The Good Wife: Dramatics, Your Honor – Take 2

E: No, it’s still not a recap.  I’m sorry about that, truly I am. But given that I’m not going to be writing a recap this week, I feel like I owe it to myself and to you guys to do more than (to borrow a phrase from Veronica Mars once more) flail my tiny effectual fists at the universe. It won’t be what you’re used to, but I hope you’ll be willing to bear with me to share some observations and anecdotes in a more conventional format.

So instead of going through every word in painstaking detail, I’d like to say a few things about my reaction to the episode.

Let me tell you a story –  for once, a story of my own.  It’s a common enough story, really; you probably have one like it in essence if not in the particulars. In the fall of 2004, I had just quit my job.  I was pregnant with my second child, and pretty much scared out of my mind about it because my first child was born two months early due to a condition called pre-eclampsia; statistically I had a strong likelihood of developing it again.  (You might recognize that as the malady which killed Lady Sybil on Downton Abbey, and Bradley Whitford’s wife on the infamous “Love’s Labor Lost” episode of er.)  And my grandmother, one of the dearest people to me in all my life, was fighting inoperable pancreatic cancer.

Her doctors had told us that there was no reason that she couldn’t do chemo, despite the cancer being inoperable and despite her being 90.  Grammy came from a large family of long lived women; her oldest sister died at 99, and several sisters were then in their 90s as well.  So despite that desperate word, inoperable, we had high hopes.  She’d had a tough month in September, but October had been very good, and her beloved Red Sox were up three games to none in the World Series.  We were a single day away from something Grammy, a passionate fan who knew at least 70 years worth of Red Sox squads, had spent her entire life waiting to see.

An hour or so after Game Three ended, she started having trouble breathing – enough trouble that we ended up calling for an ambulance.  The EMTs didn’t seem to take the situation very seriously; it took them a half an hour to get her loaded up and sent over to our local hospital, and the police officer who came with them (the guy who did the DARE talks when I was a kid) calmly assured us he’d seen this before and it would all be fine.  Still, I had a terrible gut feeling as they pulled the gurney into the ambulance, remembering a harrowing story Grammy’d told of her own mother being sent to the hospital when she was only five, never to be seen again.  (“Don’t let them take me,” her mother had begged, “I’ll die there!”) Though my parents told us not to, my sister and husband and I followed them perhaps ten or fifteen minutes later.

When we arrived at the hospital, I saw my father on his cell phone outside the Emergency Room entrance, and in an overwhelming rush I knew that Grammy had died.  It seemed suddenly, blindingly clear – in a way that doesn’t really make sense in retrospect – that my Dad wouldn’t be outside for any other reason.

And though there were a million other reasons he could have gone outside to make that phone call, he hadn’t. She was gone.

What I remember next is meeting my mother outside a curtained exam room in the ER.  I remember my grandmother’s feet, the first thing I saw through the curtain, in socks to guard against the fall chill; I was the one who had found the socks and pulled them on while the EMTs talked to her.  I remember her bare legs, her nightgown unsettled from the doctors’ vain attempts to save her.  Her skin that was still warm.

And I remember the impotence of that moment – all that medicine and science could do, all our hopes and our love and our plans, our need for her presence, silenced by a blood clot caused by the chemo drugs that were meant to save (or at least prolong) her life.  There would be no do-over, no sense in pleading, no help, no hope but heaven, no way to call her back.  Gone.  Here, and then suddenly, irrevocably gone.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned what a great influence my grandmother has been on my life. This is generally true, but particularly so in my entertainment preferences (hence its relevance here).  In addition to baseball, variety shows and science fiction, Grammy loved romances and mysteries.  She adored lawyer shows, Perry Mason in particular, though Judging Amy was a more recent favorite.  So humble, so modest and unassuming that people who didn’t know her well thought of her as nice rather than smart, Grammy always knew who the killer was.  And so when The Good Wife premiered, and I became intoxicated with its blend of politics, the law, cleverly solved cases and a tortured romantic triangle, I felt an added level of connection because of my grandmother.  Had she been alive, I’ve always been sure she would have watched the show, and we would have talked about it every week.  Though there is no substitute for her presence, I fancy that I know how she would have reacted to a lot of it.  She would have loved Will, but she would have been adamantly Team Peter; I can see her shrugging, tossing up her hands, saying “I’m for marriage.”  In a small, strange way, talking about The Good Wife is talking to her, and even that tenuous link is inexpressibly precious to me.

So it’s no one’s fault, but I cannot spend three or four or five days mulling over this episode as I usually would.  I can’t point out the little valentines to Will that should have tipped me off that something bad was coming, but didn’t.  It’s too much to smile over Kalinda, finally getting back to solving cases.  I cannot think of Will’s foot sticking out of that ER curtain, Diane’s hand pressed over her mouth, Kalinda’s sobs, Will looking like and not like himself in that way that a dead body can never be mistaken for a sleeping human being.  I can barely type this much without my hands shaking. It took five months and the birth of my daughter (no more fear, no more pregnancy hormones) to stop the terrible crying jags that followed my grandmother’s death (in the car, in the shower, where ever I was alone), and I think of the still foot behind the curtain and I can’t go back.

