The Good Wife Review by Henry Tran

The Good Wife 6.04: Oppo Research

The Good Wife 6.04: Oppo Research

Written By:
Robert and Michelle King
Directed By:
Matt Shakman

This has been a show that has dealt with the truth, and the perception of the truth. I kept thinking about the very first shot of the pilot episode throughout "Oppo Research." Looking at Alicia from behind as she walks into the storm of lights and cameras from a press conference where Peter announces to the public that he cheated on her with a prostitute. That was the public face of a disgraced wife who nevertheless stands by her husband at the most humiliating point of her life. Behind the doors, she slaps Peter for his indiscretions. Here, it's Alicia preparing for anything and everything that the opposition can dig up to throw at her.

It's politics at its mud-slinging best. She spends the episode trying to do damage control as best as she can. She is being managed by Eli and her new campaign manager, Johnny Elfman, and well, she can't really be blamed for diving into the rest of that wine bottle by the end of the first session. She's having these serious discussions about her skeletons in her closet, all the while Grace and her church choir practice in the other room. At the beginning of the episode, she had misgivings about entering the political arena, as expected. By the end, she's firm on her decision to run but she's getting a taste of what the campaign is going to be like when the spotlight is on her instead of her spouse.

There are a variety of examples of the public-private dichotomy running through the episode. When Eli first meets Alicia at her apartment to go over early campaign strategy, it's just the two of them privately discussing Mr. Elfman. Eli has an ulterior motive to match the two of them but does so without telling either of them. The very first piece of oppo research told to Alicia concerns Zach. It's something of a surprise that Alicia's kids would have indiscretions that could be used against her. At first look, the easiest mode of attack for Castro would be to come after the Florrick marriage. It would be making the title of the show somewhat ironic. Political smear campaigns are probing for any and all weak spots, though. I think the process behind this piece of oppo research is to break down Alicia's image as the working mother, which will then lead to breaking down her marriage.

I'd usually cringe whenever Alicia's kids are involved in the storyline, but this is actually legitimate. Zach got Nisa pregnant, and then she aborted the child without Alicia's knowledge. Publicly, she doesn't let on to both Johnny and Eli that this flusters her. Privately, when she closes the door to her bedroom and discusses this piece of news with Peter, her "ice queen" persona comes out. She's normally fiercely protective of her children, but this is an instance where Zach repeatedly lied to her. She cannot have that. It's the moment where her child has become spoiled in her eyes. If he lied to her about this, surely everything else in his life is now in question. It also involves abortion, which is a hot button topic in politics so that doesn't help things. When the campaign goes forward, Alicia might be able to quash this feeling, but it's a definite weakness that Castro will likely exploit.

Her personal flaws are brought out so much that the professional ones seem almost trivial. The main component of that aspect is the firm's continued association with Lemond Bishop. They swiftly and delicately dispose of that issue by politely asking Bishop to choose another firm for representation (Who else thought that list handed to Bishop might include Canning-Lee?) He temporarily declines the notion, then goes forward with it once he figures out why he's being dumped. Bishop is a complicated villain. He has much more experience than Alicia in dealing with the duplicitous nature of public perception. It's a nice twist when he reveals to Alicia that he was the one who set up the PAC for her campaign that is being flooded with donations. It may be an altruistic action on Bishop's part, but if anyone finds out about the connection, the perception will be that Alicia is once again receiving help from drug connections.

Politics is not about the truth, but the always-changing perception of the truth. One glass of wine does not make Alicia an alcoholic. Everyone should know that. But if she's caught on camera taking a field sobriety test, then it becomes public belief that she may be an alcoholic. It may be a coincidence that she was pulled over right after having a drink with Finn but that won't matter in the public eye. Her gay brother has a sexual affair with a married man. She tells him this amongst only themselves, not in front of their mother because the news is too salacious. What's going to inflame the public isn't the fact that he's gay but the fact that he's involved in infidelity. It's guilt by association, and judging by the show's vast history (which is well-deployed throughout this episode), it's a regular thing with the Florrick family. 

Everything is fair game in politics, which begs the question as to why Alicia would even want to do this. It has to be more than eliminating someone she thinks is a bully and that she thinks she would do a good job. Everyone who enters politics thinks they can do a better job than the other guy. It's in getting the public to think you're not as bad as the other guy that's the real issue at hand. She's probably going to win the election (once again, the show's track record doesn't really indicate otherwise), but she's going to have to let some things dirty her composed, elegant facade along the way. That's just how the game is played.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Even the children get a solid storyline this time around
  • Great exploration of the public/private dichotomy
  • A powerful exploration of smear politics
The Bad:
  • The eventual outcome is a bit telegraphed

Henry Tran is a regular contributor of review for Critical Myth; The Critical Myth Show is heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @HenYay

The Good Wife by - 10/14/2014 11:17 AM147 views

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