Any regular viewer of “The Good Wife” knows that CBS makes you work for it. Between the football overruns and fortnight-worth gaps between episodes, there’s an unending frustration that comes with waiting episode-to-episode. Seeing as I don’t keep my irritation with CBS to myself, I get asked a lot, “Why not just binge the whole season when it’s done?”
“The Good Wife” exceeds most every other hourlong series on the air right now in terms of scope and pacing. The legal drama always seems to be juggling at least a half-dozen ongoing arcs while also sticking (well, less-so now) to a case-of-the-week format. I’ve fallen victim to the easiness and breathlessness of binge-watching more than I’d like, without question. But in that regard, “The Good Wife” is always, blessedly exceptional. The show churns out episodes so thick in terms of content and theme that once an installment has concluded, a week of chewing on its latest political and legal machinations only adds to the experience.
Showrunners Robert and Michelle King have steadily, over five-and-a-half seasons, grown in confidence — their storytelling methods have become dizzyingly quick and impressively focused. As such, even at a hefty 22 episodes per season, each installment of “The Good Wife” holds a special influence and power, as the Twitter-verse instantaneously catches the latest Alicia Florrick power play or David Lee-ism. Like a hot cable series or a soapy broadcast drama, “The Good Wife” manages to gather its loyal watchers week-to-week.
For fans who have waited (im)patiently for the last month-and-a-half, March 1 cannot come fast enough. Football is over, and CBS is finally allowing us a little consistency: “The Good Wife” will close out its sixth season on seven consecutive Sundays, beginning with an episode that will bring back everyone’s favorite wife-killer, Colin Sweeney (the incomparable Dylan Baker), as well as some characteristic campaign shenanigans. Read on for what every “Good Wife” super-fan should be looking out for as the season’s final act approaches.
The Outcome of the State’s Attorney Race
Year by year, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) descends a little lower in the moral abyss that is the legal/political realm. With each season comes a greater frequency of compromises, a sharper juxtaposition of the law and morality and an increased blurring of the line between right and wrong.
This season has been framed around Alicia’s own political campaign, following in her husband’s footsteps by running for Cook County State’s Attorney. But there’s a silent undercurrent to the arc, which has established a damning, winless underpinning to Alicia’s political future: Her entire operation is bankrolled by Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter), the drug kingpin whose business interests she has long represented. After five years of isolated, mysterious appearances from Colter, Bishop has become a central character in the sixth season — with an increased presence, Colter has unveiled the murderous, dangerous man who allowed Alicia to start her own firm and eventually run for office.
It’s no accident that in the same season that Alicia has decided to run for office, Bishop has been fleshed out as the kind of man Alicia refused to acknowledge existed. Initially, she represented his “business” interests: he was, simply, a loving father in need of representation like anybody else. These justifications aren’t so simple anymore, as Alicia has accepted the money and is now engaged in a tight race with political commentator Frank Prady (David Hyde Pierce). Exactly how this house of cards will fall is unclear. But given Alicia’s central role in the tangled web of relationships that drives “The Good Wife,” whether she wins or loses, things should get deliciously murky.
Ever since that horribly misguided decision to bring Kalinda’s ex-husband into the fold, Archie Panjabi hasn’t been given a whole lot to do in “The Good Wife.” This season, Kalinda has been tasked with weighing her profound intimacy issues against her affection for Cary (Matt Czuchry), with whom she’s finally formed a romantic relationship. But otherwise, the fan favorite has been mostly in the background of a season driven by dense serial plots.
Panjabi and the Kings have confirmed that this is Kalinda’s last season on the show, and with time to plan an adequate exit for the character, it’s worth speculating exactly how she’ll be written out. In particular, it’ll be interesting to see how much time the show dedicates to the shattered relationship between Kalinda and Alicia. Admirably, the Kings have kept them apart and avoided an easy reconciliation, demonstrating just how deeply Kalinda’s past betrayal hurt Alicia. Even as it’s barely even mentioned at this point, it remains an intrinsic part of “The Good Wife”‘s narrative progression, and a major moment in regard to Alicia’s loss of innocence.
But Kalinda also has ties with Cary and Diane (Christine Baranski), not to mention dozens of recurring “Good Wife” characters. It’ll be sad to see her go, but hopefully the Kings can mine some poignant drama out of her closing arc.
How the Firm Will Shake Out
We last left “The Good Wife” with Cary and Diane sort-of, kind-of pushing Alicia out of the inner-circle. And it made sense: Alicia’s heart and brain are set on her campaign right now, and with things in flux (as ever; this is “The Good Wife,” after all), someone else needed to step up. Although, to be fair to Alicia, nobody wants to be out of the loop when it comes to re-hiring David Lee (Zach Grenier).
Shakeups as to which characters will end up where, and who will double-cross who, have long been the bread and butter of “The Good Wife.” And no doubt, these last seven episodes will feature a healthy amount of power plays and sneaky scheming. David Lee is back! Diane is on top again! And Louis Canning (Michael J. Fox) — though abandoned by his equally slimy cohort — is returning to “The Good Wife” for at least a couple more episodes.
Of course, this question is, in part, dependent on whether or not Alicia wins the election, and how the firm lands should indicate where “The Good Wife” is headed thematically. Alicia’s rise to power has been bumpy but consistent, and given that “The Good Wife” is likely in its penultimate season, that trend should keep up for a little while longer.
It’s been endlessly fascinating to watch what Alicia does with her ascension, and how it transforms her. A decent chunk of this season has been dedicated to Alicia struggling to verbalize why, exactly, she wants to be State’s Attorney. Last season, it was about the law: as she immersed herself in it more deeply, she understood her place in it less and less. It’s fun to watch supporting “Good Wife” characters bounce around, but what about Alicia? She seems hopelessly distant, her conscience increasingly displaced. Where she lands at this season’s end will be a crucial moment for our titular (anti?) heroine.
Time to get a little mushy. The trailer for the upcoming “Good Wife” episodes teases Alicia in bed with… someone? Also, Gary Cole is set to return as Diane’s Sarah Palin-loving husband Kurt (and according to CBS, there will be trouble in paradise). And we know Kalinda is leaving the show, just as she’s finally trying out real, monogamous romance with Cary. Yes, things are set to be steamy, conflict-ridden and likely a little heartbreaking in this run of seven episodes.
Alicia is all over the place right now. She kissed her campaign manager (Steven Pasquale), which could complicate her campaign for obvious reasons (but will allow for more side commentary from Sarah Steele’s Marissa Gold, which is never a bad thing). She’s wrestling feelings for Finn (Matthew Goode), which is not-so-discretely connected to her lingering feelings for the late Will (you remain missed, Josh Charles). And, oh yeah, she’s also still married: after years of contending with faded romantic feelings, the Florrick marriage is now a purely political partnership.
Will Kalinda and Cary end in tragedy? Will Alicia make a move with Finn? How will Diane have to weigh her professional and personal commitments as they, once again, converge? Lots of romance-related questions to be answered as “The Good Wife” returns — here’s to hoping that Alicia, at the very least, gives in to her impulses just a little bit.
“The Good Wife” often saves the best for last, from an Alicia/Will elevator kiss in season two to a David Lee/Louis Canning mutiny one year ago. Where are the Kings headed this year? Speculate with us!