I don’t say this because anyone owes me anything – certainly not because my deaths are more devastating than anyone else’s – or because I blame anyone for tapping into my personal demons this way.  That’s part of what good art does, after all. It makes us feel. Or, I don’t know, maybe I do blame them.  Maybe I’m mad that the Kings went somewhere so unutterably painful when they didn’t have to. After all, this is what they’ve avowed they were aiming for; the randomness of life, the finality of death, the big surprise so jealously guarded.  I won’t say that it isn’t moving, but I wonder what ultimate purpose it serves not merely to take Will out of the show’s equation but to suckerpunch us with his death.  With NPR’s Linda Holmes, I’d assert that killing off main characters for the shock value has become something of a trope these days.  When our big collective weep is over, what will be left?

After all, what was genuinely revolutionary about “Hitting the Fan” was that we got the Red Wedding without the bloodshed.  And after all, there aren’t that many Red Weddings in real life, but there are plenty of less bloody betrayals.  Instead of gore, we got real nuanced human interactions.  Instead of feeling sick, I was invigorated.  Instead of crying, I cheered.  Why is darkness suddenly the by-word for drama?  No, I don’t say that as a Pollyanna – I say that because this show has always lived in shades of gray, which made it infinitely more intriguing to me than a would-be gritty overwrought drama like Darkness at Noon.  Everyone wants to do the right thing – but the right thing according to what metric?  Good according to whom?  The complexity of the show’s usual debate feels more like real life than anything else on television.

Perhaps it’s too much to say that Will was the glue that held the show together. Leaving aside questions of the love triangle, and whether he and Alicia were or were not done with each other romantically, the fact is that he provided elements that the show – and the other characters – sorely lacked.  First of all, he’s funny.  In addition to many moments of brilliant intensity, there was an ease to his banter with Diane, Kalinda and (in the past) Alicia that cannot be replaced within the existing structure of the show.  Largely, The Good Wife relies on its recurring characters for its humor.  For the funny, we go to David Lee, we go to Howard Lyman, we got to Elsbeth Tascioni, Owen Cavanaugh, Veronica Loy, Patti Nyholm.  Of course Eli is often played for laughs, but that’s not the same thing the easy, clever repartee Will shared with so many of his colleagues.  Think about it, and you’ll see what I mean; Diane and Alicia and Kalinda, they’re not funny with each other.  They’re (almost exclusively) only funny with Will.  The audience laughed at Eli; the characters laughed with Will. And they were able to be funny together because of their long and complicated histories of trust and loyalty. No new actor or storyline can replace a history built into the show’s DNA, not merely the five seasons that have aired but the complicated backstories of the characters in the time before it.  As with death in real life, there are people you never get over.  There are families that drift apart without the one charismatic person that everyone talked to.

As we’ve discussed, The Good Wife has always been about Alicia Florrick looking to control her fate; brutally, “Dramatics, Your Honor” showed us what an illusion that control is, how laughable the notion that we get to decide what happens to us.  She has been able to exert a great deal of control in the professional sphere, providing for her family, mastering her work, becoming a partner, starting her own firm. Additionally, she’s stayed with Peter despite being mocked for it on national television, because neither Peter nor any one else was going to make her break her vows, too. Again, control.  She’s sought to wrest herself away from all those who would feed on her despair, who would steal her peace from her.  And she has learned how not to react to bullies, not merely by showing them a stony face but (as we saw in her deposition) by remaining genuinely unmoved by their machinations.  She’s learned to play the game, to hold her head up, to smile in the face of persecution; she’s a lioness now, a lamb no longer. In that way, she’s succeeded immensely – but there will always be things we cannot control, and the first of these things is death.

In “A Few Words” – which seems a million years ago now, a naive, happy past – Alicia told Rayna Hecht that she not only wants control, she wants to live a happy life.  In that personal dimension, she hasn’t made as much progress as she has professionally and politically.  And like it or not, it’s her ability to relate to the men in her life – and to admit and deal with her complicated feelings for them – where we’ve marked that unsteady progress. More than simply a love triangle in the conventional sense, Alicia’s interactions with both Will and Peter have been a sort of measuring stick of her emotional growth.  In all her success, Alicia has also been incredibly isolated.  She literally has no friends, not a single one. Though her kids are probably the most important people in her life, they could never occupy that same space.  They’re not her equals.  There’s only her brother, and he’s never there. Perhaps Will’s death will be just another challenge that forces Alicia to grow past stronger than she believed she was capable of – certainly that’s the intention – but it’s hard to see it as something other than a narrowing of her choices, a burden that makes her life colder and even more isolated, a defeat.

