"The Good Wife": How Not to Handle a Major Character's Departure

The creators of "The Good Wife" decided that the best way to handle Will Gardner's decision to leave the show was to have him killed by a client at the courthouse. Here's their explanation. Poor choice.

Even worse, now the show will bring back Michael J. Fox, in his role as a sleazy lawyer, and Stockard Channing, as Alicia's irrelevant mother. And judging from the preview for next week, Alicia and Peter will recreate The Taming of the Shrew.

The show has been off its game most of this season. The "new firm" storyline went nowhere, they turned Eli Gold into a neurotic mess and they neutered Galinda by pairing her with milk-toast Carey. The new characters, like the ethics lady, and Will's yoga teacher girlfriend, were one-dimensional and embarrassingly demeaning. The only thing we were spared (for the most part) this season were Alicia's unappealing teenage kids. [More...]

They also marginalized Peter and Diane, two of the show's strongest characters.

Reading the creators' explanation of their decision to kill off Will made me wonder if I had been watching a different show all along. They write, "The Good Wife is a show about human behavior and emotion, and death." Really? I thought it was a show about law and lawyers, crime and politics, with a minor plot of a cheated-on housewife successfully entering the work world and building a career.

The creators think we will mourn Will. I won't. I never found the romance between him and Alicia believable or interesting. His interesting story arcs were his continual ethical and legal dilemmas and his vying for control of his and Diane's law firm. Those are story lines that could easily be continued and kept fresh using existing cast members.

The show could have easily let go of Will and instead of bringing back retreads, focused on its strong characters: Alicia, Peter, Eli, Galinda and Diane. They could have increased the role of the ditzy but brilliantly strategic female lawyer that the other lawyers hire when they get in trouble. I'd even have liked to seen more of the ballistic expert/gun-rights enthusiast who married Diane. (While his and Diane's story arc lacked credibility and went nowhere, on his own he was a good character for the show.)

"The Good Wife", it seems, instead of ending its run on a high note, is going to go the way of Grey's Anatomy, and just throw stuff against the wall and hope something sticks. It really doesn't seem like like there will be any reason to watch it anymore, and the reason isn't Will's departure. Plain and simple, it's that the show has run its course, and as good as Julianna Margolies is, it's just not worth wading through the mediocre mess of bizarre, minor characters and subplots that go nowhere to watch her.

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    This is what happens (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 08:37:12 AM EST
    when TV networks make their money with "unscripted" "reality" shows:  screenwriting skills and story-editing skills go to hell.  The few remaining folks who can, go to the cable networks.  The others, who'll put up with the networks and their Suits and Notes, aren't worth watching.

    I don't think I've seen an entire episode of a currently-running scripted, live-action broadcast network show all year.  And maybe for several years.  None of them are worth my viewing time.

    I'm going to disagree, Jeralyn. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 04:26:10 PM EST
    I think what makes good drama compelling to viewers depends in large part upon the ability of a show's producers and writers to keep its characters relatable and its situations empathetic to its target audience.

    To their credit over the past four-plus seasons, the producers and writers of "The Good Wife" have refused to let the scripts devolve into a caricature of life in which bad things can happen to everyone else, but not to the central characters.

    Nor have they let the show turn into yet another run-of-the-mill procedural drama like the "Law and Order" and "CSI" series, or the late and not-so-great "Harry's Law," replete with stock situations and patented characters seemingly pulled straight out of central casting.

    They've respected their target audience as relatively sophisticated and nuanced, and trusted that thinking people will welcome the challenges posed by the show's evolution.

    When Josh Charles decided to leave "The Good Wife" this season, the producers could have retained his lead character of Will Gardner and simply hired another actor to replace him. But that would have proved problematic to the inherent integrity of the show, and risked the audience's trust by pretending that nobody is going to notice the mid-story switch in broad daylight.

    They could have had Will simply quit Lockhardt Gardner and move offscreen to Seattle or Montana to start a new life. But given the palpable and high-octane passion that still remained between him and main character Alicia Florrick, the void left by his mysterious departure would have haunted the show for the duration of its run without serving any real or useful purpose of advancing Alicia's story. Regardless of situation, one would have continually wondered when Will would inevitably swoop back into Chicago and carry Alicia off in his arms.

    Instead, Will was written out of the storyline altogether with an abrupt finality, and Alicia and the other characters -- as well as their audience -- are forced to confront and reconcile the tragedy of his quick demise in its most stark and elemental form. Death is an integral part of life, and kudos to the producers and writers for treating their audience as adults, not allowing anyone to settle for complacency and predictability.


    Della Ephron on "The Good Wife": (5.00 / 3) (#36)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:11:47 AM EST

    Too funny! (none / 0) (#39)
    by BackFromOhio on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 10:03:50 PM EST
    Thanks for posting....

