Let me start off by saying I’m still in the anger stage of my grieving process.
I spent a brief amount of time in denial. (This is all just a dream sequence. The Good Wife does elaborate dream sequences, right?) And I dabbled in bargaining. (If Will isn’t really dead, I promise to never bring up the Kalinda ex-husband storyline again.) But now I’m solidly back in the anger phase. And I don’t see myself ever getting to acceptance.
Because I love Will Gardner. He’s one of my all-time favorite TV characters. Right up there with Logan Echolls, Sawyer and Sydney Bristow. Josh Charles created one of the most nuanced, fully realized characters on prime time TV. How dare the show kill him off? HOW DARE THEY!? Yes we now know Josh Charles wanted to be written off the show, but why kill him? It is such a gut punch.
But if I can briefly set my anger aside, I am impressed that the show was able to keep such a huge plot twist a secret. We didn’t know Charles wanted to leave the series. And we usually always know that—I mean we’ve known Sandra Oh is leaving Grey’s Anatomy for almost a year. And sure, network TV does kill off its characters. The other big death last week was James on Scandal, but James was a secondary character (a significant secondary character but a secondary character), and Scandal lives in the world of murder and mayhem. The Good Wife doesn’t.
Even the CBS promos set us up to believe that the big “game-changing” twist with Will would have to do with the voter fraud investigation. I thought it was strange that the CBS press website had not posted episode descriptions beyond last night’s episode, but it didn’t make me suspicious. Even when Jeffrey Grant (returning guest star Hunter Parrish) eyed the gun, I thought he would kill the professor who was lying about him on the stand. Even then, I didn’t think Will was in danger. I mean you don’t kill off a series lead on network television. You just don’t. So Will’s death was shocking and abrupt. There was no warning. Just like tragic losses unfold in real life. Even when Kalinda pulled back the sheet to reveal a deceased Will, I still couldn’t believe it. I cannot remember the last time I was this shocked by a TV show.
And if I further set my anger aside, I can see that this might be creatively invigorating for a show that is already having an amazing season. The Good Wife has always been a show that zigs when we expect it to zag. And here the show is in the midst of the voter fraud investigation with Will at the center of Nelson Dubek’s case. The remainder of the season could have easily been about that. Or about Will and Alicia’s fractured relationship. Or Alicia’s precarious marriage. Or about myriad other plot points the show has going at any given time.
Looking back on the episode, there were some very minor hints. Will had nice moments with the three key women in his life. Diane warns him that his emotions might be getting in the way of his defense of Jeffrey Grant. Kalinda tells him she’s leaving the firm and he tells her she can’t, that she is too good at what she does. And Alicia and Will have their first truly cordial communication since she left Lockhart Gardner. It even bordered on flirtatious. (“We might have our differences, but you’re the better lawyer,” she tells him.) Which once again made me think, “Oh yeah these two are totally getting together again.”
I’ve received feedback from some of you about how wrong my prediction was that Will and Alicia would hook up again before the end of the season. And, you’re right. I couldn’t have been more wrong. But here’s the thing: I think Alicia thought they would get together again, too. Maybe not consciously since she had so buried her true feelings for Will, but on some level she didn’t believe her romance with Will was truly over. Now she’ll no longer be able to hide her emotions. The finality of his death will bring all of that bubbling to the surface. And, by the way, Diane and Kalinda know it, too. They both immediately think of notifying her about Will’s passing.
Were there other things that happened in this episode? I guess so. But, as in real life, the tragedy makes them all a blur. Kalinda and Cary are officially dating, which in a normal episode I may have a lot to say about. Nelson Dubek has video of multiple voter fraud incidences—making Peter or at least Eli look incredibly guilty. Alicia took on Nelson Dubek in her full-on Alicia way. (“Just have them signal, and I’ll talk louder,” she tells Nelson about the men he has following her.) Vincent Curatola was hilarious as the unamused judge. (“It’s like Perry Mason in here with all this late arriving evidence.”)
And, perhaps most significantly, Kalinda got a break in the case that might prove Jeffrey’s innocence. Both Jeffrey and the woman he is accused of murdering took a ride to the ER in the same ambulance, and the paramedics told Kalinda they didn’t change the sheets in between patients (yuck.) providing a perfectly reasonable explanation for the touch DNA transfer. It seems highly unlikely that someone hadn’t stumbled upon this information earlier and buried it.
But I’m still angry. And what about those promos for the remainder of the season? How are you feeling about last night’s episode of The Good Wife? Talk about it below. We can help each other during this difficult time.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.