Of course, the cold, inescapable truth is that it doesn’t really matter what I think.  What’s gone is gone. Josh Charles had control over his participation in the show, not anyone else.  Robert and Michelle King had control over how he left it. Wish as I might that he had never wanted to leave, or that they’d chosen not to take this show into format-shattering territory, Will Gardner is gone, and with him, The Good Wife as we’ve known it.  Today it’s hard for me to separate mourning for him and for the show from the emotional muck it’s stirred up inside me, but I know that the show will be fundamentally different, darker, harder.  I fear that I won’t be able to look forward to it in the same way.  That my trust, my goodwill, is shattered.

And anyone who watches this show knows just how hard it is to rebuild trust.

26 comments on “The Good Wife: Dramatics, Your Honor – Take 2

  1. Kiki says:

    Thanks for sharing E! That was very nicely written and your story about your grandma melted my heart. I think about losing my grandma when I was a child and how hard that was for me. And I love that you see watching The Good Wife as a way to talk to your grandma, just beautiful

    I get your sentiment, I think the fact that it was so tragic, so senseless is what makes TGW feel so real. Why we relate to Alicia or Will or Diane. The fact that this is so upsetting is why it works, it needed to be so tragic and horrific. Josh was gone no matter what, the humor, was going to be gone if he died or didn’t die. So they decided to rock the whole plot, why? Because if Will leaves to NY, what does it do to Alicia? Diane and Kalinda? Nothing. Alicia just stays in her happy I got distance form Will land, Diane probably downsides and Kalinda probably quits. It does nothing for the show.However this out of nowhere lost, will bring them all together to grief this special person. Alicia will come out of this stronger, Diane will work harder in the name of Will, and Kalinda will stick around. It rocks every character. It allows a bound to form between Diane and Alicia again. It shakes the show up again in a way only death could do it. I am gonna miss Will a ton, but either way he was going to leave we were left with no choice. The Kings just try to make something out of it.

    (After two days, I hit the acceptance level of my grief)

    Thank you for putting these words together! I know it must have been hard! ❤

    • E says:

      Kiki, you are such a love for trying to cheer me up. 🙂 I really appreciate it. I’m getting there. I’m still gloomy, but I’m getting there.

      • Kiki says:

        I really hope you get there. Cause it really pains me to see you so sad. I mean if you stop reviewing what am I going to look forward too? 😦 HEHE!

        • E says:

          So it’s funny, because I feel pretty cool with it now – not happy, but not emotional – until I see stills online of Josh Charles’ smiling face and I kinda wanna smack him around. 😛

  2. Jo says:

    I’ve been thinking quite a lot about Will Garnder for the past two days (probably too much when I should focus on my dissertation, instead I wrote something of an essay on a fictional character, oh well ;)). I cried at the end, but the moment it happened I just laughed with incredulity. Couldn’t believe it. And after first gut wrenching feelings subsided, I realized that even if it wasn’t about Charles leaving, this decision makes sense in twofold manner: narratively and by speaking to the truth of Will’s character.

    I agree that Will was both the source of much humour and the one who linked everyone together, in a way an emotional centre of the show. He had the strongest relationships with the three leading women. Alicia was never close to Diane, neither was Kalinda, and Alicia/Kalinda friendship is gone. He actually was the glue of the show in that sense, but more than anything he was its heart. Will was the only person who was guided by his emotions amongst this rational crowd, by his instinct. That’s why he was so in love with Elsbeth who works in a similar way. He made stupid mistakes because of how passionate he was, how easy it was for him to snap from love to hate, that it was as likely for him to love someone as to hurt them. Whether it was about winning, pride or his love for Alicia, he was the only character who allowed himself to sacrifice safety for excitement and uncertainty, because Will loved risk. He had an addictive personality and he needed the high which came only from walking the line. Even his affair with Alicia was to some extent a game of Will against the world, against the odds, sometimes Alicia, and definietly against any rational thought.
    In that way Will was the most deceptively dynamic character on the show. Deceptively because he’d storm into the room, and sweep everyone up with his energy, quick wit and intelligence, but in the end he never really changed as a person. I’d say he wasn’t allowed to change for the sake of the narrative, as a placeholder for Alicia, but let’s just focus on the given text not on the meta-analysis of the show itself.
    He certainly had potential for change, as he visibly softened during the course of the show. When around Alicia he tried to be a better man, or maybe just reversed to what he used to be like when they were younger. And all of that cumulated in him taking the suspension and in flipping off that big internet client that Nyholm and Canning snapped from L/G at the end of season 3. That choice to pay for his sins led to the bankrupcy, which led to them treating their employees less fairly, which led to the fake partnerships, which led to the rebellion, which led to that kiss, which led to Alicia leaving, which led to Will’s entire life falling apart.
    So he learned the easy lesson: that his world didn’t allow for weakness, neither of morality, fairness, or trust. He closed himself off, and hardened even more than how he was when we met him at the beginning of the series. Even then he’s already broken something inside himself to get to the top, but this heartbreak and Alicia’s fall from the pedestal he always put her on, cemented his belief that he was better off alone.
    From the outside his life seems so sad and lonely, but I’d say that Will Gardner was as happy as a person with such restless personality could ever get. I don’t know if he’d ever find happiness in a ‘normal’ life, in forming a family. He might have missed the excitment, the highs his lawyer life gave him, or that illicity and passion of his affair with Alicia provided; or he might have allowed himself to open up, to appreciate the personal connections he gave up. It’s hard to tell, and Will died never getting to know the answer either, he was never even given the choice by his life ending just after he finally seemed to be getting over Alicia. From the moment we met him, he was wondering whether there was something more in life, but in the end he never found it.
    Alicia’s betrayal hurt so much because he believed that he built a family in Lockhart/Gardner, and realized that it was just business. That what he thought was his life, didn’t matter to others who shared it as much as it did to him. Or maybe it did, because he’ll never know that Alicia’s betrayal stemmed from love not indifference, that it was too much emotion that broke them not not enough.

