No other show on television explores that dynamic as well as The Good Wife, created and run by husband-wife team Robert and Michelle King. This season has seen the biggest changes for the characters, as the law firm of Lockhart-Gardner divided, a major character left the show and the personal relationship/professional partnership between Alicia Florick (Julianna Margulies) and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florick (Chris Noth), became something different. And, simillar to Law & Order's "ripped from the headlines" style, no other fictional show on television has delved into, explained and used the issues around NSA surveillance, net neutrality and income inequality as well as this one.
Last night's season finale had a theme of endings and new beginnings. The episode offered a conclusion as to the direction the competing firms of Lockhart-Gardner and Florick-Aggos will take. But it also set up a major professional shift for Alicia.
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Alicia's decision to leave Lockhart-Gardner with Cary (Matt Czuchry), the chaos and antagonism that caused, and the death of Will (Josh Charles) were major impetuses that drove the narrative this year. The really impressive thing about season five is that all of the conflicts are born out of slights in which every character had a legitimate reason to feel pissed at the other. As Lockhart-Gardner divided, and Alicia and Cary walked out the door to create Florrick-Agos, the show balanced their desires to create their own path with Will's and Diane's (Christine Baranski) feelings of betrayal. But the murder of Will shifted everything in the Alicia storyline and the character's overall outlook on her life, as well as set the stage for power politics as everyone scrambled to control as much as they could in the new landscape.
- Zach graduating and the mother-in-laws from hell: Zach's (Graham Phillips) high school graduation plays into themes that have been in play the entire season. Zach moving on to college is symbolic of things ending, a new beginning and change. And having Jackie Florrick (Mary Beth Peil) and Veronica Loy (Stockard Channing) in the same room allows all of the resentments of Alicia's and Peter's marriage to come out into the open and be spoken aloud.
- The lawsuit that hangs over Alicia's head: The $6-million suit that's on the periphery of the episode and gets the central story rolling has been a recurring plot point this season. Alicia is being blamed for David Lee's attempted bribery of the Chippewa Nation, which screwed up an adoption. Why? Because Lockhart-Gardner bribed an associate with a partnership to secure his testimony pinning the blame on Alicia. Some of the facts of the case are based on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, in which a couple from South Carolina adopted a child in 2009. Two years later, the child's biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, contested the adoption on the grounds that he wasn't properly notified, and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) set guidelines for how parental rights for members of Native-American tribes can be relinquished. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the relevant sections of the ICWA do not apply when the parent in question never had custody of the child. In 2013, the adoption of "Baby Veronica" was finalized.
- ABA rules on inadvertent disclosure of privileged material: According to Robert King, the inadvertent eavesdropping on Lockhart-Gardner was based on the production staff's own experience teleconferencing between New York and Los Angeles. The eavesdropping was also consistent with the theme of the NSA episodes this year, except this time it's Florrick-Agos listening to others. Clarke (Nathan Lane) paraphrases the ABA's model rule 4.4(b), while Carey (Ben Rappaport) argues the information should be used as part of a zealous defense, and Cary gives the decision to Alicia as the client. However, Clarke is right that the professional rules of conduct require that Florrick-Agos "promptly notify the sender" of what's happening. However, since none of the information was used to help Alicia win her lawsuit (as far as we know), I'm guessing it's a moot point. What the eavesdropped info does do is create chaos at Lockhart-Gardner and Florrick-Agos.
- Finn Polmar drops out: Eli (Alan Cumming) is adamant that Finn must withdraw his candidacy for Cook County state's attorney. Finn horse-traded to help his sister. In exchange for leniency on drug charges against her, Finn cut a deal to lessen charges on another case. In the grand scheme of scandals, it's not the sexiest case of misconduct, and leads Alicia to think it's Peter still miffed about the implication of her infidelity. However, Peter's and Eli's plan is to encourage Diane to run for the state's attorney office, since she's already been vetted. Diane feels slighted by the idea. While intrigued by it, Diane still remembers how she was treated when offered what she truly wants—a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court.
