If anything, this is what we're looking at for the coming year: Alicia vs. Alicia. The loss of her own self-image as being better than the games she plays. You can even see this tendency in the last hours of the season, as Alicia plays a back-and-forth game with David Lee about her divorce. He keeps telling her to stay married until Peter's in office, so that she can benefit from his new position: That divorce is also a matter of timing, just like love. And as long as he doesn't say this, she can give him all the leash in the world, but Lee's way too smart for that -- he intuits, as a family law practitioner and a genius in his own right, that she's using him to play herself -- so he says, at every possible moment, "You will be making a financial decision, because that's part of what divorce is." And she hates that... Until she doesn't.
The best thing a procedural, even a hospital show, can do is to bring the Monster of the Week into alignment with the real drama in a way that isn't on-the-nose but also isn't bizarre non-parallel. It's very subjective, with these shows, where that line is drawn. I like it here, as I like it with Grey's, more than any other show I can think of, because it's not the correspondence that matters, but the questions it raises. It's not about Alicia identifying with Sarah Silverman's creepy swinger couples, or the victims of Colin Sweeney, or even Lamont Bishop's raging and painful divorce -- it's about the changes that the cases make in her. Her refusal to be a cliché, an angry divorcee, a wounded animal, a dried-up victim, or whatever the case is, she'll have none of it.
By using the antagonistic relationship of prosecution and defense to draw out every strand of meaning -- by using her immense compassion to understand every player in every case -- Alicia uses her job to teach herself about herself. Not what she "should" do -- which is both her fallback and her favorite form of self-injury -- but what Alicia would do. And then she does. And that knowledge -- more and more rare in the showrunner culture we're entering as an industry -- actually stays with her, into the next weeks and months. Which creates in her life, and in the show that chronicles it, a feedback system that is as exciting to watch happen as it is inspiring to watch evolve.
LIFE IN PUBLIC
The first season begins and ends (as does the second) with a press conference about Peter's career, and Alicia's place -- quiet, forgiving -- in it. We keep wheeling around to this "good wife" image, never too often but always at points of greatest stress: This is a story, on one level, about the things that publicity and surveillance do to ourselves and our families. Peter's always getting spied on; L/G goes through periods of intense self-wiretapping and spycraft; Alicia wins major points with just about every character at some point just by keeping her shit together in the face of amazing reasons not to.