    But I think that he died happy, in a way his last day was a return of Will Gardner of the first season. He might not have that much to live for, but what he had he enjoyed to the fullness. He had a certain joi de vivre, the excitment he felt when working on a case was just palpable, and that’s one of the things I’ll miss the most. Noone has such flair when in court, this grin when they get the better of their opponent, it always made me smile when i was watching the show.
    In a way Will Gardner’s role was not to find his own happiness, but to help others find their way. Both in the narrative, and in his life as a character. With Diane they built a home which changed lives of hundreds of people. Amongst them most fundamentally of course Alicia, but also Kalinda, and every one of his employees could live their lives thanks to the opportunities he provided. As misguided and lost as Will himself was for the better part of his far too short life, he brought a lot of joy to others’ lives and influenced so many people. Just like in his last trial, he clearly cared about the kid, but he also worked to win, and for the enjoyment of the case. And in his death he’ll change everything around him once more because of what a full-of-life character he was, and how large a vaccum him being gone is going to leave. A Will-Garnder-shaped hole in all those hearts.

    Now to focus on dry narrative, the show did get kind of lost in the love triangle, I found myself guilty of focusing too much on that part far too often. It was suffocating Alicia as an independent person. The viewers were invested so much in her relationships, and it was painful to watch ‘shipper wars’ for a show which went that much deeper. In the end even Alicia became obsessed with Will. Hallucinating, or trembling.with need for someone is not a normal reaction 😉 Both Peter and Will were idealised or villainized by many viewers to the detriment of the complexity of the characters, and much of it I think came from the feeling that it had to be one or the other. But most of all, Alicia suffered for it. She was treated as a stand-in for people’s expectations not a full-fledged character, and judged for being ‘a doormat’ for remaining with Peter or ‘cheating’ on Peter with Will. In a way I feel relieved for Alicia. Now she’s allowed to make her own choice, because leaving Peter for another man would be taken by some as ultimate betrayal of what the show was supposed to stand for – the somehow misguided Good Wife title. But leaving for her own self-empowerment? Noone can blame her for that, or so I hope.

    Kings are well aware of how fundamental Will was in Alicia’s life and if he left without dying, everyone would still be sure that he’d show up in the final episode. Then the show would lose something. It would end up being just a ‘filler’ until the final moment, that final decision, and the whole premise shrinked to Alicia’s choice of men. Now Alicia’s freed, just as Will felt alive when she left and severed their ties, no matter how much it hurt in the process. At the same time I really feel for her because she’ll never be able to get over him completely, because she’ll never get closure. I can’t believe that they NEVER had an honest conversation about their feelings. That’s really heart-breaking. He’ll always remain in her heart, and the final scene convinced me that if Will stayed on the show, soon enough they’d end up making out in some darkened room again. The attraction between them was too strong, but the tragedy of their bad timing made it impossible to ever work out, and I’m ok with that. While I’d love for Will to have a happy ending, it wouldn’t feel true to such a fundamentally tragic and melancholy character. At the same time in his last moments Will was laughing after having solved a case, and that’s for me the quintessence of his character and a fitting end indeed.

    I’ll miss both Will Gardner and Charles’ acting, but I feel like the show has a potential to be elevated through his death. It’ll never be the same, but I think it might finally find its greatness, and I hope that Alicia will too. .

    I’m sorry to hear that the episode has hit you so hard 😦 I understand that, because it reminded me too much of my loss of loved ones too, but I hope that you’ll find some sort of catharsis through this fictional death as well. I know I did 🙂
    Now let’s raise a glass of some good old scotch to Will Gardner lawyer extraordinaire, I hope that wherever he went, they won’t have only beer on the menu 🙂 The show we knew died with him, but long live the new show!

