"I'm exhausted," Alicia (Julianna Margulies) sighs to Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the penultimate episode of The Good Wife.

She's ostensibly referring to her estranged husband Peter's (Chris Noth) corruption trial. But, really, she's talking about her life — the past 20-plus years bound to Peter, the past seven dutifully playing the titular role to him in name only. And hopefully, by the end of Sunday's series finale (9/8c, CBS), Alicia will finally have cut that cord.

Robert and Michelle King conceived of The Good Wife as an examination of the pitiful woman who stands by her high-profile man in the wake of a scandal. "What is she thinking?" they thought. When we first met Alicia in September 2009, she was the disgraced politician's wife who had put her own legal career on hold to raise two kids and watch — and support — her husband as he rose to state's attorney and cheated on her with prostitutes. After the Slap Heard 'Round the World, Alicia returned to work, gradually finding her confidence, ambition and chic wardrobe, and navigating new worlds, new loves, unforeseen tragedies and a hilariously terrible green screen. The show is "The Education of Alicia Florrick," a nickname the Kings have said so many times that it might as well be a subtitle.

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But is it an education if you keep doing the same thing? The Kings love symmetry — see their episode titles that increased in word length to match the season number through Season 4, before decreasing down to one-word titles in Season 7. Judge Cuesta (David Paymer), the show's very first judge, is now presiding over Peter's case. And here we are again, back to where we started: Weeks after finally asking for a divorce, Alicia is standing by Peter in his latest scandal. It's very easy to feel not just as exhausted as Alicia, but exhausted by her. Even Jason, who believes Alicia will divorce Peter if he's found not guilty, fears that she will stay with Peter if he's convicted.

Alan Cumming, Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth and Christine Baranski, The Good WifeAlan Cumming, Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth and Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

He's not wrong. When Peter decides to take the new two-year prison deal from the AUSA — rendered moot with the jury's verdict, to be revealed Sunday — Alicia promises to visit him and not to forget about him. Except she needs to. While Alicia and Peter have come to a place of mutual respect and friendship with one another, she owes him absolutely nothing at this point, and it's frustrating — and frustratingly brilliant — that she still can't or won't act on that yet.

As uneven and head-scratching as The Good Wife can be sometimes — and these last two years have had lots of rough patches — when it's good, it's great. The show has always been about optics. The perception of something is more important than the actual thing itself. (#politics) It's why Alicia has stayed in this marriage of convenience for the past seven years. It's why she's comported herself in such a guarded, coolheaded way that makes those rare glimpses of her sarcastic sense of humor moments to cherish.



Alicia is a survivor and she has to protect herself. But having protected herself and projected her carefully crafted image for so long means that she has always been catering to someone else and societal expectations. In Season 5, a week before Will (Josh Charles) was killed, she told Rayna (Jill Hennessy), "I want to be happy and I want to control my fate." Two years later, she'll be standing behind her husband again at a press conference for show in the finale. The vicious cycle will just continue until she stops it (although thankfully we wouldn't have to watch that anymore), and we'd all like to think a woman as intelligent as Alicia Florrick would know when to call it quits.

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There is reason to believe that she will in the finale, which Margulies has described as "satisfying, uplifting and sad." Since this is "The Education of Alicia Florrick," she should learn something when all is said and done. She has already asked for the divorce; that's step No. 1. The Kings have also always said they had a seven-year plan for the show, and it'd be hard to believe, though not impossible or surprising, that for eons they had planned to end with Alicia still playing the good wife to Peter.

The fact is, while Alicia has found herself under similar circumstances, she has changed. The lost, scorned woman seven years ago might stay and visit her husband in prison, but it wouldn't make sense for the assured, confident Alicia of today to do so. Alicia has spent years finding and establishing herself, but she's never fully been able to own it because of the elephant in the governor's mansion. She owes it to herself to finally ditch Peter and, as she recently said, not waste any more time, and to be happy. Preferably without Jason either. That romance was too rushed and unearned — a likely symptom of the midseason announcement that this was the final season — to be a root-able one.

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The ironic thing is, if Will were still around, we'd all probably be pulling for a Willicia happily ever after. As shocking as his death was, it's also a blessing in disguise. Because for a show that has proudly empowered and showcased complex, smart women, it would be the perfect bookend for Alicia, who admitted last week she doesn't like being untethered, to truly reclaim herself and be on her own — free, unburdened and no longer exhausted.

So, go ahead, Alicia. Be happy, control your fate and live a good life.

The Good Wife series finale airs Sunday at 9/8c on CBS.

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