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Is "The Good Wife's" Kalinda Sharma Network Television's First Major Bisexual Sadomasochistic Character?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 8, 2012 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 8, 2012 |

Through three seasons of CBS’s “The Good Wife,” the firm’s investigator, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) has always been a sexually provocative character. She’s reserved, steely, emotionally unavailable, and unbelievably sexy. Much of Sharma’s sexual appeal, however, has centered on the mystery surrounding the character. Early on, there was some question about Kalinda’s gender preferences, but that mystery was eventually solved. She likes sex, and the gender of the character seems almost irrelevant.


But Kalinda likes more than the act of sex. Kalinda uses sex as a weapon, and it doesn’t seem to really matter if she likes the person she’s sleeping with. She gets off on hurting people with sex; on lording it over characters; and on using it to manipulate them. She’ll even use it as an interrogation technique, as she did in the scene from which this GIF derived.


As interrogation techniques go, using her sexual appeal is powerfully effective: “Give me what I want, and I will finish f**king you. Maybe.”

However, Kalinda’s character has taken a weird turn this season, now that her estranged husband (Marc Warren) has returned from prison, seeking to reconnect. It’s hard to say whether Kalinda’s sexual dysfunction started with that abusive relationship or whether it was simply another product of Kalinda’s sexual psychosis. What’s for certain is that it’s transformed Kalinda from sexual huntress to something else, something perhaps more insidious or evil or tortured or emotionally damaged or not quite right in the head. I don’t know what to think of it, but it has become increasingly unsettling.

Last week, for instance, Kalinda and her husband beat the crap out of each other in an elevator in a scene that felt like extended foreplay.


This week, Kalinda expressed to Alicia that she’s trying to discourage her husband from establishing roots in Chicago while noting that he’s dangerous, but maybe not dangerous. Maybe he’s only dangerous to her.

There was also this scene, which CBS censors nearly nixed:


Then, later in the episode, Kalinda arrived at her apartment only to find that her husband was waiting with a gun pointed at her. He seems to want to use the threat of death to force Kalinda into loving him. Kalinda ignored the gun, but when the husband got angry, punched a mirror, and busted open his hand, Kalinda was quick to console and nurse him. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the entire episode led to a disturbing marathon f*ck session.

It’s a fascinating relationship to explore (never mind that it’s become almost tangential to the rest of the show), but it’s also a troubling one. What are the writers driving at, and where is this relationship headed? For people like Kalinda and her estranged husband, there is no happy ending. There is only a cycle of abuse until someone breaks it or gets killed. What’s particularly unsettling — and even daring — about it, especially for a network television program, is that the writers are eager to sexualize the abusive relationship. Are they doing that to make it seem more real, or is it all part of “The Good Wife’s” overt sensuality? It’s another compelling layer in an already complex network drama, but I am concerned that this layer may cause irreparable damage to the character. Do we really want to uncover the mystery surrounding Kalinda? It’s become increasingly likely that we won’t like what we find underneath.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.