    • E says:

      Jo, that was beautiful. Thank you.

      • Jo says:

        No, thank you, for providing a place to discuss this great show with like-minded and intelligent people. That’s so rare to find on the internet wasteland so I’m really happy that I stumbled upon your blog and have somewhere to air my thoughts. The only other site I can read comments on and participate in discussion is AVClub, the rest is just full of, well, stupidity and plain meanness.
        I found I really needed to write something down, because I’ve never been so affected by a TV show before. Granted I never got that invested before and I don’t watch a lot of TV, and I even cut on some shows because they felt so artificial compared to TGW 😉
        Also how moving was it to watch all the fans rallying on twitter and in comment sections, and every newspaper writing about Will’s death? He got more love at the moment of his death than ever before, and I think that it had a lot to do with the fact that people were finally able to appreciate the character without worriyng all the time about his suitability as a romantic interest.

        • E says:

          You know, I almost never read what other people write about TGW – I want to give my own view, uncolored. Sometimes when I’m finished I’ll look around, but mostly I’m too busy talking to you guys and trying to pick my life up where it left off. 😉 And I won’t lie, after Sunday I felt like a patsy, caring too much and spending way too much time on something so ephemeral as a television show that could just yank the rug out from under me like that.

          When my siblings and I started this blog, my brother M pitched it as a sort of resume builder for me. C – a grad student like you – went apoplectic when she realized how long these recaps are. (“You mean 1,400 words, not 14,000, right?”) She pointed out that I was writing a book’s worth of material every 3-4 weeks (only without the original content). Mr. E is fond of saying that what I do with TGW isn’t particularly marketable; it’s such a close reading, and it’s so preposterously long it’s just far more that lots of people want. I’m sure he’s right, that I’ve only been tilting at windmills. But what does make me happy that I do this is the level of discussion here, and the fact that people are so insightful and respectful at the same time. When I started the first season, what I wrote was much more conventionally structured (and probably better written) – and no one wrote in. Getting to hear what you and other readers think has been tremendously exciting and rewarding for me. And if that doesn’t end up being an impressive mark on a resume (comment moderator!), I still will have done something.

          Not that it’s all about me. It isn’t. Gah, this whole thing has made me waaaaay too emotional.

          • Jo says:

            I know, I feel just as silly for having it affect me this way, especially when I had to explain to my worried flatmates why am I sobbing. However I think that was the moment when TGW changed for me from simply an interesting TV show into art. And I’m a firm believer that when art touches you so deeply you should let yourself feel it, and then try to understand why it did, because it’ll always give you some insight into yourself. If it forces some kind of creative output as well then even better (maybe I’m biased cause I’m an art history student ;p Oh and I’m undergraduate actually, though I’m not sure whether it means the same as graduate in the US? I’m studying at a uni in UK). I’m not saying that Will’s death changed my life or anything, but it made me think a little more deeply about this story and life in general, and I think that’s powerful enough. It was meant to leave a mark, and if it does then something went right.

            Yeah, I can’t imagine the amount of work yout put into it every week. However it has to be a great writing practice as well, especially with such a well-written show, and I think that it gives you a unique perspective. Whether you want to or not, you kind of ‘have’ to focus on every aspect of the show and in this way you dig a little more deeply, or at least in every direction an episode takes… Does that make sense?
            I know I really appreciate your work, and love your style of writing. But I can see how your reviews cen be much too detailed for some people, I often have to take an hour to read them while watching fragments of the show 😉 At the same time their length kind of ‘weeds out’ those who just wanted to write in to add that ‘Will sucks’ or ‘Alicia is a bitch’, and really invites a more thorough discussion, and I think that you should be proud of creating such a thoughtful community.

            I don’t know if you want to hear my opinion on this, but to reel people in you might try to mix up the format a bit. Just by adding screencaps for example which would certainly add to the readership, just because people like shiny things, but also by introducing a bit more of a structure. For example I only started reading a few months ago, so I never went back to all the old recaps – as you said their word length is kind of overwhelming – but there are moments when I would love to read your opinion on just one scene, and some kind of indication where in the episode the recap is would be helpful. Such paragraph titles could be used like a sort of a table of contents, and catch attention of those with a shorter attention span, which is probably a majority of online readers. It would allow everyone to find the fragment they’re most interested in, and then knowing your take on it, discuss it in the comments, without having to read a very long review. Not that I don’t read it 😉 but it’s just an idea if you’re thinking about inviting those who don’t have that kind of interest or time to spare for the show. Also that could prove to be an interesting exercise for you as a writer, it could give you a kind of insight into how The Good Wife is broken down each episode, because your scope of recapping the whole episode this way is quite unique. Actually I don’t think I ever read such detailed reviews before. But now I’m starting to think like an academic and trying to come up with some sort of theses for you, sorry. Anyway these are just my five cents, sorry if that felt unnecessary.

