There is one verbal exchange that perfectly sums up this episode and one of its greater themes.
“You’re disgusting,” Frank Prady tells money man Redmayne.
“But I’m rich,” he replies. “So it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
In an episode where rich lawyers are defending rich murderers, and rich, sexist, homophobes are running the show, all money is dark and dirty money. And, because The Good Wife is such an excellent show, we are thoroughly entertained by the characters who represent these rich and shameless.
First there’s the great Colin Sweeney (played brilliantly, perfectly by Dylan Baker). We’ve seen Alicia Florrick and co. defend him before, and it’s clear that Sweeney is guilty of murdering his wives (how many, at this point? I’ve lost count)—so why do we love him? Well, we’re TV viewers and we can’t help it! We’re captivated by the odd and the bizarre; the strange, morally questionable, and the amusing. If such a character happens to be a murderer, so be it! We love Sweeney for some of the same reasons we love Eli—they both say things they’re not supposed to say, and—to invoke the great Bad Gal Riri—they seem to have little to no effs to give. So few, that it’s astounding… and always entertaining.
Lemond Bishop is another criminal/client we can’t help but adore. This week’s storyline with Kalinda felt a bit out of place with everything else going on, but it was still interesting to watch. All parents know the struggle of that phone call Lemond Bishop had to make to All-American Mike’s parents (what a great nickname for the bully, beating up on the adorable, intelligent baby Bishop). I always love when they show us this side of Bishop, because it’s his best side. The restraint he has to show is fascinating because we know he has all kinds of [dangerous] resources at his disposal, but there’s also something incredibly familiar about it. Show any parent that epic Erlich slap scene from Silicon Valley and they’ll immediately identify because, well, we all have these moments where we want to physically hurt someone (man, woman, or child) who has hurt our baby. We feel you, Bishop. We feel you.
But although he’s rich, and Sweeney is rich—and we do get a little squeamish watching the lawyers on this show work to keep them both out of prison (especially Sweeney)—none can compare to Lou Grant Redmayne. He’s going to give Alicia one million dollars in “dark money” because he doesn’t “like fags,” and so he appreciates the homophobic robo calls Alicia’s team has been putting out. That which is disgusting in him admires that which is disgusting in Alicia’s campaign. And it doesn’t matter that she quips back at him (I loved her joke about the balls in his briefcase)—Alicia is going to take that dark money and run/win with it (or die—emotionally—trying).
This parallel is also true for her relationship with Sweeney. He prefers her to Diane and Cary. He trusts her to not let her disgust for him color her abilities as a lawyer, and her desire to win a case. It’s remarkable—Alicia is remarkable. But in a way, her characteristics mimic those of the ruthless and unapologetic killers she represents. That’s what makes her successful, and so very complicated.
For this reason, she breaks down at the end of the episode—in front of Grace, no less. Who is Alicia Florrick, that she took the dark money (especially when Frank Prady proved that one could have walked away)? And who is she, that Sweeney kind of loves her? Feels aligned with her, in some way? Is she a bad person? Really. Is she, actually, a bad person in “Dark Money”? And if so, what does that mean for Grace, who believes that her mother is the best person she knows? That The Good Wife is unafraid of posing such questions—of being so critical of its protagonist—is one reason that everyone who enjoys strong character study needs be watching this show.
I cannot say enough about how much I loved Colin Sweeney’s storyline this week. Here are a few of my favorite moments:
When he tries to get on the [African-American] judge’s good side: “I’m notorious—the white OJ!”
The guy playing (or not playing) Colin Sweeney on the SVU-esque TV show was also incredible. His character hilariously poked fun at actors (even those we love) who take themselves so seriously. “Let the record show I was pointing to my ear.”
“I’m the body woman.”—Marissa Gold “Really?! The whole body, or just certain parts…?”—Sweeney
His reaction when Alicia tells him she doesn’t care if he fires the firm: “You’re heartless!” (He was crushed.)
“We were just basking in the musk of each other’s pheromones.”
Note that the hotter (at least in TV land), younger, fake Alicia (who had me howling so hard, my kids came in to check on me) had more morals than the real one: “Debbie Coblin can’t be bought.”
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.