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The Good Wife: “Mind’s Eye”

Illustration for article titled The Good Wife: “Mind’s Eye”
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Most of tonight’s episode of The Good Wife is spent in Alicia Florrick’s head. “Mind’s Eye” begins with one of those brilliant Good Wife cold opens that feels like the opening number of a musical. The dramatic but fluid camerawork, sweeping score by series composer David Buckley, and artistically staged renderings of Alicia’s imagination make for one hell of a dance. And the rest of the episode maintains that kind of dreamlike flow.

Functionally, it’s a filler episode. Part of why this season has felt so off is that for several episodes now, it seems like the writers are just kind of twiddling their thumbs and killing time until the election. Ever since Cary’s legal troubles came screeching to a halt, the election became the only long-term arc they were really putting any effort into. In “Mind’s Eye,” not a lot really happens. Everything is just building up to an interview Alicia has with an editorial board for a conservative newspaper, whose endorsement could make or break her campaign. We never even see the real interview take place, but we see it played over and over again in Alicia’s head—the way she imagines it.


So yeah, it’s filler, but it’s really, really fun filler. And The Good Wife hasn’t been fun in a minute. “Mind’s Eye” doesn’t quite carry the same emotional weight as the brilliant “Decision Tree” from last season, although a lot of the components are similar. Much like Will imagines his courtroom questioning of Alicia in “Decision Tree,” Alicia imagines her interview, as well as her deposition with Louis Canning about the unresolved wrongful eviction suit, with the two events converging and overlapping at times. The show lets us into her thought process, and there’s a lot to unpack.

We don’t spend a lot of time with non-Alicia characters in “Mind’s Eye,” but we do spend a lot of time with Alicia’s renderings of other characters. In Alicia’s head, Canning is the same consistently conniving villain. In Alicia’s head, Kalinda and Peter are still sleeping together and taunting her about it. It’s ridiculous, but Alicia knows it is: Her imagined Peter turns to the camera to point out how ridiculous the dialogue she makes up for them is.

The Good Wife consistently tackles memories and thought processes in ways that are simultaneously believable and aesthetically interesting. Last season, the writers explained on Twitter that they started referring to flashbacks as “memory pops.” Memory pops describes, more accurately, the way the mind remembers things: in quick, sometimes nonlinear bursts, rather than full, perfectly intact scenes. The Good Wife’s memory pops are extremely effective, especially because of how short and unannounced they are. One of the best ones happens in last season’s “Hitting The Fan,” when a very angry Will remembers Alicia smiling at him from the conference room. It’s brief, but it hits hard. “Mind’s Eye” is more about fantasized thoughts than remembered ones, but they’re shot with the same kind of attention to detail and artfulness as the memory pops. Alicia imagines herself in all black throughout the fantasy sequences, even though she ends up wearing a blue suit to the real interview. The fantasies, in fact, are full of grays and blacks, and those deliberate direction choices lend to the feeling that we really are inside of Alicia Florrick’s mind.

A lot of Alicia’s imagined sequences have to do with the interview and her fear that the editorial board will ask her if she’s aware that Lemond Bishop is funding her PAC. But as fun as it is to see how Alicia works through legal and political problems in her head, the much more interesting fantasies aren’t the professional ones so much as the personal ones. When the voice in an advertisement reminds Alicia of Will Gardner, her mind immediately switches to sex…and gets pretty stuck there. She foolishly gets in an elevator thinking that will get Will out of her head, even though a lot of the most important moments between the two happened in elevators. But then when Johnny calls, her mind trades Will out for him, then for Finn Polmar.


Of course, in typical Good Wife fashion, the professional and personal concerns of Alicia’s fantasies aren’t all that separate. Alicia quite literally fights with herself about sleeping with Johnny, revealing in her fantasies that she intends to and then imagining the pastor tell her it’s wrong and bad. “But why is that bad?” Alicia asks. She’s tired of the good girl image that has been pushed on her. She’s a woman who wants sex, and she shouldn’t have to hide that. If she wants to tell the truth about Bishop, then she should be able to do that, too. “Mind’s Eye” lets Alicia work through her frustrations—sexual and otherwise—and reprioritize her own desires. Let’s be real: The long-term storylines on season six of The Good Wife have been lacking. Do I really care all that much about the State’s Attorney race? No. But the characters on The Good Wife have never wavered, so exploring the psychology of the character at the heart of it all is a welcome diversion. I don’t care about the day-to-day business of the campaign, but I do care about how it’s affecting Alicia’s perceptions of herself.

So even though not a lot happens in “Mind’s Eye,” diving into Alicia’s mind makes for a very strange (in a good way—like a dream sequence) and captivating hour of television. The episode definitely could do without the lofty debate on religion. Most times The Good Wife brings religion to the table, it feels very forced or just an excuse to acknowledge Grace Florrick’s existence, and Alicia could have easily come to her conclusion about truth and good without bringing Richard Dawkins into the mix. But other than that, Alicia’s mind is sexy, smart, and telling place.


Stray observations:

  • It seems like every single week Johnny is telling Alicia this or that is going to make or break her campaign. Like, we get it, dude! The stakes are high!
  • “It’s not that bad. It’s kind of cute actually.” - Marissa Gold but also me, about Alicia’s hoarse voice
  • Alicia imagines Zach as homeless, and hey, for all we really know, he could have been! Zach and Grace only really exist on this show some of the time.
  • If you doubt the believability of Grace’s phone accidentally linking to Alicia’s, I am here to tell you that this is a real thing that can happen. It happened to me and my mother one time and was nearly a disaster.

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