It’s tricky to communicate effectively, even in person. But try to do it online to a wide audience, and your whole message can go up in smoke.
Message manipulation, viral videos and “sticky content” were the centerpiece of this week’s terrific episode of The Good Wife, which turned in another savvy, nuanced and deeply funny look at the art of communicating.
Alicia’s campaign team spends the episode putting together a series of fantastically terrible videos, hoping to make “something that will go viral online.” And like many such clickbait attempts, the reality quickly devolves from Alicia’s high-minded ideals into Godzilla images and less-than-subtle innuendos about her opponent’s rumored sexuality.
(Alicia: “I don’t want to be remembered for a closeted dinosaur.” It might be my favorite line of the episode, but there were many to choose from as her campaign team quickly deserts the high road: “Yeah, that’s it, a festive courthouse shooting” and “because child services told me I had to” were other favorites.)
Everyone in “Sticky Content” walked a tightrope between what they say and what they mean: Was Alicia’s opponent genuine or manipulative when he offered to run a clean campaign? Was Lemond Bishop serious or really just blowing off steam when he was wire-tapped contemplating Cary’s demise? (Nice long-delayed in-joke over the phrase “phone me,” writers.) Was Alicia honest or just very, very practiced when she recounted a moment of happiness in her early relationship with Peter--during a videotaped interview designed to show off the shell of their empty marriage?
“I don’t think I had ever had a happier moment in my life,” she says, quietly, as if discovering a truth she had forgotten. The Good Wife plays the “real or not real” game over and over this episode, with lots of truths emerging in the midst of all the performances the characters are putting on for each other. Alicia may not love Peter anymore, but she can remember the moment of falling in love with him--and she can still be wounded by evidence that he’s sleeping with yet another one of her (very thin on the ground) female friends.
The discovery of a similar past betrayal, by Kalinda and Peter, spurred Alicia to begin her affair with Will Gardner. So it’s an interesting parallel that this new discovery sends her to share a weighty silence and an aborted handclasp with Finn--perhaps the only character who sees communication as direct and “simple.”
The season has calmed down a lot from the setup-heavy start of the season, choosing to focus on three or four stories per episode instead of seven or eight. (No case of the week again this week.) This is where The Good Wife excels, launching a bunch of balls into the air and then sitting back and watching them twirl and fall in sequence. I’ll be interested to see how much will be resolved next week with Lemond Bishop, and how much will continue to hang over Cary’s head for the rest of the season. I’m kind of hoping for the latter, if only to see if Mike Colter can top the menace on his delivery of “Dylan. Cary can play Rat-A-Tat-Tat afterwards.”