The Good Wife Review by Henry Tran

The Good Wife 6.12: The Debate

The Good Wife 6.12: The Debate

Written By:
Robert and Michelle King
Directed By:
Brooke Kennedy

The world of The Good Wife is one of white privilege. The cast is predominantly white, the writers and those behind the scenes are presumably of a white majority. The topics that are dealt with within the fabric of the show routinely affect those in a power position. Those positions are all filled with the white majority. So it's a rather bad, or somewhat unconvincing, tact to go on what amounts to an extended diatribe regarding race relations not only in Chicago, but in most of the country.

One single hour is not enough time to even begin to scratch the surface on that topic alone, and so that gives this episode a perspective that the writers -- specifically the show's creators and co-showrunners, who are given the writing credit -- are attempting to address the race issue while the show is going. Only, there isn't any depth to it and so I end up with the perception overall that it's something the characters bring up and probably never address again.

I find it amazing that the episode ends up not being about the debate between Alicia and Frank Prady at all, despite its blunt and obvious title. It somehow missed its intended purpose. Alicia and Prady were supposed to get in a few points about why Cook County voters should vote for them, but end up making little impression at all due to ridiculous time constraints that make them seem like candidates with canned or cut off sound bites. Prady does make a good point that the nature of politics has made things end up like this, but he doesn't expand on the point. When the political storyline first began, it was painted as Alicia running so that she could adequately replace Castro, the sitting state's attorney. Castro was portrayed as unshakably evil, with Alicia as the diametric opposite.

Somehow, Castro has been completely erased from this race, replaced by Prady, who seems to be the middle ground. He's definitely not "Saint Alicia", but not as or more evil than Castro. He and Alicia can't be on the same level or look too similar because the story demands that they be opponents and not players operating on the same side but are lobbying for the same votes. I feel like that's what the "kitchen debate" is supposed to crystallize. It bungles the intended point. A few kitchen workers and hotel staff (who are, conveniently, not white) watch this debate unfold, but nothing comes of it. I didn't come out of that scene wondering who was going to win or what their clear positions were. It stinks of lecturing both the minor, nameless characters that are never going to be seen again and dragging the audience along with it.

The debate in the kitchen wants to clarify the candidates' position on race relations in Cook County, but does so in a haphazard manner. What definitely doesn't help matters (yet somehow compounding the awkwardness of the argument the writers want to make) is how they present the Cole Willis verdict as an echo of the anti-police sentiment that gripped the United States with the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and the Eric Garner case in New York. For something that is supposed to be seen as on the same level as those real life cases, it feels like the episode sidestepped what they wanted to say about that case. It shows the candid footage of the confrontation with the police at the beginning of the episode, with no real context of anything or anyone involved, then moves on to deal with the debate, or the Neil Gross divorce proceedings, or the possibility that Peter's fling with Ramona is going to be leaked from the press to the public.

The show moved from addressing the race relations issue to addressing the issues pertinent to the lives of the characters inhabiting its world. There's never any time invested in the Cole Willis case, yet the writers are asking the audience to do just that with little material to back it up. When the "not guilty" verdict on the case came in, exonerating the cops, I think there was supposed to be this outraged feeling about it, like it's another thing that shakes up these characters' worlds.

This is an intimate drama that is dependent on viewers caring about what happens to its characters, and Cole Willis doesn't really matter in the long run. What really matters is the possibility that the campaign is already splintering the partnership between Diane, Cary, and Alicia. Ironic that we once thought Cary being in jail would be the event that split everyone up. Now that he has returned to the proverbial nest, they are just now recognizing that Alicia is separate from everyone else. If Alicia is intent on following through on her assertion that she will win the election to the SAO, then it really is going to cause major issues within the firm. There were already doubts that Alicia could hold a public office position and maintain her status as name partner so Diane and Cary making a unilateral decision such as inviting David Lee back into the firm would certainly be done without her assent.

Alicia's indignation at that surprise comes off as a bit of self-righteousness consistent with her character thus far. She doesn't handle spontaneous crises all that well, especially if she goes into things unprepared. For all of the interpersonal drama that is unfolding and brewing though, the show came up woefully short in its attempt at social commentary. Maybe it would have been better to leave out the social commentary altogether. It has never been an area at which the show excels.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Does a nice job of exposing Alicia's blind spots
The Bad:
  • The treatment of race issues in Chicago is terribly awkward

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 - 1/13/2015 5:36 AM179 views

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