Question: I'm sure you have tons of letters in your mailbag about the "twist" on The Good Wife. For once, this was not over-hyped at all. I've always stood by the idea that the creators of shows are artists who have the right to do whatever they want with their characters, and we should be more angry with gratuitous plot twists or inconsistent character development than things that just make us sad. It is a "melodrama," after all, and entertainment does not mean that you will be made happy all the time. That said, I have had to rein myself in about Will's death, which might rank as the most upsetting TV death in my long history of TV watching. Unlike, say, the death of Joyce Summers on Buffy, Will and Alicia have seemed integral to the plot trajectory of the show, and now I feel like a main source of my pleasure is gone.
I read someone say that writers have somewhat of a "contract" with the audience, and while I totally disagreed with the poster that this means that the audience should always be happy, I do think the case of Will is tricky. I know the writers had to write him out, but I can't help but feel that him going to prison or moving away to come back at the end of the show's run would have been better for the overall story, even if it would have had less of a dramatic impact on the show. I feel like this means Alicia won't get her happy ending, and maybe the show really wasn't about that, but as much as I respect the writing on The Good Wife, I feel like something has been lost that can't ever be replaced. So on the one hand, good job to Good Wife for the punch to the gut. On the other hand, as good as the writers are, I am not sure I have faith in the endgame anymore. Your thoughts? — Rebecca
Matt Roush: It's definitely a tricky situation, and fans have every right to be shaken, as I was, over this shocking and (thankfully) surprising development — which generated quite a bit of interesting mail, as you'd expect — but as exec producer/writer Michelle King said last week at a panel discussion in New York during an advance screening of this Sunday's "The Last Call" episode, "Anything else [but Will's death] would have been a little bit too easy." The Kings said they studied other major cast departures (given the Julianna Margulies connection, George Clooney's ER exit comes first to mind) before making the fatal call, but taking this very bold and undeniably risky step opens up so many more storylines, both personally and professionally, than if Will had anticlimactically faded off into the periphery as might have happened once Josh Charles chose not to renew his contract. The goal here is to produce powerful drama, and by Will staying this long into the show's remarkable fifth season, we got to enjoy the explosive conflicts in the first half of the year when the firms split, and now we're experiencing the emotionally tangled aftermath of this sudden, awful tragedy (starting with Sunday's wrenching hour). Caring this deeply about what's happening and what could possibly happen next is all I could ask from a great TV drama. Lose faith? Not likely.
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Question: I can't seem to stay away from spoilers between Twitter and the TV-related websites I frequent, but the latest episode of The Good Wife took me completely by surprise, so it will go down as one of my most shocking TV viewing experiences ever. I'm sad to see Will Gardner go, and looking forward, the story arcs set up prior to his death seem like they may fall a little flat without him (less conflict with the law firm split without Will; less of a prosecution case in the voter fraud without Will), but I am willing to wait it out. I did have a question about the final Alicia/Will scene (which we obviously did not know was final at the time). It seemed out of character for Alicia given all that has transpired to seek Will out at the courthouse solely to give him a heads-up on his client. Was it really her extending an olive branch or do you think there were other motives (one, she knew she was being trailed and wanted to throw the prosecutor off; or two, she wanted to attempt to get on friendlier terms with Will knowing he was the key to the voter fraud case)? We may gain insight into this in the episodes to come. What a twist for one of my favorites, though! — Carrie
Matt Roush: To address one of your earlier points, I believe Will's death could make the relationships between the warring firms even more fascinating, as a catalyst to bring characters back together (or not) in even more emotionally charged ways. And I'm not sure Alicia's actions were all that out of character when she tipped Will off about his clients looking to replace him mid-trial. For all of the enmity between them after the split, Alicia hasn't lost all sense of professional duty and personal obligation. The show in its biggest picture is about her walking that ethical tightrope in all of her relationships, never more complicated than when it involves Will. The guilt she carries, so evident in Sunday's aftermath episode, is palpable, and even if there were ulterior motives (the voter-fraud case) in her approaching Will, the ambiguity is part of the drama. It seems clear to me that Alicia, while reflecting on how she joined the firm (with Will's support) in the recent flashbacks, was beginning to wonder if she could mend this broken friendship, and having that possibility taken away so violently is one of the most upsetting aspects of this entire situation.
