Gemma: The pandering. I can’t.
Rasha: You know, I was actually going to open with: that was a mostly entertaining hour of television. Though I agree with you that my enjoyment of it was marred by nearly three seasons of un-eveness and a full season of snide disdain for their viewers and fans. Wallace Shawn’s speech about “what’s all this with tough women” was unnecessary.
G: Wow. It is so rare for you to like an episode of this show better than I do.
R: What can I say, maybe I am in a generous mood. Though I don’t actually believe that JM and AP were saying their lines to each other in those bar scenes. They do have body doubles. My money for: they only clinked glasses and called cut.
G: No, it was so stiffly acted I think that they were both there and both suffering.
R: How terrible is it that I’ve been reduced to wondering that, though?
G: For Robert King to claim that was the “most emotional we’ve ever seen Kalinda” is such a painful disservice to Archie Panjabi’s brilliance.
R: Blech. How about when Will died? I think that was probably the most emotional. I think there’s really not a contest there.
G: Or crying in the elevator, or even earlier this season when she was worried about Cary, or when she was going to run away in S3 … I really think we have an impressive array of options.
R: Also: emotional tautness runs through so much of Kalinda like an electric current. She’s just got good insulation.
G: I thought the script for this episode was genuinely awful. The only material I liked was with Peter and the kids.
R: What was awful about it?
G: Stilted dialogue, almost entirely devoid of subtext—Finn’s scenes, Kalinda’s scenes.
R: Yes. They have lost subtext.
G: Then the evasive writing on the police brutality site—I’ve never missed the casework in the second season more than I did during this case. The writers placed less value on their characters’ own heroism in the early seasons. It happened occasionally, but one of the show’s greatest assets has always been its cynicism about law and the legal profession. If we’ve lost that and Kalinda, we have lost pretty much everything.
R: I liked the intrigue with the CPD black site. However, the resolution seemed way too easy to come by. No way is a police recruit that green and he gets placed at the front desk.
G: Right. This entire ep suffered from an excess of Idiot Plots, Charles Lester not least of them. I love Wallace Shawn as both actor and playwright, and the idea of a power struggle between Lester and Kalinda had so much potential that was squandered within seconds.
R: It is my assertion that all the characters have gotten stupider since S4. Some in S4, some in S5.
G: No way Kalinda’s that open with him, no way he’s that open with his threats. Take it down about eight notches, your actors can handle it.
R: Did they lose writers after S3? Did the remaining good writers get drunk on their own power after the firm split episodes in S5?
G: Internal drama has always been their strength, and the move of Canning’s wife’s hiring and firing was so cheap, so clearly a device, that it hurt me. The maneuvers used to actually be maneuvers.
R: What are they now?
G: Now they are all devices. It was completely transparent, throughout this episode, that entire scenes and storylines were constructed, poorly, to give us a particular moment. Often, as in the Alicia-Kalinda scene, that moment didn’t pay off (and she wasn’t even double-arrested and murderated because we don’t even know why), but even when it sort of did, as in Canning’s appearance at Alicia’s door, it didn’t validate the stupidity of all it took to get us there.
R: The scenes with Lockhart, Agos & Lee felt like scenes with wind-up toys. Even Christine Baranski’s eloquent face …
… and David Lee’s bloodhounding …
… could not make those scenes seem anything other than arbitrary devices of the endpoint, I agree. The line with the firm was weak. Lorde knows that MJFox was doing his best to muster up a tempest from that teakettle.
G: I pitied all of the actors in this episode. That is a terrible way to feel.
R: Oh man, you are not feeling generous today. Perhaps because I come with such low expectations of TGW these days–when I don’t utterly hate everything about it, I feel that much closer to actually liking it. You might have come in with higher expectations.
G: It takes a lot for me to give up. My stubbornness over Dexter, which had only 1.5 good seasons, was a thing to behold.
R: You were in love with the detective lady. Good actors will keep us holding on.
G: And I was in love with Kalinda here, but the show squandered that. When I give up, I give up hard.
R: I don’t think this is a good show anymore, and I don’t think it has been for a while. Which is why the Salon article is not for me a comprehensive list of how TGW went wrong.
G: It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but I do think we’ve just been through a season with no real redeeming stories or, you know, qualities.
R: Yeah, I think we’ve just watched a season of television where there was no There there. But I think to say that S6 is an anomaly is a mistake. To me, the slipping starts in S4 with Nick, continues through S5 when many of the main ensemble characters are portrayed as buffoons, old people who are out of touch, and racist and sexist entitled white people. My point is: I think there are always signs. I think folks who were disappointed by S6 were not paying attention to the signs.
G: I don’t feel like I can write off the tremendous strengths of S5.
R: There were some. The first few episodes of S5 were some of the strongest on television, agreed. I mostly remember the frequent inanity of the second half of the season. And how it led to the continued inanity of the first half of S6.
G: I thought that the high points of S5, the firm split and Will’s death, were tremendous artistic achievements on all fronts, and their ability to make Will’s death a complete surprise in this day and age an art of its own. They played out the aftermath of Will’s death beautifully for much of the end of that season, and completely lost the thread of it in this one. I absolutely agree that there were signs, and I wouldn’t even call Nick the sign so much as I would their complete inability to recover from him.
R: Nick was such a huge miscalculation that it became increasingly difficult to trust their maths afterwards.
G: I do think this is the first season where I’d say “the show cannot recover.”
R: Yeah, I’d agree. I don’t know that I’d hatewatch the last season, much less blog about it.
G: Oh, I will mos def be hatewatching. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.
R: Shall we return to the actual episode?
G: I do want to honor the goodness of the family-and-Eli stuff.
R: Right, say what you saw there.
G: I saw AMBIGUITY and I HAVE MISSED IT SO.
R: What was ambiguous for you?
G: Directly conflicting needs and ambitions and strategies. People who could fully justify their positions within their own frames, and those frames being contradictory. Alicia’s needs exclude Peter’s, which in turn exclude Grace’s, and so the conflict is real and has both heat and heart.
R: The book definitely makes more sense in the context of a presidential/vice prez run for Peter. I just had a hilarious image of Alicia hosting a staged reading of her ghostwritten memoir.
G: Okay, if the show doesn’t do that, we will.
R: But yes, you’re right that the family weighing the options of a presidential run is the closest thing to real. And yet, I couldn’t really hold on to it. I wanted Peter to show up re: the Homan Square site, and I was disappointed that Alicia didn’t tell him about it or involve him in the intrigue. Which, btw, Scandal did (I hesitate to say Really Well, but) satisfyingly last week, when Fitz’s main role in Olivia’s life was to get her classified information. Really, what good is a presidential boyfriend, or a gubernatorial husband?
G: Oh, I was dissatisfied with that Scandal episode, but I will give you that point about Fitz. The ambiguities of power manipulation and nepotism: also missed. Sigh.
R: I’m so looking forward to How To Get Away With Murder’s S2 premiere. So! Much!
G: Right now I’m afraid that all shows ever will disappoint me.
R: Of course they will, they are TV.
G: Got anything else? I like that as an ending.
R: I could go on about: The beauty of serial art is that it can achieve heights in iteration. and capitalism drives when a show ends, and Hollywood is slow to catch up with actual culture. But sure, that’s fine.