- Kalinda's betrayal in living color: I've had the displeasure of having someone I love dearly lie to me, and for me to know they're lying to me while they do it. Even as it's happening, there's a piece of you, the piece that loves them so much, that wants to believe their lies. But that feeling is dwarfed by disgust, not only with them but with one's self for being in the situation and caring about the person. The scene where Cary sees how deep Kalinda's (Archie Panjabi) exploitation of him reaches (i.e. Diane knows about it and orders it) is great acting on the part of Matt Czuchry. The scene is important since it not only sets up the conflict between Alicia and Cary over a possible merger with Lockhart-Gardner, but it probably dooms any meaningful relationship between Kalinda and Cary. And the sex scene between them gets very close to assault as Cary let his anger out just a bit.
- A place with walls and doors: According to the Twitter feed for the show, all of the jokes about the lack of walls and doors at Florrick-Agos was the writers' commentary about the decisions made by the production designer in creating the Florrick-Agos office space.
- War in Heaven: I was totally on Cary's side during his arguments with Alicia, since Alicia's position about the merger was absolutely selfish. It would be one thing if Alicia said, "Hey, I want out because I don't want to do this anymore." But that's not what she does; in fact, Alicia explodes when Cary suggests that her feeling "tired" and it being a "struggle" is a reaction to Will's death. I think Cary had every right to be pissed that less than a year after forming this partnership, Alicia is ready to end their firm and basically screw over her other partners, while putting most of their staff out of jobs. What did Alicia expect it to be other than a struggle? Although, I can also understand why Alicia is so pissed by Cary's decision to inform Canning about Diane's plans, and it might be a situation where they can never trust each other again.
- The nuclear option: Both Diane and Canning maneuver for position to gain the managing partner position at Lockhart-Gardner. First, by fighting over the vote of Howard Lyman (Jerry Adler), and then by either advancing or fighting against a merger of Lockhart-Gardner and Florrick-Agos. Canning eventually deep-sixes the deal by threatening to dissolve Lockhart-Gardner entirely. Using Will's unapproved acquisitions to build a massive interstate firm, he can issue a notice of dissolution. It's a fascinating portrait of Canning's villainy. It's a situation where a character says, "Either I get my way or I destroy everything." Canning justifies it by saying he needs the work to make his last days livable. But when Diane calls him on his treachery, Canning shifts the blame to her and says the decision is in her hands, and if she fights, it is she who will dissolve the firm. Also, in the long-run, David Lee is sitting pretty. If Canning is dying within a year, it's going to be a short wait before David can assume the managing partner position. And by allowing Canning to be the one that takes it from Diane, he keeps the blood off of his hands.
- Florrick-Agos-Lockhart: With the choice of being stabbed or shot, Diane chooses a third option. She takes her $38 million/year in client billing to Florrick-Agos. In an interview, the Kings were asked why Diane would throw in with people that left Lockhart-Gardner? They argue she would rather start over working with them than Canning, whom she doesn't respect. Also, the dynamic between Diane and Cary will be antagonistic next season, resembling the relationship between Diane and Will in the early seasons. They also imply in the interview that the firm formerly known as Lockhart-Gardner may not be a "major character" next season.
- What?: After all of the dust settles, and Alicia can sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, the biggest character shift of the episode occurs. Eli decides to solve the problem of a candidate for the state's attorney's office by asking Alicia. In some ways, it's a natural progression of the character and true-to-life in that many "good wives" of politicians become politicians themselves. Plus, the possible dynamics of Alicia as prosecutor open some interesting avenues.
Why would Alicia say yes to that offer?
Robert King: She wouldn't at this moment. There's a long road for her to travel.
Michelle King: Approximately 22 episode long.
Robert King: More interesting is who Alicia would be if she ran.
Being state's attorney could pit her against many of the people she cares about, couldn't it?
Robert King: That's right. (Laughs)
Michelle King: We had Cary doing that work for a season and a half.
Finally, Peter and the sexy intern. Did they do the deed?
Robert King: The intern will be back next season. We wanted to lay out the temptation of the office. We left it up to the audience to figure out which way this would go. We won't tell you what we think.