Question: For me, what made Will's death so shocking and devastating was that it came out of nowhere. With Will dying mid-season and Carter dying on Person of Interest mid-season, do you think now the networks will pick up on the trend of killing main characters mid-season then during May sweeps? — Aadil
Matt Roush: Let's hope so. The most impactful character deaths tend to be the ones you don't see coming, and the high body count at the end of any given season tends to be a bit wearying in its predictability. Which doesn't mean I want it to be open season on killing main characters at the random drop of a hat. These moments should be sparing and earned. Otherwise, they too will begin to look like business as usual, which would truly be tragic.
On a similar note, quite a bit of my mail, including from my frequent correspondent Dorothy, asked directly: "Did you have any inkling it was going to happen, or were you as shocked as I was?" Answer: Yes, in this case I was absolutely floored. I had an inkling something major was going to go down — one of the editors at work had been tipped off, and wanted to make sure I didn't miss the episode (as if!) — but everyone at work and elsewhere knows to protect me from plot spoilers whenever possible. (In a time when I was more reporter than critic, I was plugged in to the point that I had stories ready for the day after Andy Jr. was killed on NYPD Blue and Kimberly Shaw returned from the dead on Melrose Place, but I didn't spoil those moments in what was then a mostly pre-Internet culture.) But even if I had had a clue what was about to happen to Will, I believe I would still have been affected by the way this particular story went down.
[Note: The following is a question that came in well before the death of Will but addresses a larger question about the current season of The Good Wife. I decided not to post it last week, feeling it would look a bit beside the point after what happened last Sunday, but it's still a subject well worth addressing.]
Question: I had to write in to say that I have stopped watching The Good Wife due to the dramatic change in the direction of Alicia's character. I hate the storyline that had her stabbing her firm in the back and becoming their enemy. Her betrayal of the partnership by passing info to the associates was extremely unethical and without any redeeming features. I am not sure that the moniker "good" can be applied to her. I think many people have stopped watching the series due to Alicia's turn to the dark side. — Laura
Matt Roush: As someone who likes actual drama in my drama, I (and many other critics) have championed this season of The Good Wife as the most riveting storytelling anywhere on network TV. Alienating those who preferred the status quo may be an unfortunate side effect, but "Good" in the show's title has always been a relativistic, and even ironic, term in describing Alicia's journey through the moral ambiguities of the law and her relationships with her unfaithful husband and her then-boss Will, with whom she herself strayed. And while her branching out with Cary and the other associates to start their own rival firm can be seen as a professional betrayal, one of Alicia's motivations in doing this was to distance herself from Will to preserve her marriage, which some might see as a "good" thing. I will argue to the end that this show has earned the right to shake things up, and the results (while undeniably upsetting at times) have been exhilarating.
Question: I know that in a show called Hannibal, there are going to be many deaths. And I know that no one but Will and Hannibal is safe. I'm fine with that. I accepted all of the previous deaths. But — retroactive spoiler alert — I am having a really difficult time accepting Beverly's death in the March 21 episode. I understand the reasoning behind why they felt she had to die. It isolates Will more and shows him that accepting/soliciting outside help can have very dire consequences. However, I don't think it made any sense narratively, particularly for Beverly as a character. Why would she break into Hannibal's house looking for evidence? None of it would be admissible in court. Basically, even if she found something and took it away, all it would do would make it more difficult to catch him legally, as he would be alerted and even more careful and aware. Plus, she had literally just shown that by going over evidence she could find things that had been missed before. Why wouldn't she try that first, with all of the evidence they already had, rather than breaking into Hannibal's house? It seems to me like the writers were thinking "we need Beverly to die" and then messed with the story and her character to get the result they wanted, rather than starting with the character and the story and working from there.
