Never mind the fact that Lucca and Alicia were trying to steal candidates from Louis Canning last week. This week, they’re working with him. Specifically, they’re working with him to defend ChumHum in a racial profiling case against a small business owner represented by Cary and Diane over at Lockhart, Agos, & Lee. Alicia’s relationship with Canning has always been tumultuous, but the events that transpired last week are almost completely forgotten here. In fact, a lot of the existing repertoire between Canning and Alicia is dropped in “Discovery,” except for in a brief exchange where Canning admits he sometimes agrees with her. Otherwise, Canning’s presence is pretty arbitrary.

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It’s the nature of network dramas to jump around a lot, to leave some strands hanging while picking up others. Not every storyline can get time in every episode, especially on a show like The Good Wife where there are plenty of irons in the fire at any given time. It doesn’t, for example, bother me that “Discovery” doesn’t follow through on all those new clients Grace landed last week. That can be dealt with at another time. But what has become a consistent problem in season seven is character inconsistency. Temporarily sidelining storylines is perfectly acceptable—so long as things end up working out in the larger structure of the season—but dropping character work is just lazy writing. Canning’s insignificance in “Discovery” doesn’t end up being quite as big of a misstep as the sudden rewriting of Cary Agos.

The only logical conclusion for the trajectory of Cary Agos this season is that he was abducted by aliens and then replaced with a programmed robot that looks like Cary Agos but doesn’t act like him. In fact, the robot has no idea who he is or what he thinks. Cary has become a true wildcard this season, and not in a fun mavericky kind of way. There’s literally no way to know what he’s going to say or do, because the character has become so wildly inconsistent. This week, he argues with Monica and tries to make a case for reverse racism and against affirmative action. What happened to the Cary who tried to do something about systemic racism back in season three? I’m not saying that Cary is necessarily a hero when it comes to issues concerning race. He certainly is a very flawed character who is sometimes blinded by his own privilege, but nothing about how Cary has been written in the past suggests that he would ever even use the phrase “reverse racism” in a real way. The writers have seemed unsure of how to work Cary into the show all season, so as a result, he is used mostly out of convenience. This week, he gets to represent the perspective of the privileged white male who believes in reverse racism. Next week, he could very well be saying the opposite if that’s what the episode needs.

The Good Wife has been very inconsistent in its attempts to address race and racism. There was the complete misfire of “The Debate” last season. A few week ago in “Lies,” the writers more deftly took on a storyline about casual racism in hiring processes. But even that had its flaws when examining The Good Wife as a whole. I am happy to see Monica return in “Discovery.” When she didn’t in the past couple episodes, I worried that the character had only been cooked up in “Lies” as a way for the show to just tackle the hiring issue. Much like the nameless characters of color in “The Debate,” it almost seemed like the writers were using her as a means to an end instead of actually being interested in her perspective and story. The show has, after all, lost a lot of its regular characters of color or otherwise completely dropped storylines that put them at the center. Monica may have a name, but she almost functioned more as a story device in “Lies” than as a character with her own story to tell.

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She returns in “Discovery,” suggesting she might be treated as more than a convenient prop, but she still ends up embodying more of an idea than a person in “Discovery,” which has plenty of impersonal conversations about race and racial profiling and few discernible points. She and Cary debate the different sides of the issue, but there’s little by way of actual character development. Will Monica just be trotted out when the writers are interested in a race case? That kind of tokenism doesn’t do the show any favors, and it makes it even more difficult to parse out exactly what is being said by the main story in “Discovery.” Diane and Lucca intentionally send way too much evidence Lockhart, Agos, & Lee’s way, but in a way, the episode also just bites off way more than it can chew. It highlights racial injustice but then sort of undercuts it through strange narrative choices that detract from the overall idea.

All of the episode’s emotional beats have little to do with the ChumHum case, which is why main storyline ends up feeling so hollow and impersonal. Instead, most of the episode’s pathos weirdly rests with Alicia and Jason, whose ongoing intense flirtations peak when Ruth takes notice of how obviously these two want to bone. As badly as the show wants Jason to be the resident mysterious bad boy, all of the writing around Jason has been painstakingly transparent. Ever since he was introduced, the writers have practically been screaming he’s hiding something. Hopefully, there’s payoff on the horizon. But for now, Jason remains this nebulous concept for Alicia and other characters to project onto. The speech Eli gives to Alicia is one of the episode’s highlights, but it works because of the history between Eli and Alicia and because it allows Alicia to assert her autonomy in the situation. Jason, again, is more just a means to an end. And until Jason starts to feel like a real person, it’s hard to get invested in the dynamic between him and Alicia, even if Julianna Margulies and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have intense chemistry.

Stray observations

  • Chummy Maps is the worst app name ever.
  • ChumHum Chicago makes their own almond milk. Alrighty then.
  • “People touch each others’ arms.” Do they, Eli?
  • Eli wants Alicia to run for Senate, because Eli apparently doesn’t remember that Alicia’s campaign storyline last season wasn’t really a high point.
  • Complaints about Alien Cary aside, Matt Czuchry and Cush Jumbo have some serious chemistry together.

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