[Spoilers follow for the series finale.]
The thing to miss most about “The Good Wife” is the way Julianna Margulies giggles. Multiple times a season, Alicia Florrick would be confronted by some huge news or some ridiculous lie, and her instinctual response would be that sharp little laugh — human and charming and just what any of us would do, when told about some potential scandal or that her husband was going to run for President.
We’ll miss more than that, following the show’s series finale — while there’s not a shortage of premium drama for viewers, there’s a lot that “The Good Wife” executed, 22 episodes a year, that we may frankly never see again.
As NPR’s Linda Holmes posited about two weeks ago: “Here’s a question: Will THE GOOD WIFE be the last drama ever nominated for a series Emmy for a 20-plus-episode season?” It’s a legitimate query, one that speaks to how special this show was on a week-to-week basis.
The singular thing about “The Good Wife” was how grown-up it was. And not in a “Red Shoe Diaries” way, but in a way similar to when, in your 20s, you start interacting with your parents as a peer. For me personally, that moment was transformative, because it unlocked this whole secret garden of life, where age did offer a cushion, but didn’t make anyone more or less flawed. Mistakes can be made by everyone, knowingly and otherwise, regardless of your knowledge and experience. And not just mistakes, but deliberate criminal pursuits. Everyone is fallible and flawed. And to its very end, “The Good Wife” acknowledged this.
It was also incredibly smart about not just the way technology has changed our lives, but how to depict it on screen. When “Good Wife” brought up Snowden, it never felt like we were listening to our parents trying to be cool — the show understood our modern wold on a level more sophisticated than we ever deserved. And it led to some great intelligent television.
That said, viewers are not happy right now, having watched the last episode. And yes, the finale did lack the sort of iconic moment that you look for, with a show that’s lasted so long and with so much recognition. CBS has released a video interview with the Kings explaining what they were leaning towards with the choices they made. On the one hand, it is nice to get the additional insight. On the other hand, the fact that anytime you have to have creators explain their choices means that the creators clearly haven’t effectively communicated said choices, And also, from the cheap seats, that finale didn’t feel like a true ending.
Well, except for the fact that that Josh Charles returned for a few post-mortem scenes that were the real reason to watch this episode — he’s only been gone a little while, but he’s still very much missed. And by basically confirming that Alicia and Will Gardner were the real and true love story of the series, as the finale did, it also confirmed the show’s very adult ethos.
Love can be magical, love can change people. But love is also a construct. Wh actually clarifies why legal dramas are so compelling to us on our couches; it’s not just that love can overwhelm a person’s good judgement, but how strict regulations can affect our perception of each other. Put someone on the stand, see how they react. See if they’re honest. Acknowledge the idea that people lie, sometimes. Acknowledge the fact that sometimes people lie a lot.
That was something “The Good Wife” always did a nice job of holding onto — a super-realist take on the world through the eyes of lawyers. The finale didn’t lie to us, didn’t try to paint Alicia as anything other than striving, however you choose to interpret that word. It left a lot up in the air. It could have kept going. But it makes me feel very adult, to accept that conclusion as it is. And that’s honestly the thing I liked most about the show. Not that it was grown-up, but that it treated us viewers like we were.
Coming soon from CBS and the Kings…