            • E says:

              No worries! I actually love the idea of screen caps as chapter headings – sometimes I’ll be looking for something specific in a previous episode’s recap and it takes an age. I’ll have to see if that’s feasible. I do think the length of these recaps weeds out the less serious fans, but still, it’s always good to look at your process with an eye toward improvement.

              I’m sorry, it was your mention of a dissertation that made me assume you were a graduate student. Undergraduates in the US might write a thesis, depending on their discipline; masters students as well. Doctoral students write dissertations.

    • E says:

      That’s the best apologetics I’ve seen for this decision, honestly, as well as a beautiful eulogy for Will.

    • Honestly, you are my soulmate. I couldn’t have said it better myself you describe my exact feelings.

    • Rachel says:

      What brilliant analysis of Will as a character! You put everything I loved about him into words I couldn’t find.

  3. Rachel says:

    Firstly, thank you for sharing that personal a story with us and for posting your immediate thoughts on this episode prior to this recap.

    Luckily, I haven’t lost any close loved ones but what I am experiencing right now feels like how it would be. I simply never, ever, imagined Will Gardner ending up this way. As you said, I invested years in him and his relationships, not just with Alicia, but with Diane and Kalinda too. Other shows have upset me with deaths over the years – ER, The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones but death was/is a part of all those shows. I guess that’s why I was so stunned by this development, I didn’t expect it. Spoiler-free, I was the most shocked I’ve ever been by an onscreen death. Usually, I’d tear up if a favourite of mine died but in this instance, I just felt numb.

    I hold nothing against JC for leaving. He’s newly married and obviously, as an actor, he would like time to spend with his wife and role variety (the schedule seems gruelling, given what other actors have said in the past). I don’t blame the Kings either. They wrote what was probably the strongest exit in terms of drama. However, you did raise a good point about their original five year plan. It’s rare for a show to hit it’s stride five years in but it would also have been brave of them to go out strong. I only hope this instance has reminded them that actors may want to leave etc, things happen that alter your vision so it’s best to work with an end date in mind.

    Another great point you made was about Will’s dynamic being original on the show and how that levity isn’t there in his absence. Yes, TGW excels at comedy but Will was also a very human character. I don’t see anyone else who has that AND a history with the characters, as well.

    I don’t know what to think. I’m excited about the rest of the season, about the prospect of a thawing in Alicia’s relationship with Kalinda, about Diane running LG the way she’d like, about Canning’s return…But I also feel robbed of the chance to ever see Willicia giving it a real go, of Will and Diane drinking or dancing or debating the direction of Lockhart Gardner, of him facing off against Judge Kuhn again, of his passionate, morally grey style of law…

    (This post was quite rambling and inarticulate but hey, I’m still coping!)

    • E says:

      Hey, sorry not to respond to this comment and only your other one! Bracing myself for tonight. I feel reasonably composed now but who the heck knows how I’ll feel in an hour…

  4. Rachel says:

    I do think it was a very real feeling death (the way Will’s shoe was off, how it came on an average day, there were no last words, no prophetic moment of ‘knowing’, the confusion at the hospital), especially the way we experienced it via Kalinda and Diane. I loved how they both rushed to Will and later how they both thought of Alicia first.

    I’m also heartbroken by the randomness of it, of the fact Will will never know how Alicia really felt, that his only real joy in life was work, how he died doing his job. 😥

    • E says:

      Indeed. I keep going back to the King’s letter (I should just go by what Jo’s said instead, it’s so much better) and it’s frustrating. I think what bothers me the most is the whole “they had bad timing” narrative. First of all, it’s disingenuous coming from the people who WRITE their timing. Like it can’t be helped, it’s just how some things happen. Oh well! And second, it really implies that nothing that happened between Will and Alicia was within their control, which I don’t think is a complete view of the situation.

      And then to say that their relationship just died off because there was no where to go? If there’s bad timing there, it’s that Alicia wasn’t able to have an emotional relationship, only a sexual one. It was progress for her for sure to feel something, anything after what Peter’s scandal did to her confidence, but it wasn’t a real relationship that just didn’t work. It didn’t work because she chose not to commit to it emotionally. I just don’t know how anyone can say that Will and Alicia got their chance, that the relationship was played out.

      The same is true with Peter, of course. I don’t feel like she’s being open with him either, despite agreeing to a re-commitment ceremony. Why isn’t she living with Peter now? Come on, it’s crazy that she wouldn’t be if she’s as ready as she said. The whole deal with Alicia is that she can’t commit, that she won’t make choices. So the idea that Will’s death is going to cause her to finally, finally deal with her feelings for Will only when she can’t do anything about them? UGH. So painful.

    • E says:

      Do you think it counts that Owen told Will that Alicia left to get away from him?