    Failing to solve the pompom/pompon debate (none / 0) (#1)
    by CoralGables on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 06:50:49 AM EST
    Perhaps we can do better here. Should we use milk-toast or milquetoast?

    Did you know the word(s) origin is a cartoon (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 07:33:38 AM EST



    Caspar was more milquetoast than Casper (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by CoralGables on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 09:10:13 AM EST
    To stay on topic I should add that with only cheap basic cable I've never seen any strictly cable network programming. So like Caspar I get this thought when tuning in.

    The term "pom-pom" ... (none / 0) (#22)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 05:31:39 PM EST
    CoralGables: "Failing to solve the pompom/pompon debate."

    ... was originally of vernacular origins, and referred to a British light naval artillery piece designed by Hiram Maxim for the Royal Navy in the second half of the 19th century. It was also known as the "Maxim Gun," and portended the subsequent development of the modern high-caliber heavy machine gun.

    When adapted for land use by the British Army during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), troops gave the gun the nickname "pom-pom" because of the very distinct sound the gun makes when firing its one-pound shells in rapid succession.

    Later evolutions of the pom-pom gun proved invaluable to the defense of warships against assaults from low-flying enemy aircraft, and were an integral part of the anti-aircraft arsenals of both the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy during the Second World War.

    This constitutes your minimum daily requirement of useless trivia. Aloha.


    There's a lot of series that .... (none / 0) (#5)
    by magster on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 10:01:47 AM EST
    have seemed to run their course and gotten stale. Walking Dead, Girls to name a couple.

    Breaking Bad has kind of ruined TV watching for me a little because it was so much better than the others.

    Yup. and at first I was sceptical about (none / 0) (#10)
    by ruffian on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 11:51:32 AM EST
    the upcoming "Better Call Saul" spinoff, the the more I hear about it the more I like. Such as, they might have some of Mike's back story too.

    "I thought it was a show about... (none / 0) (#7)
    by unitron on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 11:06:22 AM EST
    ...law and lawyers, crime and politics..."

    And if it had been promoted as that to begin with I might have started watching it.

    (I've since noticed by walking through the room where someone else has it on that they get into a lot of interesting takes on legal stuff)

    But all the promos I saw were about her husband cheating on her.

    Did you like (none / 0) (#9)
    by ZtoA on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 11:41:51 AM EST
    "damages" with Glen Close?

    I Did... (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:05:06 PM EST
    Just saw the last one last night..    Some episodes were less good,
    but all in all I thought it was excellent.

    I liked the first two seasons (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:08:05 PM EST
    especially the Madoff season but I never cared for Rose and the dead fiancee sub-plot. She was too wooden and depressing.

    In the legal show department, I don't think anything has come close to LA Law.

    In the crime category, Breaking Bad and the Sopranos were the best. In the intelligence category, 24 and the first two seasons of Homeland. In the drugs category, the Canadian series Intelligence, and (as I've been writing recently about) Pablo Escobar: Patron de Mal, la Reina del Sur, El Capo and Senor de los Cielos.

    Another one I liked was Cane with Jimmy Smits, but it only ran one season, getting canceled due to the writer's strike.

    El Capo 3 starts tomorrow night on MundoFox and will air Monday to Thursday for a few months.  


    Cane! (none / 0) (#13)
    by bmaz on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:15:36 PM EST
    Yes, I liked it too! Not sure it had a big enough audience to survive even without the writer's strike, but it really had decent characters and stories that I think could have really grown if given the chance.

    First few seasons of 24 were simply spectacular, though it kind of tailed off in the last couple.

    Couple of years of Boston Legal with James Spader were pretty worthwhile.


    I was going to suggest the Canadian series (none / 0) (#20)
    by ruffian on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 04:46:30 PM EST
    Intelligence. That is excellent!

    I was thinking about how much I missed LA Law just the other day. That was so good.

    And for both crime and law (and my favorite lawyer-cop romance) I loved Hill Street Blues.


    FWIW, the late-night infomercials (none / 0) (#21)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 05:29:02 PM EST
    (the short-form ones) are pitching that LA Law is now available for purchase on DVD.

    Thanks (none / 0) (#25)
    by lentinel on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 07:48:30 PM EST
    for making me aware of "Intelligence".

    I just watched the pilot and am looking forward to the rest.


    Not the same show (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 01:31:33 AM EST
    Lentinel, the Intelligence that's on now is a different show. The Canadian show I'm referring to aired in 2008 and 2009. You can still see it on Hulu Plus or Amazon video.

    It crosses the intelligence world with the drug world, pits the U.S. agencies against the Canadian agencies, and the drug agents against the intelligence agents, while the chief of intelligence is working with the big drug dealer, who is fighting off the gangs, from bikers to Asian. It is set in Vancouver, and the drug is marijuana.


    Oh my. (none / 0) (#30)
    by lentinel on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 08:17:31 PM EST
    I just watched the second show of the current CBS series, "Intelligence".