Even this might not have bothered me so much except that it was in the same episode with Bella's non-death. Jack is often working. She very easily could have overdosed with morphine at home while he was at work. If she didn't want to do that, she could have overdosed in her car or some other location. It makes no sense for her to overdose at Hannibal's, as she liked him, and it could have put him in a very difficult spot if he were an ethical psychiatrist. She would have put him at risk for accusations of medical misconduct (as psychiatrists have to intervene when they think someone is a danger to themselves or others) and possibly assisted suicide. Again this feels to me like another situation where the writers wanted a certain result, so they didn't look too carefully at how they were using the characters to get there. Season 1 of Hannibal had amazing writing. I would never have expected lazy writing like this from them. I think that is the part that bothers me the most. I could have accepted Beverly's death (and Bella's non-death) if they had played out in better ways. Right now I am upset by it, though. What are your thoughts on that episode of Hannibal? — Meredith
Matt Roush: With Hannibal, I find myself so hypnotized by its tone of baroque and hallucinatory dread that this kind of literal nitpicking rarely occurs to me. It's probably best not to apply such normalistic standards to the storyline as if it were just another procedural — and on a side note, this is about the only time I've ever found it dramatically satisfying when a show's hero (Will Graham) is framed as the main suspect in a serial crime, thanks to the machinations of the diabolical Dr. Lecter. I take your point that Beverly's fate was a bit too close to the don't-go-in-the-basement-you-fool cliché of the typical doomed damsel, but I didn't have a problem with her breaking protocol by invading Hannibal's home, since the entire operation (including her collusion with Will) was seen as rogue. And I absolutely was on board with the Bella-Lecter scene in which he watched her die then ghoulishly revived her (against her will). Picking apart the ethical and legal implications is so beside the point. Much of Hannibal is a visual and poetically macabre meditation on death, and that's what I saw going on in that almost erotically charged moment. Nothing lazy about it. Which is another way of saying: If you're seeking realism in your crime drama, Hannibal might not be your best choice. (But why this isn't getting the sort of numbers generated by overheated poppycock like American Horror Story is beyond me.)
Question: On April 14, Syfy begins showing the six final episodes of Warehouse 13, which Aaron Ashmore stars in. It will by shown Mondays at 9/8c — airing directly opposite The Following, which stars Aaron's twin brother, Shawn. This appears to be the first time twins or siblings are on opposite networks at war with each other. Why are both networks creating a war of the Ashmores? And I saw the recent article about Claire Holt bailing out of the new show The Originals and that she might be back one day. Coupled with the bright new face of the show, Daniella Pineda, also having her character killed off, can this new show survive two important actresses bailing on the show? — Dean
Matt Roush: If I truly believed either Ashmore was the actual star of his respective series (no slight to their contributions), then you might have a point, but calling it a "war" goes a bit far. It is an odd coincidence, I'll concede, but that's more Syfy's issue for scheduling Warehouse's final mini-season up against The Following (which has never not aired in that time period), when Warehouse 13 could just as easily have aired earlier or later or even on a different night. For Ashmore devotees, that's what DVRs are for. As for The Originals, is anyone ever truly dead on a show like that? Losing Rebekah is a fairly significant blow, as she's one of the more appealing characters and Holt is one of the very few talented actors in that ensemble. But as Holt herself indicated, she is basically taking a time out for now, and there's no reason to think she won't come back to either New Orleans or Mystic Falls when and if the story calls for it.
Question: Do you have any insight/knowledge as to how permanent Claire Holt's departure from The Originals might be? She was one of the better parts of the show. I was relieved to see someone official refer to it as an "extended hiatus," but I wasn't sure if that had any truth to it — or was just something said to make fans feel better. Any idea if the departure was acrimonious? Taking her reasons for leaving at face value, her decision to leave less than one season into a new show cannot have made producers happy. Will they want her back after that? — John
Matt Roush: I know nothing more about any of this than what has been reported — this isn't a gossip column — but I'm aware of nothing that would indicate there's any bad blood (so to speak) between her and the producers, who would almost certainly welcome her back when she's ready. Although whether she'd entertain a full-time move back to Georgia, where the show is filmed, is very much a personal decision, and seems a motivating factor for why she took this break in the first place.
Question: I'm curious to get your take on the renewal of The Following vs. Almost Human. As I look at the ratings, the two shows seem nearly identical in both overall numbers as well as the demo. Both star bankable movie stars at the center (although, let's be honest, Kevin Bacon is more a star than Karl Urban is, despite his movie creds) and both are serialized dramas. But as I watch both shows, I find the quality of Almost Human to be far superior to anything The Following has to offer. In fact, Almost Human has a much better ensemble, far more interesting ideas and they are in the process of building an intriguing mythology. The Following lacks all of that and it's grim to boot. Almost Human at least knows how to vary the tone in an episode so that it's not constant terror and horror, which over time wears on me greatly. So why is it that, if all things ratings being equal, the lesser show in terms of creativity is renewed while the clearly superior show has to sweat it out? This seems like a poor decision on the part of the Fox execs — although, let's be honest, they haven't really treated Almost Human with the respect that it deserves. — Andrew
Matt Roush: You seem to be answering your own question. Despite heavy promotion during post-season baseball last fall, Almost Human seemed pretty much an afterthought on the Fox schedule, greatly overshadowed (understandably) by the success of Sleepy Hollow, and when it became clear this futuristic cop show wasn't going to be a breakout hit, it does seem as if Fox lost interest, and airing some episodes out of order didn't help that perception. The Following has a much more obvious (if also more squirm-inducing) hook, which generates quite a bit more media interest, though is hardly without its critics. And despite its flaws, there's more urgency to its outrageous storytelling. Looking at the recent numbers on an admittedly tough and overstuffed night, it looks like Fox may have been premature in its early renewal of The Following, whose own following isn't exactly growing, but I'm also not surprised they're taking a more wait-and-see approach with Human.
