The "bitchy boss" is a cliché Christine Baranski has spent four years avoiding on The Good Wife. When the series premiered in 2009, many assumed Diane Lockhart would be a woman on top "threatened" by her news-making underling Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies). But instead, Diane has proven to be a stable and encouraging mentor.
So when things briefly — and masterfully — took a turn to the contentious in the most recent episode of the series (airing Sundays at 9/8c on CBS), and Diane called Alicia out on her ungracious attitude about becoming an equity partner, fans were quick to notice the shift.
"It was a little slap on the wrist for sure," Baranski tells TVGuide.com. "I requested this not fall into the trap of having Diane being the bitchy boss so we did have Diane mentoring Alicia and always encouraging her to seize her power. But there comes a point where Diane can see that Alicia is reaching a point of equity and how is that going to play out? What does that mean for the future? Alicia is really assuming her own power so there is a threat."
The threat of what the good wife might do with her newfound authority is just the latest danger Diane and the firm have had to face recently. Earlier this season, she and Will (Josh Charles) were nearly ousted because of Lockhart Gardner's huge debt. "This is hardly what she had imagined for being the head of a law firm — to have to literally cut people's jobs and cut corners and take cases that she really didn't believe in. She's had to compromise her integrity and her ideals to just stay alive in a really hard economic time," Baranski says. "You've seen Diane really just get them through the worst of it and it's really one of the things I love about playing that character."
With many questions still looming about just why and how several fourth-year associates including Alicia and Cary (Matt Czuchry) have suddenly been invited to become equity partners, tensions will run extremely high on Sunday's episode when Diane and Will must team up and go against Alicia and Cary in a mock trial for a client. "They're definitely coming at it from an adversarial position because of what's happened to them," Baranski says. "There's a lot of tension in that episode."
Further complicating that new dynamic is the fact that Alicia's husband, Peter (Chris Noth), is running for Governor of Illinois. "I think the stakes have gotten higher with Alicia's new power position," Baranski says. "But for all of Alicia's strength and accomplishment, Diane is still the boss and when Diane says what can be given, can be taken away. It's a warning that you have to get in there and be grateful for what you've been given. ... Everything has a price tag."
Does Diane's threat mean Alicia won't be sitting at the head of the table with Diane, Will, David Lee and the rest of the equity partners for long? Whatever happens, it sounds like things are just heating up at Lockhart Gardner. "Just when you're back and everything seems to be fine and you're in the money, there is a huge power vacuum and a huge power shift. Success can complicate things more than a lack of success," Baranski says. "There are all kinds of power shifts that are going to happen."
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.