From The New Yorker‘s March 5 “On Television” column, Net Gain:How “The Good Wife” became the first great series about technolog, by Emily Nussbaum.
What has received less notice than the show’s complexity and its bold female characters is its unprecedented emphasis on technology. This season alone, Lockhart Gardner took a case involving the online currency bitcoin; used Twitter to upend British libel laws; handled a military case involving drone warfare; litigated crimes featuring violent video games and a “date rape” app; and dealt with various leaked-image disasters (a corporation fighting a viral video, an Anthony Weiner-like dirty photograph). In one dizzyingly self-reflective story line, a Zuckerbergian entrepreneur sued a Sorkinesque screenwriter; the episode had a confident structural wit, subjecting a writer who defended distorted portrayals to his own distorted portrayal. Over time, such plots have become a dense, provocative dialectic, one that weighs technology’s freedoms against its dangers, with a global sweep and an insider’s nuance. In this quality, “The Good Wife” stands in contrast not merely to other legal shows, with their “The Internet killed him!” plots, but also to the reductive punditry of the mainstream media, so obsessed with whether Twitter is making us stupid. Put bluntly, “The Good Wife” is to the digital debate as “The Wire” is to the drug war.
The series is often at its best when it uses technology as a lens to examine the Florricks’ marriage. Like the Clintons, the Florricks train their teen-agers to be discreet. In one of the season’s most affecting sequences, Alicia tells her children that she is leaving their father—but that they must tell no one. “But Mom, that’s lying, that’s hypocritical,” her daughter, Grace, blurts out. Alicia argues that it’s O.K. to deceive people who want to hurt you—what’s important is that they are honest with each other. “You need to protect us more,” Grace responds, and Alicia bursts into tears. While their mother clings to an older ethic, her children can see that no bright line exists between their private and public lives. This season, Grace is drawn both to a YouTube preacher and to a cheerfully self-exposing video artist (played by an actual YouTube dancer, Anne Marsen); she’s fascinated to meet a girl who feels free to make art so spontaneously, without fear of judgment. Meanwhile, her brother stalks a schoolmate’s Facebook page, collecting oppo research that gets his father elected, a dirty trick that his mother never discovers.