      One thing that feels so poignant about the episode is that we finally found out that Hunter Parish was actually innocent, Will was about to prove it – and now, nothing. And, of course, that it could have been Alicia in that courtroom, if she’d taken the case (which would have been the more typical thing for her to do). I’m curious to see whether there’s going to be survivor’s guilt (orjust plain guilt) mixed in with everything else’s she’s feeling.

  5. Kate says:

    I love all of the discussion here … it really helps with my understanding of the last two episodes! I’m over the shock of Will’s death now and i’m left feeling incredibly sad. while i respect and understand JC’s decision to leave and the writers’ decision to kill him off (and I agree that his death leads to better storytelling possibilities, at least in the short term) I am sorry and frustrated that Alicia and Will never had the chance to have an honest conversation about their relationship (but I guess that is what the writers wanted!) I’m sorry that they couldn’t be good friends again.

    E – I agree that their relationship was not played out (despite the writers insisting that they would be covering old ground by bringing them together again). I always felt short-changed by the little time W and A did have together in season 3 (flash backs can only do so much). I actually felt quite betrayed and manipulated by the writers during season 3. I felt like they didn’t know what to do with A and W together (or how to fit them into the show whilst keeping Peter as a viable option for A) so they denied everything they’d spent building up over the first two seasons (and they did this by having A deny her feelings for W – which never rang true to me).

    Now I suspect that the writers are going to have Alicia mourn Will so deeply that we’ll wonder why on earth she spent so much energy getting away from him (more inconsistencies? or is it just life at its complicated best?) I guess I feel somewhat manipulated again! It is “easy” to have Alicia admit her love for Will now that he is dead and no longer a possibility. I guess my hope for Alicia is that she will revisit past choices she made and that she will grow and learn from her experiences… and that she really will start work towards the pursuit of happiness for herself.

  6. AWJ says:

    First, I would like to say that I am so happy to discover that I was not the only one put off by this episode. It felt funny to feel what I felt knowing it was just a show. The reason for it was that the Show touched me so deeply and I can honestly say that I love it and it is true entertainment for me. I have noone to share my feelings with and it is easier to read that other people feel what I feel right now and that is real sadness. All those feeling are making me feel funny because it is just a show and Will is not the real person.
    I was really looking forward to every episode, enjoyed them more less all a lot and it made my life nicer (not that I have bad life – I am a mathematician in early forties, married with three children).
    I fell in love with the show right at the beginning. It was blessed with great cast and excellent writing who were doing great job. I am using past tense on purpose. One can argue that this episode was an excellent writing too, and yes, Josh is entitled to live his life the way he wants to, though it is interesting that he is very vague about the reasons why he did it. Ok, he got married, that must be one reason, but I seriously doubt that he will ever get a chance like this again. No offence, but stars must collide for him to be on right place at right time. I remember similar thing happened to The X files and Northern Exposure which I both loved almost as much as The Good Wife, and they both did not survive main actors’ decision to leave. But maybe their writers were not as good.
    I am mad at Kings to as I have the feeling that this is their revenge to Josh to make sure his decision is final and to punish him for his decision. But I think it is all the same to him and it was us fans that took the blow and maybe the rest of the cast too cause the show’s life is definetely shortened. Off course, they are all handling it nicely, using superlatives for each other, but I think there must have been strong words between them.
    I am inclined still to give this show a chance as I loved it so much. I can’t imagine that I will feel something like this again for another show cause shows like these are so rare – it had everything I longed for and now it does not. It could have lasted for 20 years and now it will not. It will lose some fans, I am sure of it. Seems to me that Kings knew it, and had accepted it. I am only sorry for the rest of the cast who did not have anything to say. They can just hope that it will survive.
    I apologize for my English as it is not my native language.

    • Jo says:

      I don’t think he’s been cagey about his reasons to leave. He never played a character for so long, he wanted to start a family, and the story seemed to be going full circle with the love triangle reigniting. I can understand him wanting to leave, even without any behind-the-scenes shenanigans. They seem to be ok with each other, and everyone’s saying they hope he’ll come back to direct next season, so it seems to have been a friendly break-up 😉
      The truth is that Josh never got much recognition until he left the show (in a way critics were like Alicia ;p). Suddenly he’s being called the main lead, when before he was just part of the ensemble. That might have be one reason.
      Another thing is that Will had to be an ungrateful character to play. Because, while he was always pivotal to the show, he was primarily defined by his love of Alicia. Will didn’t get much development as a character, and what he did get was illusionary with the stories never bearing any fruit in the long run. All his girlfriends would just suddenly vanish because he couldn’t fall for anyone else, or the suspension couldn’t amount to anything because he had to return to the firm. Will had to be kept ‘intact’ for Alicia and I can understand how a character unable to move on in any way, might make an actor feel suffocated in the role after four years.
      Plus I read an interview with Baranski a few days ago. She said that Josh told her about his plans to leave at the end of season 4. However she was hoping that he’d change his mind after he got so much attention from the press, and the award nominations this season. So she was actually pretty stunned when he still decided to leave. I wonder now, whether they wrote for him all these juicy parts this season to convince him to stay. If that’s the case then I actually admire him more for sticking to his decision. Because it meant that it wasn’t just a ‘diva’ move for more attention, but a genuine need for change.

