The Good Wife s7 ep 22

image“Nothing’s ever over. Remember that.”

Sob.

“I’ll love you forever.”

WAIL.

With its perpetual “on-the-bubble” status, it feels like we’ve been on the cusp of saying goodbye to The Good Wife ever since the show began but, notwithstanding the number of times it’s avoided cancellation before now, this was supposed to be it at last. Alicia Florrick’s story finally coming to an end after seven seasons of ups, downs, round-and-rounds, and plenty of arguments along the way. Except that Alicia’s story didn’t really end this week so much as begin again, and the forthcoming Diane spin-off means we haven’t really said goodbye to this world or these characters either. Instead, we got a finale which reminded Alicia and the audience how it all started and what she had and lost along the way, before she lifted her head, smoothed down her suit and walked out into the world again, ready to take it on head-on, just like she did at the start.

imageTo get to that new beginning, though, she had to be navigate her way through one last Peter Florrick scandal. To be the “good” wife one more time. The court proceedings were curious and unlikely to stand up to real-world scrutiny; would Judge Cuesta really not have been told before he went on the bench that the jury had a question rather than a verdict? Would the Governor’s defence team really be made up of both the wife of the accused and the wife of a key expert witness? And would the hitherto tenacious AUSA, with a sitting, seriously damaged governor on substantial corruption charges in his sights, really settle for 1 year probation, no jail time? Come on.

Plausibility aside, though, there was plenty of TGW’s trademark fun and flair about the court scenes and I enjoyed them a lot anyway. We’ve said it before, but one of the strengths of the show has been the deep, idiosyncratic bench of judges and bar of lawyers it has built, each with their own distinct, fully-formed personalities and grudges. David Paymer’s Judge Cuesta has the longest of those histories with the show; he was his usual caustic, terrific, funny self – “I mean, I’m excited about this!” – this week, and it’s both fitting and heartwarming that the judge who presided over the show’s first case is the one who presided over its last one too.

After being completely marginalised for much of this season, it was also heartening to see Matt Czuchry’s Cary with a win at last, finding a new purpose in teaching and peace in solving the mystery of the missing bullets, after one last hurrah with the now-legendary Matan back in the SA’s office, for old times’ sake.

imageChristine Baranski’s Diane was, of course, majestic, moving seamlessly from comedy to tragedy to rage, as Alicia and Lucca did the unforgiveable and broke her heart in the process. Her slapping Alicia is not the way I would have chosen for Diane’s TGW arc to end at all and I’ll always be sad that their bond – a multi-layered friendship and working relationship between two complex, rounded, unique female characters – has been destroyed over the past couple of seasons, but Diane has been one of the show’s most resonant, marvellous creations, and at least the spin-off means we’ll be seeing Ms Lockhart again one day. Hopefully, still married to the wonderful Gary Cole and still happy, despite Alicia’s best efforts to derail another marriage to suit her own.

Alicia’s husband is indeed finished, though, and Chris Noth’s Peter’s initial farewell to Alan Cumming’s Eli was surprisingly moving, with the twist that Eli was already making plans to cut line and move on to Alicia both very TGW and very Eli indeed. “Does Alicia know yet?” No. Because these two men are still trying to use Alicia, as they’ve always done, albeit her stepping off the stage and running away from Peter’s outstretched hand at the press conference – even if it is in pursuit of Manic Private Eye Dream Boy Jason – suggests she might finally be done with both of them.

Individual performances and iconic characters aside, though, there’s no getting round the fact that, overall, this hasn’t been a good season. The cracks started showing in season six, but season seven, by the show’s standards at least, has been a disaster. There have only been a handful of really good episodes, and the lacklustre nature of the rest of them, coupled with the way the firm has turned into a giant game of the hokey-cokey (people are constantly in, out, in, out, shaking the partnership all about) and audience suspicion about what has been happening behind the scenes over the past few years has tarnished the legacy of one of the best tv shows ever made. Because, yes, never mind this season, The Good Wife is one of the best tv shows ever made.

This wasn’t necessarily the way I wanted it to finish, but the finale was, like the series as a whole, smart, funny, sad, and very, very brave, ending as it did with Alicia alone and the rest of her life more of a question mark than a full-stop. It wasn’t satisfying, exactly but, in the context of the show, I think it was right. Because TGW has never been about tidy, happy endings, it’s always been about the messiness of life having to go on, of Alicia having to go on, no matter what.

