Should you compromise your principles to achieve your goals? How much will you sacrifice to get the money you need?
The Good Wife has been asking this ends-means justification question all season and indeed for most of its existence. But “Dark Money,” its return from a long hiatus, made that conflict front and center as Alicia and Frank Prady jockeyed for the financial backing of a sexist, homophobic billionaire (Ed Asner’s Redmayne, who enters talking about his love for “family values”).
Prady’s the one who takes a stand against the gross language Redmayne uses, whereas Alicia lets it slide. She doesn’t tell him off for herself, when he starts groping her or comments on her “pretty legs” (in an excellently uncomfortable, maddening scene); and she doesn’t stand up for Prady when Redmayne starts making ugly homophobic comments about him. (She does weakly disavow her campaign’s involvement in a rogue robocall feeding into rumors of Prady’s homosexuality, but swallows her disgust at Redmayne’s slurs.)
With the situations reversed a few scenes later, as Redmayne makes filthy leering comments about Alicia, Prady tells off the donor. He had less to lose anyway, since Redmayne’s now prejudiced against him, but it’s not clear if Prady knows that when he takes his stand. At this point, he’s clearly more principled than Alicia--which is why he’s probably going to lose.
Alicia’s all too aware of her increasingly slippery principles, thanks in part to a helpful television procedural that shows a Fauxlicia character firing her fake Colin Sweeney client: “I can’t be bought,” Fauxlicia righteously tell the serial killer. It’s all too much for Alicia, who was also just reminded that by Sweeney that a drug dealer is financing part of her campaign. The good wife ends up crying in her daughter’s arms about her loss of good-ness: “I was bad today.”
It was all a little on-the-nose. That said, I have to love any episode that name-drops Toby Ziegler and The West Wing in the midst of its political campaign storyline. And between that and the case-of-the-week (involving a defamation lawsuit against a television show inspired by ripped-from-the-headlines court cases), this may have been the most meta episode of The Good Wife ever.