[Warning: The following story contains spoilers about the series finale of The Good Wife. Read at your own risk.]
"What is the point of all of this?"
I could ask the same about this back half of the final season. It still flummoxes me why the final stretch of the show — and the final episode — centered around an old Peter (Chris Noth) case we didn't even know about until three months ago, and pushed Alicia to the sidelines. If Peter needed to be involved, it should've been Peter adjacent, with Alicia finally learning about the election rigging. Instead, we got some corruption case I still can't adequately explain to you. There was a break in the case Sunday involving a ringtone, Sutton Foster on the stand, and the bullets being found, which made Diane's husband Kurt (Gary Cole) a witness for AUSA
Glee Fox (Matthew Morrison) this time because the bullets worked against Peter.
Determined to get Peter off, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) makes Lucca (Cush Jumbo) grill Kurt about his affair with Holly (Megan Hilty) during the cross-examination, and stands by — and then walks away from — Peter after he takes a one-year probation deal and resigns as governor. Then, in the final scene, she gets slapped by Diane (Christine Baranski).
Robert and Michelle King love their symmetry, so you knew a slap was coming. That it came from Diane to Alicia just verified what an atypical heroine Alicia was — and one of TV's best. She's a complicated, reserved, tough, difficult, steely woman, almost as unknowable as the enigmatic Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), who has painstakingly navigated a public persona she never asked for. She could be Saint Alicia and a total bitch in one scene. You could like her, but she was never supposed to be likable. She was never just "good." And she got what she deserved for her betrayal of sorts to Diane.
The Good Wife bosses defend the slap: "We wanted the ending to have resonance"
Despite all the matchmaking efforts from Lucca and Ghost Will for Alicia to go after Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) — "Jason's not you," Alicia says. "Very few people are me," Ghost Will says. <SWOON> — she ends up alone too, having been too late finding the nomadic leather-clad investigator. (Insert your "He's on his way to The Walking Dead" joke here.) But, also, why couldn't she just keep calling him? My only qualm is that Alicia's solo fate and her walking away from Peter were spurred by her thinking she saw Jason at Peter's press conference instead of her own volition. For a show about a woman regaining her agency, there's no need to make her decision tied to another man.
In any event, it's not an empowering ending of Alicia truly striking out of her own, but a tragically dark one that makes sense all the same. Alicia has ruined almost all her relationships — and you can argue, wasted her life — because of her inexorable and sometimes ineffable devotion to Peter.
Now, she's back to where she was seven years ago. Time to start all over again. And based on the past seven years, we know she can and she will.
And at least Cary (Matt Czuchry), thankfully, got the happy ending he deserved, finding his calling as a teacher.
After shooting the final scene, which we now know as The Slap 2.0, Margulies said she told Baranski that fans will either "love this or hate this, but there's not going to be a 'meh.'" I neither loved it nor hated it nor found it meh. I do understand it and I can respect the Kings carrying out their vision that they have had for years. It's a fitting ending for a series as flawed and complicated as it allowed its characters, specifically its titular character, to be.
Since its premiere in 2009, The Good Wife has had to wave the flag as network TV's prestige drama while peak TV made waves on cable and streaming. It remains the last network show to be nominated for drama series at the Emmys, which it last achieved in 2011. (No, its stellar fifth season was not nominated in 2014.) Broadcast dramas will make it back to the top Emmy race one day, but they probably won't look anything like The Good Wife, as the TV landscape and demands continue to shift.
The Good Wife was a serialized procedural, which sounds like an oxymoron. Years from now, when we look back, it'll fall under the "They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To" category. Engrossing and provocative, the show was remarkably deft at fusing typical CBS case-of-the-week elements with smart, sharp, funny and intriguing ongoing arcs, topical issues and deep-rooted character studies. Try to find another show that has a bevy of recurring and guest players as well drawn-out, memorable and idiosyncratic as The Good Wife's. It all reached a crescendo in Season 5 — its undisputed best season — with the firm Civil War and the top-secret, shocking death of Will.
But for various reasons, that level was unsustainable. The Kings would point to the 22-episode grind of network TV. (Their 2014 Emmy campaign included a handy chart highlighting The Good Wife's far larger episode output than that of its Emmy-favored cable and streaming rivals.) But the show was also a victim of its own head-scratching decisions. It had a penchant for whiplash storytelling, dropping or sidelining plots and characters like a bad habit, or undoing arcs right after completing them — like Alicia and the state's attorney seat, a storyline that arguably should not have happened at all — with alarming, frustrating frequency. (The only time their addiction to story abandonment was acceptable was when they disposed of the unspeakably bad arc with Kalinda's husband.) There was also the mind-numbing repetition of Alicia leaving the firm only to come back time and time again.
And of course, there's the Kalinda of it all. I already explained last year, when Panjabi left, how they wasted — you can even say destroyed — her character and a great female TV friendship between Alicia and Kalinda when the two stopped sharing scenes together midway through Season 4. Whatever did or did not happen between Margulies and Panjabi, it's just sad that no one put the show first and instead sacrificed story and quality for apparent pettiness.
It's stuff like that that makes me hesitate automatically putting The Good Wife on the "all-time" list. It's not a no-brainer like some shows, but it does deserve to be there — for its ambition, the rich mosaic of stories it did tell, its complicated heroine, its sublime ensemble, its influential fashion, its ballsy final scene, and for giving us "Thicky Trick." We won't see a show like it again.
What did you think of The Good Wife series finale?
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Watch the Kings explain the finale below.