    Pure propaganda.

    The pits.


    Are you sure you watched the second episode? (none / 0) (#32)
    by unitron on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:27:21 PM EST
    There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether they're being aired in order or not.

    The one (none / 0) (#33)
    by lentinel on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 06:23:35 AM EST
    I watched contained caricatures of Muslim terrists - with grizzly black beards and shifty eyes, good old USA flag wavin'.

    It seemed scripted to make us identify with the way in which the gummint is goin' about the war on terrism.

    CBS has turned significantly to the right.

    Plus - it featured a sloppy sex scene with the lead.

    Who needs it.

    I'm gone.


    while it is not a great show (none / 0) (#34)
    by nyjets on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 10:26:56 AM EST
    The show is not great. There are flaws here and there. That being said, the show is actually okay. I like a lot of the characters.
    Also, if I remember the episode in question, there was a criticism concerning the way private 'security firms' operate.

    Josh is (none / 0) (#35)
    by lentinel on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 10:41:48 AM EST

    I like marg helgenberger.

    But I can't stand the rightwing agenda...

    If it reverts to a simple cloak and dagger mystery, with a sci-fi twist, I could enjoy it.

    With your recommendation, I'll give it another look.



    one warning (none / 0) (#37)
    by nyjets on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:26:36 AM EST
    Not this week episode (have not seen it yet) but last weeks episode while was good, centered around a premise/crisis  that was total baloney. I don't want to list spoilers but you will get the idea after 15 minutes into the episode.

    OK (none / 0) (#38)
    by lentinel on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 12:11:54 PM EST
    Will check it out - warily.

    You are watching the older Canadian series, right? (none / 0) (#26)
    by ruffian on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 10:00:07 PM EST
    Just to be sure...there is a new American series by the same name just starting. I can't vouch for that one!

    The one (none / 0) (#28)
    by lentinel on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 06:19:20 AM EST
    I watched is on that is currently being shown on CBS.

    It features Josh Holloway.

    I found that it held my attention.


    "Rectify" seems like a show (none / 0) (#29)
    by lilburro on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 05:04:25 PM EST
    you might like Jeralyn. New on Netflix. About a man released from death row in Georgia on DNA evidence after almost 20 years, and his and his family's attempts to assimilate him back into normal life and protect him from people out to serve their own kind of "justice." Only 6 episodes but renewed for another season. Created by Ray McKinnon, the preacher in "Deadwood."

    Justice for Saffron! (none / 0) (#31)
    by unitron on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:23:49 PM EST
    I watched the first and maybe most of the second season of Damages and it looked like the original mystery was going to be moved to the back burner so that they could add some other stuff to try to extend the life of the series, and it felt like I was just getting jerked around.

    Today's NYT features this "Good Wife" (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:22:52 PM EST
    episode in Top News, Artsbeat, Arts, and Television.

    I love the show and loved the Will character, (none / 0) (#15)
    by Angel on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:46:57 PM EST
    sad that Josh Charles is departing.  The show has always been a personal drama show first and a legal show second.  Peter (Chris Noth) will now have a larger role on the show, a good thing in my opinion.  

    Funny, the previous two episodes were well (none / 0) (#16)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 01:07:15 PM EST
    received in the SUO house. They moved faster, and there was more on the line, than had been for quite some time.

    Then Will gets killed last night.

    I guess that gives some breathing room between the Florics and ballot box stuffing investigation, although that investigation is a large part of what had been so interesting over the past couple episodes.

    Now that Will is dead there's no one to testify (none / 0) (#17)
    by Angel on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 02:36:11 PM EST
    against Peter regarding the video.  So that investigation will more than likely go away.  At least that's how I view the situation.

    It was (none / 0) (#24)
    by lentinel on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 06:47:14 PM EST
    interesting to observe the way the actor playing Eli Gold played getting the news about Will.

    It was exactly in the middle between dealing with the sudden loss of someone he knew well, and the relief, perhaps a little glee even, he felt knowing that Will could not testify against Peter after all.


    Still, we have the best Bread and Circus (none / 0) (#18)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 03:59:46 PM EST
    in the world, except for a few BBC series and telenova, but we get those too.

    OTOH last series we watched was our box set of West Wing.

    The (none / 0) (#23)
    by lentinel on Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 06:40:14 PM EST
    explanation by writers Robert and Michelle King, to which Jeralyn linked, is self-serving hokum.

    Their tome is a circuitous bunch of over-intellectualized verbiage constructed to try to conceal the obvious: they ran out of gas and took the easy way out.

    They are merely treading in the well-worn path trodden so often by Shonda Rhimes.

    Wanna leave the show? We kill you.

    What I enjoyed about the show was its portrayal of what Jeralyn said: "law and lawyers, crime and politics." That was exciting and thought provoking.

    The personal stuff is tiresome and threadbare.