Between "Tying the Knot," "The Deep Web," and this week's "The One Percent," it sort of feels like The Good Wife is spinning its wheels just a tiny bit before the finale. "The One Percent" was certainly the best episode of the three, but the bar wasn't set particularly high. Considering all the narrative that Season 5 has burned through with Florrick/Agos starting up, the conflict between the two firms, and then Will's death, I can almost excuse The Good Wife for wanting to do a few breather episodes. As the show's creative team itself has pointed out, it's tough to do 22 episodes a year.
This particular hour focused on a ripped-from-the-headlines story featuring returning business tycoon James Paisley (Tom Skerritt) saying really dumb things on television, Diane still wrestling for control of the firm with David Lee and Louis Canning, and Eli assessing the state of the Florricks' marriage. The case and the L/G&C stuff were sort of throwaways for me, but I did enjoy a good deal of Eli's plot this week.
I found the case to be a little light, because it followed the story it was inspired by a little too closely for me. Back in late January, real-life hedge fund manager Tom Perkins wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal that more or less did what Paisley did in his TV interview: compared the rich to Jews in Nazi Germany. Paisley appeared on television to apologize, just as Perkins did, and that just made things worse. Perkins also did a Fortune interview where he discussed the voting and taxes thing that Paisley also mentioned.
I love ripped-from-the-headlines storylines, and The Good Wife's gotten plenty of mileage of that sort of thing in the past; earlier this season, the show produced a great episode using the approach. Maybe it's because "The Once Percent" followed the real-life progression of events so closely that it wasn't all that engaging. I followed the Perkins story as it was happening because, really, I wanted to see how much of a wreck Perkins would become before some duct-taped his mouth shut. If you weren't aware of or didn't follow the Perkins story, then maybe this episode grabbed you a bit more? Let me know in the comments.
Where "The Once Percent" offered a bit of a spin on its source material was in using Paisley's comments as a backdrop to frame the juror selection for a wrongful termination suit that Paisley's CFO had filed against his company. I'm a sucker for juror- and jury-related plots, and it was quite entertaining to see all the ways in which Alicia, Cary, and Louis tried to alter the appeal of a jury trial in order to affect the price of a settlement; I especially liked Cary making the witness appear biased in front of the judge, and Louis's use of Howard. On the whole, though, it seemed like the story didn't have much time to really be all that meaningful, or to yield more jury ridiculousness, which might've added a bit more energy to the proceedings.
In the land of Lockhart/Gardner & Canning, plot movements seemed a tad opaque to me, but maybe that's because I can't fully see how Louis's plan is working. He and David Lee are obviously trying to edge out Diane, but then Louis admitted as much last week, so no surprise there. I'm guessing that Louis was concerned about Rayna Hecht (Jill Hennessy) coming on board as Diane's probable ally, and that's why—to borrow Diane's turn of phrase—he "poisoned the well at his own firm." He also seemed to want his own signed clients, clients who were loyal to him, so that Diane would have very little to take with her should she be completely forced out.
Most of this seemed fairly repetitive as lot of this occurred as Alica and Cary left L/G and the others tried to stop them. Likewise, the subtle bad-mouthing of Diane was what we got last week. The only shift was that she thought it was Alicia and Cary who did it toward Rayna, instead of David Lee operating by proxy through Diane's assistant. If there was any really engaging thing out of this, it was the last bits with Diane as she stormed over to F/A to confront them. Alicia's immediately ready to spring to Diane's aid -- which I loved -- and Cary's all, "Err. Not our battle. Also, I still kind of hate them." Which I also loved. Instead of this becoming an immediate power struggle between the two of them, Diane steels herself up with "This is my fight" and Christine Baranski hits the game-face-on mark. Hopefully we get some real explosions from it next week in the finale.
Eli's felt a little adrift this season, but I sort of expected this to happen once Peter took office. He was saddled with the Marilyn ridiculousness -- I had almost forgotten about her! -- and then sort of faded in and out as the gears of the ethics investigation shifted over to Will, so I was happy to see him have some stuff going on as he worked to squash the potential Alicia and Finn romance that Castro alerted Peter to, and that, in turn, led him to finding out about the marriage-in-name-only status of Alicia and Peter's union.
When I did a big re-watch of the series last winter, it was startling to realize how much they've softened Eli over the years, and even within that first season they started to sand off some of the rougher spots. Sure, the Eli that demolishes young women with words is still there as he tells Lauren she's to stay 50 feet away from Peter, but there's that Eli that tells Alicia that he legitimately cares about her and Peter, beyond his cynical and political reasons. Given how Eli's always approached Alicia, generally with a great deal more respect than he shows anyone else, I do suspect it's true that he really does care and that's he's unhappy about this arrangement, even if it does also mean more political headaches for him.
Along this narrative thread, I liked the Peter stuff this week. Peter seemed genuinely upset by the idea that Alicia had already moved on, and I liked that he still has, inside of him, that overly-protective attitude toward her as he threw not one but two glasses of water into Castro's face when he presented Peter with that surveillance camera photo. This stuff made Eli's claim to Alicia that Peter still loves her not feel horribly hollow and just a way to get them to reconcile to avoid political fallout. The seed, however, has been planted, and there's a redheaded intern with not-too-red lipstick asking if he needs anything else.
– Finn got a haircut! Thank goodness. Also: Finn's divorced. That's...something. Apparently he hasn't worn a wedding ring since his first appearance back in "Dramatics, Your Honor." Should we go ahead and start preparing ourselves for an Alicia/Finn romance in Season 6, provided Matthew Goode is joining the cast for that season as well?
– I love how both Louis and Eli kept taking digs at the the Florrick/Agos offices. I rather like them...even if I do think they need doors for their conference room.
– Man. If Alicia ever runs for office, that interview with the financial show is going to ruin her campaign.
– Kalinda and Cary are still having sex, and Kalinda's still using her time with Cary to gather information for her firm. Something's gotta give on this storyline next season, right?
– Paisley on Ayn Rand's novels: "They weren't made to be Moby-Dick; they were made to make you think." With all this Ayn Rand talk, Good Wife is reminding me that I need to watch Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 on Netflix with a bottle of wine. I made a pretty solid drinking game out of the first one.
– Rayna Hecht is finding working with Elsbeth "constricting." Not sure if it's a resources thing or what, but that just seems odd to me given Elsbeth's style.
– The mention of Neil Gross made me wonder if this plot was originally intended for him, but maybe John Benjamin Hickey was busy with another project? I know he's got that WGN show Manhattan coming soon, and maybe there was a filming overlap?
What did you think of "The One Percent"?