The Good Wife—The Finale: A Good End?

 

The Good Wife finale
The Good Wife finale

The Good Wife ended its seventh addicting season on Mother’s Day as a paean to Alicia Florrick , the award-winning Julianna Margulies, and the journey Florrick has taken over the course of seven long years. (See my earlier May 12, 2012 review of this series. ) She realizes her rebirth—from the ignominy of being an adulterous governor’s wife, the lawyer who gave up her career to raise her two children to adolescence, to the brilliant lawyer who becomes a powerhouse both in the courtroom and in the political arena her husband thought was his territory alone.

[Spoiler Alert]

We watched the drama play out as a story of female empowerment revealed in our own lives and in headlines. We see a brilliantly bold statement , almost novelistic, in attacking the illusion of balance between family and career, between having it all and sacrificing it all. Dark, moody, with no “happily ever after”, Alicia Florrick has come full circle with her emotional response first to her husband Peter, then to her law partner Will Gardner (Josh Charles, who appears in this final episode), and finally to Jason, an investigator who is indispensable to her legal victories.

Connecting the dots to all the men in her life, her children moving from her life in order to create lives of their own, and to her future as an empty nester and ex- law partner, the final episode of “The Good Wife”  raises more questions than answers. In a dramatic device bookending the final episode with the very first, we see changes in Alicia as she stands next to her ex-husband as she had in episode one. But now there is subtlety to how she stands next to him—a favor she is hesitant to give—and  her defiance and the emotions overlaying scar tissue and unhealed wounds. Has she chosen personal fulfillment over obligation and duty? Does she understand the lies she has told and what she has given up? Was she pragmatic in seizing the prizes earned by a powerful lawyer or was she a fool?

In perhaps one of the most tantalizing scenes in this finale we see the ghost of Will Gardner commenting on her soon-to-be empty co-op—luxurious but barren. And he asks: Can she be happy living alone there? Jason later echoes almost the same: You’re only happy, Alicia, when you feel needed.

We’re right back where we started, but not quite. There is no redemption.

 

Note:  For another point of view on the finale of “The Good Wife”, see this article in Variety online.

 

Fall from Grace: “The Good Wife” television series

First premiering in 2009, “The Good Wife” is a spellbinder and the past two seasons are available on  Netflix (unfortunately not on Instant Queue yet).   We can’t get enough of this intricate, superbly written series!

Starring Juliana Margulies in the pivotal role of Alicia Florrick, wife of the disgraced Cook County state’s attorney (played by Chris Noth, Mister Big of “Sex and the City” fame), Margulies’ character is the collateral damage from her husband’s prostitution scandal that has turned her affluent suburban wife’s life upside down.  While Peter Florrick is serving time in prison for the scandal, Alicia has to return to work as a first year legal associate to support herself and her two teenage children.

The creators of “The Good Wife”  series were inspired not only by  politicians’ sex scandals (think Bill Clinton, then John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and Mark Sanford), but also by the fact that the humiliation of the wife who “stands by her man” is often a high-powered attorney who no longer practices her profession.   Alilcia Florrick embodies a certain aspect of the humiliated political wife.  

The worst has happened to Alicia already — she is the betrayed wife; her family name is in the headlines; she has moved from her expensive home and her friends (who turn out to be less than loyal). Alicia finds she has to navigate within the world of work, after almost twenty years as a stay-at-home mom.  This is a woman who graduated at the top of her class at Georgetown and now has to start as a junior level associate competing with a 27-year old striver. But her legal sense is partly derived from her uncanny ability to see what is really going on, perhaps due to her being blindsided by her husband’s betrayal.  She doesn’t care about the conventional way of looking at life anymore.  That failed her in the past.   All that matters is that she survives from one day to the next–with emotional support from and for her son and daughter.

Revealing personal feelings is out of the question for her. Alicia Florrick rarely is emotional with her estranged husband (although sometimes she seethes through clenched teeth) and is tenaciously rational with her colleagues and kids. But the unraveling unfolds and the viewer sees Alicia is heartbroken. She was in love, and wants to be again.  She replays scenes with her husband, trying to find what she has lost–not just him but herself. Take away the legal cases (which are a unique twist from the typical law-and-order script) and the personal journey of the Florricks becomes even more unpredictable…and sometimes ugly.  She can barely recognize the person she had been but the person she is becoming requires great strength, and she is attracted to her new sense of self.

“The Good Wife” speaks volumes to the conventional role of women, even those who are powerhouses in the professional world of law.  Margulies perfectly combines cold fury, bewilderment and unflinching integrity in her role as the good wife, the good lawyer, and the good mother who continues to sacrifice her own happiness for those of others. Moreover, Alicia Florrick heroically refuses any vestige of vengeance.  Her character continues to evolve.  Small hints of who she really is start to emerge in a restrained manner (perhaps too restrained for some viewers), in a kind of poised, permanent heartbreak. But the backdrop of Florrick’s emergence as a woman with her own identity–separate from her husband, her children, even her career — is like no other drama currently on television.  If you are not currently watching this series, by all means, order it online!