Diane Lockhart basically recapped the whole episode for us in one line: “And here we are back again, right at the beginning.”
It’s amazing and terrifying how much of life is cyclical—repetitive even. You grow up, but you never stop being a child, in many ways. You raise your children into adults, but they’re always your babies. You get a job, and then another job, and maybe even your dream job—but the pursuit of success and happyness never really ends. Sometimes this cyclical nature is liberating, and sometimes it’s devastating. Like, when you think you’ve won the State’s Attorney’s office, but find yourself fighting to keep your position, only to have it pried from your warm, living, breathing shaking hands. Or, when you think you’ve evaded prison and that whole Castro/Bishop situation is behind you, but then it’s not. “Winning Ugly” took us on a bit of a roller coaster ride, and at the end instead of feeling like we just experienced the thrill of our lives—which we often feel at the conclusion of The Good Wife—I felt sick to my stomach. They killed her, I thought. They have killed Alicia, as we once knew her. What I mean is, after this, I just can’t imagine our hero ever being quite the same again.
And Damn you to hell, Spencer Randolph! is another thought I had, because he was just the worst. Alicia is being investigated for possible voter fraud and she gets a celebrity of sorts on her side. Watching Spencer woo everyone in sight was just amazing. Marissa spoke for everyone in that room when she declared, “I want to marry him.” With him on Alicia’s side, we had some great high moments. They were able to prove that the hacking device was old, and Alicia wears a wire in her conversation with the creep who tried to fund her campaign. And then we had the lows—turns out Spencer was going after Peter with that hacking device bit. And then it turns out that the hacking device was updated. Peter is safe, but once again Alicia is on the chopping block. But even when she proves that the device was meant to help Prady win, she loses—she still loses! Because none of this is even about her. And there is something heartbreaking about that. We’ve been experiencing this as Alicia’s campaign, but there were lots of people on that ballot—people more important than her. She is forced out and betrayed by Spencer in the end—he calls her a hero in one moment, and a liar in the next. It hurts. And in the end, she’s crying in Peter’s arms like a baby because she feels like she’s right back at the beginning. And there are really few worse things in life (I think) than feeling like you fought and fought and sacrificed and did the right thing—for what feels like nothing.
Similarly, Cary’s case rears its ugly head as the lawyers try to find a resolution to the falsified evidence case. We saw a great performance from Christine Baranski—I still have that image of Diane hanging her head when Kalinda confessed that she did tamper with the metadata. And when they all thought Diane was going to maybe get off, and Bishop’s name came up again, you could practically feel the air leave the room. It looks like someone—either Kalinda or Cary—will make the sacrifice for Diane. Either way it goes, it’s going to be painful to watch.
This was a great episode to watch, especially after Hillary Clinton’s big announcement yesterday—or, a depressing one, depending on your viewpoint. “Winning Ugly,” like so many of this season’s episodes, offers a terrifying critique of American politics. We have celebrity-types like Spencer (when, really, the judicial system isn’t supposed to mirror a popularity contest), backdoor deals, and a whole universe of drama, lies, and fraud that’s kept hidden from the voters. And this is democracy. So what difference does it make if Saint Alicia—or any other seemingly promising candidate—runs and wins, or loses, or wins ugly? In the end, it’s really about one party versus another, and the power wielded by that group. It’s hard to see or expect change when, oftentimes, we seem to find ourselves right back at the beginning. For Alicia’s character, this political defeat also feels connected to other personal losses, like her husband’s political scandals. Once again, she’s been betrayed; once again, she is publicly embarrassed; and once again, I suspect she will feel like she has to start all over. At least we know as viewers that witnessing this process will be a powerfully good experience, and an introspective roller coaster ride that sits with us after the credits roll.
You know I was thrilled to see my favorite working Dad back in action—this week with special guest star Gerald the Giraffe, who was angry, sad, and a whole lot of other things that Diane clearly identified with in that scene. Loved it.
“Be a good democrat and step down now.” DAMN YOU, SPENCER.
The absolute best scene of the episode was the “Romantic Interlude,”—those two British actors reading Will and Alicia’s naughty e-mails was a reminder of how much the internet (and the internet users AKA all of us) loves a scandal.
Grace’s confrontation with her mother was also interesting. She has now witnessed both of her parents having affairs‚ lying, cheating, and always finding a way to defend themselves. Even if Alicia had her reasons (for the affair, and for lying), it still must be hard for Grace.
I love how Peter had Alicia’s back in this episode. He encouraged her to keep fighting, until that bitter end.
Best Quote of the Episode: “I wish I could tell you that you’re wrong, but you’re right. Life…..... sucks.” (Eli)
Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor & a film critic at Paste, and a writer for Pink is the New Blog and Heart&Soul. This New York-based freelancer probably has more babies than you, but that’s okay; you can still be friends. She welcomes all follows (and un-follows) on Twitter.