The show has always balanced tragedy, comedy, drama, romance, hot-button issues, complicated ideas, political controversies and unwavering, unflinching feminism in a way that few others will ever come close to even attempting, and, if it didn’t always work – nothing always works – it still gave us some amazing characters, both regular and visiting, and some of the greatest performances and relationships, romantic and otherwise on tv. I wasn’t initially on board with TGW’s first season, but it blossomed into something very special in season two, and when I fell in love with it, I fell hard.

And since we’re talking about falling in love, regardless of who we might or might not see again, at least the finale gave Alicia and the audience the chance to say a proper goodbye to one beloved character neither she, nor I, nor the show, truth be told, has ever really got over losing.

It’s not the first time Alicia has tried to work through her feelings about Will in a dream sequence but, emotional and poignant as last season’s “Mind’s Eye” was, that episode didn’t entirely succeed because, never mind not being the real Will, it so obviously wasn’t any kind of Will at all.

imageThis time, though, the much-missed Josh Charles came back one last time, and it made all the difference. Alicia imagining coming home to Will would have been heartbreaking enough, but her talking to him about love, life and everything – “you wouldn’t like it here now, things have gotten so sad” – was both beautiful and deeply moving. I will always be baffled and infuriated by the show’s obsessive focus on Jason this season – Lucca even banging on this week about how Alicia had to talk to him, right now, in the middle of her husband’s trial for corruption – but at least Alicia (and the show) acknowledged to the real love of her life that “He’s not you.” Nope. “Very few people are.”

How utterly lovely it was to see him, to see them together and laughing, loving again. Especially soundtracked as it was by what might – in the face of stiff competition, since this show has always utilised wonderful music to incredible storytelling effect – be the most perfectly appropriate song ever. Regina Spektor’s haunting, gorgeous “Better” with its refrain of “Do you feel better…. Do you feel anything at all?” could have been written about Alicia Florrick, a woman who has fought so hard and so ruthlessly to carve out her own identity and her own life, but has sacrificed so much of herself and her happiness in the process that numbness has become her ultimate weapon. Julianna Margulies has been at the centre of a lot of speculation, but no matter what happened backstage, her performance has never been less than magnificent and the Alicia she and Robert and Michelle King created, taking as they did the sad, stoic tropes of the long-suffering political wife and the legal procedural drama and combining both to make something and someone iconic, is just as much an achievement as Don Draper, Walter White, or any of the other male tv anti-heroes of the past few years. (*wipes away tear*) I’m ok with that.

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8 thoughts on “The Good Wife s7 ep 22

  1. kht June 27, 2016 / 4:09 am

    “Manic Private Eye Dream Boy Jason” – love it! Perfect epithet, and great write-up all around. Alicia WAS iconic. What a good word for her.

  2. Snoskred June 27, 2016 / 1:37 pm

    I’m not happy about the slap.

    I read an interview with the kings where they talked about how they wanted there to be a slap, and they had several different characters who they considered slapping Alicia. For it to be Diane is just, lazy, poor writing in my opinion. And it was not who the Diane I knew as a character was.

    I wish it had been almost anyone else. If it had been Cary or Eli, it might have actually made some sense in the broader storyline of the show. But maybe they would have felt like there would be an outcry if it was a man slapping a woman.

    I was thrilled to see Josh Charles, until it all began to feel like a hokey effort to pull on the heart strings of the show fans.

    One really could make the argument that this show died the moment Will died. 😦

    • CJ Cregg June 30, 2016 / 8:17 pm

      I didn’t like the slap either, Snoskred. I thought the point of it was short-hand to say Alicia has totally burned her bridges here – she deserved sympathy and support when she started out, but as she’s become harder and more ruthless over the years, she’s gradually crossed so many lines that she’s pushed everyone away, and now she’s on her own once again. I thought it made sense to end it with her estranged from Diane, estranged from Cary and pretty much alone (I never bought the Jason thing as you know) but I don’t think we really needed it to be said via slap at all – Diane could have said what she
      needed to say in a couple of lines instead. I don’t think Cary or Eli slapping her would have worked – they couldn’t have had a man slapping her, that would have said something completely different, made it about violence against women and made Alicia a victim again, which is not what the slap was about. Besides, I don’t think Eli has any real cause to be angry with her and Cary slapping her wouldn’t be a Cary thing to do at all.

      Re Josh Charles coming back – fair point, some of it was a bit hokey, but I’m such a sap. I loved those scenes anyway 😍

      • Snoskred July 1, 2016 / 1:14 am

        I loved seeing Josh Charles but at the same time I felt SO manipulated by the Kings.. you should be tearing up because we brought him back, they might as well have put that on the screen as subtitles.

