One of The Good Wife's biggest strengths is that it usually has an answer for every narrative problem it runs into, and Sunday’s episode was no exception. I had feared, as Alicia kicked her State’s Attorney campaign into high gear, that the drawn-out race would be disappointingly one-sided. James Castro (Michael Cerveris), her incumbent opponent, is tough to love—a mean-spirited, small-minded fool who’s only prosecuting Cary Agos for political reasons. Alicia might run into hiccups in her personal life, but Castro didn’t really represent much of a threat—he even lacks the base, mustache-twirling villainy of Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), Peter’s opponent in the same race four years ago.
Castro is difficult to like, and Alicia has good reason to think she’d be better at his job than he is. But what’s motivating her more than anything is Castro's prosecution of Cary, and his callous jab at her relationship with the late Will Gardner in their private conversation a few weeks ago. As it should, the show is pointing out Alicia’s deficiencies as a State’s Attorney candidate—outside of disliking Castro, she doesn’t have a lot of ideas for how to change the office. In an effort to sway Prady to her side before he’s made his intentions clear, Alicia trots out some platitudes about where she wants to devote her prosecutorial energies if elected, but it’s clear she’s reciting canned lines her staffers gave her.
Since we know that Cary is innocent, I hope his trial is resolved sooner rather than later, especially now that Finn is off the case, having resigned in horror at Castro’s general hypocrisy. Yes, this means he can rent office space right below Alicia, which should satisfy a growing portion of my Twitter feed that every week asks when those two are going to get together (one imagines that would pose a problem or two for her campaign).
Back to that campaign: Prady cleverly maneuvers Alicia into a box when she appears on his talk show, lobbing her softball questions about her family when she had prepped for tougher material. It’s a nastily effective way of marginalizing her—if she embraces the motherhood card, she can come off too soft, but if she rejects it, she looks callous and ungrateful. Immediately I’m more taken with Prady than I have been with a lot of Good Wife opponents, like Childs, Wendy Scott Carr (Anika Noni Rose) and Mike Kresteva (Matthew Perry), all of whom turned out to be outright villains. Prady seems more in line with Maddie Hayward (Maura Tierney), an interesting character the show largely wasted two years ago as a genuine intellectual foil for Peter.
By the end of this episode, Alicia has decided she hates Prady, since he’s acting like he’s above politics when he’s right there in the fray with everyone else. But her campaign is following a similar arc: With every week, Alicia is forced to make some compromise or another on the advice of Eli Gold and Johnny Elfman (Steven Pasquale). Besides her personal vendetta, what makes her such a special candidate compared to anyone else? She’s no villain, but The Good Wife continues to ask tough questions of its characters and revel in the moral ambiguity of the answers. David Hyde Pierce will only help make those answers murkier.