I only watched four episodes of The Good Wife this season, and this show blows up the status quo on a regular basis, so a lot had happened in the months I decided not to watch. I was always going to come back for the finale; as I’ve written previously, this was once my favourite show, but the finale seemed like a finale for a completely different show. This post is going to have spoilers, so consider this your only warning. I’ve thought a lot about “End” since I watched it, and I’ve read several reviews (there will be links). I really want to like it, but I don’t feel that ending was earned. I have less authority on this show than I used to, but my feelings aren’t too different to those of critics I admire.
A finale is just one episode of a television show, but it’s the culmination of a journey, and when it doesn’t work, it feels off. The Breaking Bad finale worked for most viewers. It didn’t work for me, but that’s because it turned out I was watching a different show to the one I thought I was watching. I bring up Breaking Bad for a few reasons. The first is that I felt there was tonal dissonance between the show I’d been watching and the ending I was given, and the second is that Robert and Michelle King decided in the finale that the culmination of Alicia’s journey was to become her husband, akin to Walter White. She blew up Diane’s marriage (the questioning of which was poorly handled) the way Titus Welliver blew up hers, and the slapper became the slappee.
This moment intentionally mirrors the moment when Alicia slaps Peter in the show’s pilot. We knew nothing about the Florrick marriage up until that point, but it was powerful. Over at Vox (where I found that gif), Alex Abad-Santos does a good job of unpacking the slap. There are many critics I admire who enjoyed that finale, and they have a right to enjoy it. I just find it hard to believe that after seven years one of the most feminist shows on television resulted in one powerful woman slapping another because they got into a squabble about their husbands. That moment wasn’t earned. The Good Wife was always a show about Alicia’s evolution, but in the six and a bit seasons I watched, I never got the sense that Alicia’s journey was to become Peter. It felt like a finale to a different show.
The Good Wife wasn’t a perfect show, but it was my favourite show for a number of years, which is why it was so disappointing that this is what the finale had built up to. I don’t feel like there’s much I can say that hasn’t already been said, and this is partly informed by the fact that I didn’t watch the majority of the final season. From what I’ve read however, “End” had to arrange all the characters on the chess board so that they could end with the slap. The Good Wife has always been a cynical show (Alicia and Peter stayed married for far too long, but that’s politics), and I’m okay with it having a cynical ending. What I’m not okay with is the writers not earning that moment. I understand that Robert and Michelle King had to negotiate with CBS to end the show on their own terms, but they had a season to complete Alicia’s transformation into anti-hero, instead of just doing it in the last fifteen minutes of the finale. I’ll always remember The Good Wife fondly, but “End” is probably the best piece of evidence that the show ran a couple of years too long.
- There are two great articles I’m linking to here. The first is Mo Ryan‘s piece at Variety, which raises some important questions, like “How does Lucca have a job now?”, which is especially pertinent now that CBS’ streaming service All Access is launching a spinoff about Diane and Lucca Quinn. Also: where did Alicia and Lucca get this information about Kurt’s affair? Did they just extrapolate on their instincts, because that shouldn’t hold up in a courtroom.
- The piece is so great, you should just read it, okay? At the bottom of the article is a link to Mo’s podcast on the finale with Ryan McGee, and it’s well worth a listen, especially because it suggests a crossover that I would gladly watch.
- The other is Emily Nussbaum‘s piece on the finale. Emily Nussbaum is the most recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, which she absolutely deserves. I will always read her work, even when I disagree with it, and it’s good food for thought. She also uses the phrase “Sex Wolf, Private Eye.” I saw Nussbaum at the Melbourne Writers Festival a couple of years ago, and it was great. She also has a fantastic eyeroll.