happy with the person she had to become in order to run for this office. She hates how crass Guy Redmayne is. But she also needs his money in the hopes of pulling ahead of Frank in this election. It makes her feel like she's done a bad thing. Her backchannel meetings with Frank have been a crucial part of this election. It presents an open dialogue between the two candidates for both of them to talk about the things that are bothering them. This last minute donation only makes them feel more bad and alone. Grace may be able to comfort her mother in the end but that doesn't mean Alicia can easily shake this feeling off.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Dark Money" was written by Keith Eisner and directed by Jim McKay.
  • Lemond Bishop also calls in his favor from Kalinda by asking her to escort his son home from school every day for the next two weeks. Lemond has been built up as this criminal face all season long. It's nice to see that he still has some humanity left in him. There's still too much shifty stuff happening in the bulk of the story. Why does Dylan need Kalinda to drive him? Who are the people following her? But at the end of the day, Lemond is just trying to be a good father.
  • The Television Critics Association got a shout out by Diane in describing that Call It Murder does stories that are "ripped from the headlines." Yeah, I'm certain Call It Murder is a show the TCA wouldn't recognize.
  • Guy is allowed to be so crass because he has money which is something both Alicia and Frank want. That's a part of this story that isn't as big a deal as it maybe should have been.
  • Dylan Baker didn't just play Colin Sweeney. He also played the actor playing the role on the TV show both in (fictional) real life and on the show. Was that just giving him a variety to play with in the case that he gets nominated for another Emmy? Because the other two characters felt like caricatures. I suppose that was the point too.