The Good Wife has always been an obviously political show. Its basic setup is a ripped-from-the-headlines riff on The Silda Spitzer Story, and it's grown comfortable enough with those roots to have its characters openly compare Alicia Florrick and her estranged husband to the Clintons.
It's embracing the political drama even more directly now; this season, instead of following Alicia's husband's political ambitions and campaigning and negotiating, it seems like we'll get to see our main character finally do all those things--and get her hands very dirty in the process. Peter Florrick sees this fallout coming as the sixth season opens and his chief aide tries to make the case for "Saint Alicia" to run for office. Her polling numbers are off the charts, but Peter points out that's only because her candidacy is hypothetical: "Put her in politics and she becomes a politician--and people hate politicians."
More quietly, The Good Wife also always has been a story about business. There are the cases of the week, of course, that hinge on Bitcoin and squabbling tech giants with high-maintenance CEOs and grumpy one-percenter bankers making stupid comments about how they're facing Nazi-like persecution. But then there are the more ordinary stories The Good Wife takes on about money and how it affects all of the characters.
The show's basic premise also relied on the financial shakeup of Alicia's world--she didn't just have to survive public humiliation, she had to find a job for the first time in more than fifteen years, to support her kids (pulled out of private school) and to pay rent (for her downsized apartment) once her husband was jailed on corruption charges related to his prostitution scandal. Money's been a factor in almost every meaningful decision the characters make, as it is for most of us: whether Alicia takes the sudden (and expensive) partnership she's offered to help keep her law firm afloat; how Kalinda's loyalties usually end up with the employer that offers her the best raise; or where Diane chooses to take her $38 million in client business when she finds herself being edged out of the firm she founded.
And yes, it's especially but not exclusively the women on this show whose financial choices, and the fallout thereof, drive the plot. In this episode, as Diane tries to negotiate with Alicia for what's essentially a co-owner role--in a firm she once tried to drive out of business--she plays the making-strides-for-women card so hard: "We have a chance to make this the largest firm in the country run by women," she tells Alicia.
It's a characteristically savvy play by Diane, who has shown herself to be both idealistic about the general cause of advancing women in the workplace and ruthlessly practical about helping individual women, including Alicia, when and only when it benefits Diane. Golden-boy Cary was always Diane's favorite, even when Alicia was her employee and hoping for a female mentor, and the camera pointedly lingers on Julianna Margulies's carefully blank face for several beats after Diane drops that line. Alicia knows enough by now to know that Diane's trying to play on her vulnerabilities, but. They're called vulnerabilities for a reason.
Last season, as Alicia started her own law firm, alongside all the fireworks about personal betrayals and tragedies were storylines about how she and her new partners would woo and keep clients, how they could afford a new office space, and how they would stay afloat in the face of fierce and dirty competition for their business.
This season, with Cary Agos abruptly jailed over his firm's connection to drug kingpin Lemond Bishop, money's again at the forefront for our protagonists: If you had to raise $1.3 million overnight to bail your partner out of jail, how would you do it? Second mortgages can be really bad ideas, but I'm betting that Alicia's soon going to wish she'd taken out that loan against her condo instead of accepting the gym bag stuffed with $1.5 million--no, make that $1.3 million--dropped on her desk by Bishop's flunky.
So that's why we're paying attention to The Good Wife at Inc. (Granted, I'd be paying attention anyway.) Some more thoughts from "The Line," this first episode of the sixth season:
-It's a wonderful storytelling choice to have Alicia and her firm fall in deeper with scary client extraordinaire Bishop just as she's about to mount a political campaign. The Good Wife is so great at these messy situations (see: all of last season), and Bishop has always been a ticking time bomb for Alicia and her partners, even with their increasing futile insistence that they only represent the drug lord's "legitimate" businesses. (Because owners of dry cleaners and gyms can always muster that kind of cash on demand.)
-This episode moved so quickly, I was surprised to reach the end and realize that Cary's not getting out of jail for the foreseeable future. It's a frightening place, and not only because of the flickering, washed-out lighting or the direct threats from Bishop's representatives inside, who have already knifed Cary to make him prove his loyalty and ability to shut up. This is where, last season, we first met Hunter Parrish's character, who was so traumatized by the experience that he grabbed a gun during his trial and killed our male lead--so it's an interesting parallel to start this season with another blond, wealthy, privileged young man stuck inside, on charges that have little merit, in a situation that renders him completely powerless. It's another good storytelling choice for Cary, who hasn't had a ton to do on his own in the last couple of years, and who was shading into darker territory with that uncomfortably coercive sex scene with Kalinda at the end of last season. And it's a brutal comeuppance for a character who at the beginning of the episode was sounding petulant and entitled about all the women in his life not listening to him. (Need your privilege checked? Prison, general population, has an app for that.)
-I like both David Lee and Michael J. Fox's Louis Canning in small doses, especially when they're showing their humanity--eg., Lee throwing everyone out of a conference room last year so he could break down in private over Will's death. But they both were in over-the-top, moustache-twirling villain mode in this episode, which gets old quickly. Since we already saw the extended machinations and fallout of Cary and Alicia plotting to leave Lockhart Gardner last season, I'm hoping we don't spend a ton of time repeating that storyline with Diane.
-Alan Cumming moment of the night: Eli was great for both comic relief and moving the plot along, as he usually is. But the line of the night probably goes to Eli's daughter and her impression of Chris Noth, as she pretends that the flirty governor is telling his favorite intern that she has to wear underwear in the office "for decorum's sake. If it were up to me, you could wear what you wanted." Like many such throwaway jokes on The Good Wife, I expect the discussion of the whereabouts of the intern's panties--and her lifting-her-skirt moment to dispel the rumor that she isn't wearing any--to come back and blow up in Alicia's face at the worst possible time. And I can't wait.