I don’t know who’s more nonplussed, them or the viewing audience.
I mean, it should have said goodbye a looooong time ago. Most of us did when Will Gardner died. The second that happened, every relationship, every stake, every power dynamic shifted irrevocably. It was the single biggest miscalculation of any show in modern television history and it has left us with a smoldering, empty husk where there was once joy and intelligence and radiance.
I’m talking about the show, not Alicia Florrick.
Okay, deep breath. Deep breath. Come at this from a place of love.
Remember how good it used to be? Remember those steamy moments? When Kalinda was a really good investigator instead of just someone who sexed everyone up? Remember the Colin Sweeney trial? Or how incorrigible and mysterious Peter was before he became just a complete philandering fraud? Remember when Diane seemed to stand for something? Or Louis Canning was interesting? Or the Elsbeth Tascioni days before she was just a caricature, or for that matter Eli? Even though Lemond Bishop amounted to less than nothing, remember how hot he was? Remember the days when Jackie and Howard were set dressing that didn’t command subplots? Remember when Gary Cole wasn’t the single most wasted actor on network television? Remember Season 4, Episode 18 ‘The Death of a Client’ when Alicia’s client Matthew Ashbaugh is murdered? Ahhh. I know, it’s hard to get back to those days, but in lieu of that, remember the judges - the endless parade of amazing guest starring judges.
But that was then, and this is now. And on some level those of us who have stuck with The Good Wife for this whole time (I mean, I quit earlier this season, but saw every episode anyway because Lady Castleton was like ‘uh, you quit, I didn’t quit!’) are looking for some closure, and maybe for the show to sort of pick up its game a little as the end draws nigh.
It didn’t really work out that way. They’re trying, bless their hearts, but it’s just never quite right. I keep waiting for a palate cleansing moment and it’s just not there. Some beat of truth between Peter and Alicia. Some catharsis for Eli or just something as simple and enjoyable as seeing David Lee arrested for tax fraud, sent to a Siberian gulag with Ramsay Bolton as his cellmate. That’s all we need! Is that too much to ask? Just something to tie the room together once and for all. I don’t know how much of it is Alicia or how much of it is Juliana Margulies, but that chemistry is just not there.
This week’s episode was set up as a way to begin to say goodbye, because how do you wrap up so many seasons in one episode? You really can’t. It takes time. Like when Alicia and Cush Jumbo used to go visit plastic box people for no reason. Or when Kalinda’s husband came back. Or when Cary was on trial for something and got his hand cut and shit. Drama takes time, y’all.
The pretext for getting much of the cast in one room is a promise ceremony for Jackie and Howard. Barf Groan. But it does the trick and many of the people you care about are in the same room. Most notably, we get to see Zach one more time, the freckled little sprout!
Zach, a freshman, shows up from college at the ripe old age of nineteen wiiiiiith a fiancé. He’s in love! And he’s going to follow his wife to France. Well, okay. It was a weird choice for Zach and kind of devalued a character who had been not all that bad or stupid of a kid. The casting of his fiancé was also a headscratcher. She was ‘fine’, but I don’t know, not who I thought Zach would end up with. I mean I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not like Zach has a great track record. Remember the waking nightmare named Becca?
Stupid Zach. Why couldn’t you just end up with sweet Nisa? She was a goddamn doll.
Whatevs. Big fat whatevs. Au revoir, Zach. Don’t let the porte hit you in the derriere on ze way out.
We also got to say goodbye to Alicia’s mom and brother. Grace and Zach were treated with the truth about Alicia and Peter’s upcoming divorce as Veronica spilled the beans through her always-chardonnay-coated lips. Oh, Veronica, we’ll miss you being a plot robot and a foil for Jackie. The two of you truly deserved each other.
There was some investigation of Peter by Jason and some “are we in it, are we not in it” talk of some form of a relationship between Jason and Alicia. She’s like I want you and he’s like I want you too, here’s a gift and it’s a deed to land on Mars. She’s like WTF, yo? and he’s like I like space.
This is what I’m talking about. You’re just sitting there waiting for the punchline or the clarifying beat but it never comes. They can’t tie this ribbon, it’s too frayed. For example, when Peter arrives at the promise ceremony, he also gives Alicia a gift and I’m like, ahhhh, they’ve been shitting all over Jason Crouse’s gift, now Alicia is going to open Peter’s gift and we’ll see that it’s perfect and he knows her intimately the way no one else on earth does, and it will be a powerful symbol of all they’ve accomplished together and the importance of having a person to go through life shoulder to shoulder with.
They never even showed the gift again. It’s like it never occurred to them to juxtapose the gifts and the relationships. Some two-bit donkey on the internet (me) recognizes a possible emotional beat and the writers just let it die on the table.
It’s so soul-crushingly bad that you can scarcely believe it. There is zero chemistry left with anyone. Like, even Diane and Kurt are so laughably not well matched I can’t take it. I used to think that Christine Baranski could do anything, but she can’t. She can’t do happy. She smiles and cows for hundreds of miles around lose their ability to produce milk. That’s how frosty she is. She’s not giggly and happy. It’s not her lane.
As we wind down toward the end of the series, I find myself oddly sad that Peter and Alicia aren’t going to make it. I’m surprised by that reaction since I’ve wanted her to kick his cheating ass to the curb for a long while. Such a strange thing since he’s basically a duplicitous criminal shitheel and she’s a cold, friendless proto-alcoholic. But maybe in a way it just feels more comfortable to know they’re together. So they can’t poison anyone else, maybe. I mean, Jason still actually smiles! Alicia would suck the sugar out of him faster than a three-year-old with a pixie stick.
As we hone in on the who-gives-a-shit reveal of the century about yet another of Peter’s trials, (it’s their only move - either Peter is under attack or Alicia is) we see the great Amazon dream of a woman-run firm coming to fruition. Oh heady day! If I took the time to outline the peaks and valleys of Alicia and Diane’s relationship, with all of its epic nastiness and orchestrated misunderstandings and true venomous spite, this firm is the most impossible thing that would ever come to pass. It’s just not believable. But in this, as in all subplots, The Good Wife showrunners are convinced that we don’t remember any of it.
And that’s the hardest part about watching it go out in this way. We do remember. We remember all of it and we remember when it was great.
The penultimate episode is next week. I have to use that word because you rarely get the chance. Two episodes left. Fingers crossed for substance and meaning and…I don’t know…something to care about in a real way. We’ll see how it all plays out as all of the forces align for or against Peter. Alicia, Eli, and Cary are all being set against him with the charming Louis Canning lighting the way. And how will it all shake out when Diane has to point to her own husband’s negligence to clear Peter? Ahhh, it’s almost plot enough to pretend to care about.
But hey, you never know. Maybe the show will surprise us.
Come on, The Good Wife, bring us home. Bring us where we want to be.