By John Keegan and Henry Tran
So often with this show, there has to be manufactured stakes for the Case of the Week. It’s often ignored for the more serialized elements because it doesn’t last longer than one episode. Leave it to a mock trial to somehow increase the stakes for everyone here. The beautiful thing is that it’s all telegraphed from the start. Normally, that would be cause for concern because it would make the complications and resolution predictable, but everything that was happening was so engrossing that the episode overcomes that.
It’s known from the start that the equity partners are out to screw the fourth year associates who are offered partnership. So it’s safe to say they won’t take to that news too well. What the partners didn’t count on is getting the brunt of full-bore, dedicated lawyer Alicia. This will affect Alicia’s future, and the future of the other characters around her. There was also a (comparatively) light subplot where Eli succeeds in evading more Justice Department investigators with the help of Elsbeth Tascioni. While it doesn’t have the weight of Alicia’s storyline, it did have a satisfying payoff that also affects the future of Eli’s character.
A lot of cliched sayings would apply to the events of this episode, but I did chuckle at Alicia’s line to her daughter that she was “plotting” with the other fourth year associates. It’s quite the appropriate term. Once Alicia and Cary figure out that the other partners seek to “delay” the partnership offers, they move fast to show their collective teeth. The partners predictably panic, though this shouldn’t have come as a big shock to them. Will and Diane reap what they sow, as it were, and they had to expect some push-back from the fourth years. What both of them probably didn’t expect was for the anger over the delay to play out in the mock trial set up for a big client to watch.
That is part of the arrogance they’ve had since trying cases as a firm. It blinds them from what the underlings are planning to do. It starts out as a light exercise between colleagues, then builds up as the mock trial goes on. There is no verdict for the firm to get so there aren’t any real stakes involved, but at the same time, Alicia makes the conscious choice to release her wrath there. It’s the only outlet she has. That is the brilliance of the situation being set up. Alicia dives all in on her work, plus she has been steadily working her way up the ladder. To be stopped now invites scorn, and the audience has seen the icy queen show her fangs before. It has never been aimed at her bosses until now, which is why they were so taken aback by her lashing out in (mock) court.
Will tries to talk Alicia down, and that only infuriates her even more, until it culminates with the kiss that they both instantly regret. While the kiss didn’t feel too shocking to me because the show has gone through the complicated on-off relationship between the two of them, it has lasting impact on both parties now. Alicia is trying to juggle a hundred different things in her life; everything hangs by the most delicate of threads, and one mistake could unravel all of it. Her relationship with Peter has alternated between being heated and simmering down so all of the drama shifts to the office. Which is not always the best place to do any improper things. So, of course, in the end, Alicia gets the sole offer of immediate partnership (being the central character of a show has its perks).
That also comes rife with complications. All of it reflected in the final scenes of the episode, as Alicia tells Cary of the partnership offer and he graciously accepting that she alone is moving ahead of her. She has always been ahead of Cary, but their friendship has evolved beyond career competition. It has gotten to the point where they work well together in court and that he could brainstorm starting a firm together. It’s not the worst idea in the world (one that could return later in the season), and she is now among the senior leadership of the firm. How will this play out in the future? It’s very delicious to contemplate the possibilities.
While there is no clear direction with the campaign storyline in this episode, combining Eli with Elsbeth Tascioni played out in some interesting ways. Again, Eli likes to be the center of attention, the know-it-all in class who drives the teacher and other students crazy. He has to exert control in every situation and seems lost when he can’t do it. That isn’t true with Elsbeth. In the first scene where they meet the new Justice Department investigator (swiftly ridding the show of Wendy Scott-Carson), Eli attacks. Elsbeth adapts with the investigator’s tactics, and seems even more awkward than usual when the investigator has a bit of a crush on her. Like the situation with Alicia and the firm, they are all planning chess moves on top of chess moves. There was genuine surprise (at least on my part) when it’s revealed that Eli got information from the other Justice Department lackey instead of Jordan
Eli may not like Jordan much (and that’s true of pretty much everyone else who interacts with Eli), but he wants to stick it to the guys investigating him more than anything. Jordan also has a point about Eli’s distractions hampering his ability to manage Peter’s campaign. Eventually, it’s going to reduce his effectiveness and Jordan will have to do damage control. He is just trying to mitigate that so that Eli can keep his eye on the more important things. There was a moment in the episode where Eli wondered what place he has in this world. I wondered that, too. The investigation doesn’t look to end any time soon, despite the setback with the illegal wiretap, so Eli has to quickly find his most effective use. If the distractions build up, Peter’s governorship doesn’t look quite as assured as it was before. The corridors of power have never looked so appealing, yet fragile at the same time.
John Keegan is Editor-in-Chief for Critical Myth, a partner site of SciFi Vision. Henry Tran is Critical Myth's reviewer for The Good Wife.