        I really could not see any of the characters slapping Alicia. I also really could not see Kurt cheating on Diane. None of these characters were acting as the people we had known, they were acting in a way convenient for the writers in order to set up that final slap. And that is NOT how you make television characters! 🙂

        • CJ Cregg July 2, 2016 / 11:13 pm

          I don’t think Kurt did necessarily cheat on Diane, Snoskred. No doubt influenced by her own husband’s more or less constant infidelity, Alicia saw an easy, sleazy angle she could exploit in cross – older, married mentor / young pretty protege affair – and got Lucca to go for it. Whether it was true or not didn’t matter at all to her, it was just about creating the appearance of impropriety and discrediting Kurt’s testimony on that basis.

          I’m sure she picked up on some of Diane’s insecurity about her marriage, but I didn’t see any suggestion that Alicia actually knew anything concrete one way or the other. Or cared. And Kurt seems to have known Ivy from Smash (I genuinely cannot remember the TGW character’s name) for years, so if they did have an affair, it could quite easily have been before he even met Diane.

          FWIW, I don’t see Kurt cheating on Diane either so I’m interpreting it as he didn’t.

  3. Jed Bartlet July 2, 2016 / 11:43 pm

    I watched this ages ago and kept forgetting to comment. Anyway…

    I actually quite liked this episode, which I was a little surprised about, as although I’d generally managed to steer clear of spoilers I was aware that it had a fairly cool reception when it was shown in America.

    I suppose the bit I was most troubled by was Peter’s trial. For one thing, making it the centrepiece of the final episode assumed that it had a significance to the viewers which I don’t know that it had.

    Secondly – and here I do accept that I’m probably being too much of a lawyer – WT actual F with the conflicts of interest? I know it was there to serve the drama, but you really can’t have a situation in which a woman is effectively representing her husband, while one of the key witnesses is the husband of the woman’s partner. And the reason why you can’t have a situation like that came out when Kurt needed to be cross-examined. Had Kurt just been some random gun-nut Alicia, Diane and Lucca would have been obliged to try and discredit his evidence. As it happens, I think he quite possibly did have an affair – otherwise why did he not deny it when the question was asked? – and if Alicia had information like that she had to use it for her client’s benefit, Diane’s marriage be damned. (Incidentally, since Diane and Lucca are supposed to be the attorneys in the spin-off show, do they not have a bit of relationship-repairing to do?)

    That aside, the reason the episode worked for me was the return of Josh Charles. I kind of knew he was going to be in it, but I thought it was just going to be a brief flashback or something. What it proved beyond doubt, I thought, was that Will was so much more than just a romantic interest for Alicia, and without him seasons 6 and 7 just weren’t as good. There were other problems with those seasons for sure, but I agree with Snoskred to a large extent – the show never recovered from Josh Charles leaving.

    Still, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that as you say TGW was, for much of its run, truly great TV, from a network, with a flawed female character at its centre (as opposed to all of those cable shows with male anti-heroes). In my opinion.

    • CJ Cregg July 3, 2016 / 12:14 am

      Oh I agree too, the show never recovered from Josh Charles leaving. As well as Will being a superb character in his own right, he seemed to keep the rest of the cast together and having fun too. Once everyone had moved on from his death, they all splintered off in different directions and were pretty much in different, sadder shows – Alicia in her own, misguided, ultimately pointless election storyline then the awful Jason storyline, Diane and Cary struggling for screen time in their law firm, Kalinda playing gangster games with Lemond Bishop… (Although, FWIW I think Kalinda had run out of storyline by about season 2. I have never been a fan of hers.) They only really started to try and pull the cast back together this year by re-uniting the firm, but then wasted all that by having the unnecessary “let’s start a female firm” in-fighting instead of rebuilding all the relationships.

      The conflicts of interest were so extreme this week they were more like full-scale wars of interest. As I said, the court stuff would not have stood up to real-world scrutiny. However, if we have to go along with it in terms of the show’s universe, I don’t think Alicia did have any actual information re Kurt. Otherwise, I think we’d have had a scene with her sending Jason to investigate him or something. I think it was just an easy leap to make for her, given her marital history and the optics of the situation. Either way, if I were Diane, I’d be marching both Alicia and Lucca out the door. They have a duty to their client yes, but they have a duty to their partner/boss too (Hence the conflict, obv) – never mind the personal element, how is humiliating the senior partner in the firm to the extent that she walks out of court in tears going to play with potential clients? How is it going to make the “all-female” firm look? No way I’m working with either of them again. Which makes the spin-off idea a bit of a stretch, but we’ll see.

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