Question: Any news on The Mentalist? Do we know if we'll get a seventh season, of if the sixth one will be the last of the show? - Elisabetta
Matt Roush: At this point, it doesn't look like that decision will be made until CBS sets the new fall lineup in May. But given how unimpressive the reboot has been, it might be a mercy to not try to extend it yet another season (and the seventh would almost certainly be the last, as it was for earlier procedurals like Cold Case and Without a Trace). I wouldn't be surprised either way, but given how successful The Mentalist once was for CBS, it would be nice for the show to get at least a little bit of an actual send-off.
Question: Glee has had its ups and downs over the years, but the recent two episodes with the original cast (minus Cory Monteith) have been stellar. Almost makes me forgive the many missteps. What ever did happen to Sue Sylvester's baby, anyway? Had these been the final episodes, they would rank among the most satisfying series finales. It makes me sad to think that this show is continuing in New York. I realize that the untimely death of Monteith changed Ryan Murphy's plans, but the New York episodes began prior to Monteith's death, and they remind me of "Laverne & Shirley move to Los Angeles." Is there any show that has successfully pivoted so far from its original premise? And is there a chance that the plug will be pulled after this season despite the commitment for one more? — Steve
Matt Roush: A similar question arose this week concerning The Mentalist, which also executed a significant midstream reboot this season. What this kind of sea change usually signifies is an acknowledgement that the show is just about over, and in some cases has been known to result in an actual spin-off — think The Practice morphing into Boston Legal, or as a friend/colleague of mine reminded me, The Andy Griffith Show becoming Mayberry, RFD — though that probably won't be the situation here, given that these shows are pretty much gasping to the finish line. I agree up to a point that the last few Glee episodes gave the original cast a nice chance to take a final bow and to praise Mr. Schu as they laid the glee club to rest — a bit of a downer, that — although all of it coming at the expense of those poor kids from New Directions 2.0, who were turned comically/tragically into mere spectators for two entire episodes set at McKinley. (Not arguing with the choice, just underscoring how diminished Glee had become after the main characters graduated and split focus between Lima and New York.) I'm with you that the prospect of another full season of Glee set in New York feels like milking a dead cow — and a pantomime cow, at that — but the decision has been made and I'd be surprised if the network and studio reverse it. There are no doubt myriad business reasons for keeping the show afloat for another year, but no discernible creative ones.
Question: For three seasons, I watched the Winona character on Justified abuse, manipulate and just generally treat Raylan (a man she supposedly loves) like dirt. The writers must have gotten some nasty feedback from viewers because they tried so hard in Season 4 to reverse her generally snippy attitude. The end of Season 4 saw her life in danger and I assume was supposed to make viewers care. The character would've been better served the original Elmore Leonard way, which according to the books has Winona as an "absent" person in Raylan's life. I also assume that this will be the case by the end of the show in Season 6. Never saw what this character brought to the show except more "turmoil" to Raylan. And Lord knows, the writers have found enough story lines to keep Raylan very busy catching bad guys, which is why viewers watch. I found the scenes between the Ray-nona characters less than interesting, unlike the rest of the show. I'll miss Justified when it finishes up next season. Can't wait to see how everything happening this season between the major characters works out. What a great ride! — Susan
Matt Roush: "Turmoil" is drama, and if Winona were perfect, not only would she not fit in to the Justified universe, she'd be a lot less interesting to Raylan and anyone else. I'm a Natalie Zea fan, so am still rooting for there to be a way for her character to re-enter the picture in a compelling way in Justified's final season (which I'm hoping is an improvement over this year's rather scattered and uneven, though still enjoyable, narrative). But even if she stays mostly off screen, there should be a way to make that absence dramatic as Raylan's story comes to a close.