      So while I get what you’re feeling, I was kind of disappointed with him as well at first, now I think it was a brave thing to do. I’d rather have him move on, and bring in his wake a kind of renaissance to the show, than stay unhappy, begin phoning in performances and have the show die out with a whimper. Him leaving allowed the writers to try out the most explosive solutions, because they probably felt they didn’t have anything to lose. Imagine if we got season 5 of the same quality like the beginning of season 4, it’d most probably mean the end of the show this season.

      I’m just really looking forward to what he’ll do next. He’s got more attention recently than ever before. I checked his IMDB page yesterday and while he was in the first 5000 just few months ago, now he’s 66th! That’s kind of an amazing jump, though surely fleeting. Already the buzz around him is dying down, so now the question is whether he’ll be able to capitalize on this sudden fame. I hope so, because he’s an amazing actor, and if given a chance he’ll surely make us love him in another role 🙂

      • E says:

        Hey Jo!

        I agree with you, I don’t think it’s a diva move on Josh Charles’ part. It’s funny when you think about it, because it feels like something Will might have done – chuck it all for love. I think you’re so right, however; no one really appreciated how integral Josh was to the show until he left. The critics hadn’t, at least, although the amazing material and his amazing performance throughout this season had already done a lot to change that. I will be super curious when it comes to the awards season where his agent decides to campaign him, in lead or supporting (where he’s been before) – although that has as much to do with strategy as it does the actual status of the performance. Which is to say, he might be able to win some supporting trophies this year, but in lead he’d be up against award hog Bryan Cranston for the last season of Breaking Bad.

        So I really doubt that I’ll ever consider it a good thing, but I can appreciate the way they’re making lemons out of lemonade. 🙂 And for sure it’s produced far better writing than we got in much of last season! Normally I feel like a fixed end date does that, although normally that’s the end of a series and not the end of a character. I feel like American shows go on too long and get lost trying to prolong their original framework while just sort of constantly trying to avoid the axe.

        I too will be curious to see what Josh does next. For an actor, he’s had a pretty long lived career – success with Dead Poet’s Society, then Sports Night and now The Good Wife. He’s proved he can do comedy (at least a certain kind) and drama on two highly acclaimed television shows. It sounds unlikely that he’d want to return to television, but perhaps he’ll have more luck on a few films on in theater? That might be a more family friendly alternative.

        I think “ungrateful character” is a really interesting and apt way to describe Will. I’m glad he got to go out on such a high note.

        Gah, I really hate saying that. I hate that it’s this fact of life we can now canvas so coolly.

    • E says:

      AWJ, don’t worry at all about your English, it was just fine. Thanks for writing in! Though I am starting to be reconciled to what’s happened, it’s still very, very upsetting. I’m sure it will lose fans – especially right after it aired I saw probably half the people writing in to message boards saying they wouldn’t watch anymore.

      And yes – this show is simply in another category from anything else I watch on television. The writing is so impressive, the characters are so fully realized. It’s amazing how many ideas they can cramp so expertly into 43 minutes. And yes; I don’t know if long term it will ever recover the balance that it had with Josh Charles as part of the cast, or if we will ever feel anything but cheated that he’s gone.

      That said, I understand that the lead cast spends incredibly long hours on the show for at least 9 months of the year, and while I am sort of furious that the desires of one person can wreck the artistic product of some 200 cast and crew members (not to mention the efforts of lots of network and marketing people) and the viewing experience of millions of fans, that’s just what it is. It sucks, but it’s a fact of life. He has the right to want to start a family, to spend time with his new wife; I’m sure lots of people involved with the show were very upset about it, but probably by now they’ve had time to deal with it. Given that he was going to leave, I think you can make a strong case for the way the Kings wrote him out. I don’t think it was vengeful. If he truly wanted to leave and never ever come back, then this is the only way for him to do it – otherwise, we (and Alicia) would always know he was out there. We’d be waiting for him to charge back in on his white horse.

      I am really, really going to miss him, though.

  7. […] there’ s Will.  I wrote after Dramatics Your Honor that the show could be terribly unbalanced, even crippled, without him.  So far, I’d say the […]

  8. Erf says:

    I am a late-comer to the show and this episode has left me distraught. Since everyone has (understandably) moved on from The Good Wife, there is nobody, online or in real life, to commiserate with. But reading your thoughts has helped immensely. Did you ever get around to watching the last episode of the series? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on it 🙂

    • E says:

      I still haven’t watched the last two! My husband keeps snarking about how they’ve been sitting on the dvr for 2 years. I don’t even know what my problem is any more.

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