The Good Wife just crushed us. It also happened to bring in a great guest actor, and give resolution to a plot started in one of our favorite episodes of Season 5. But mostly, we are very much in mourning at the most upsetting thing that any TV show could’ve done to us this year.
“Dramatics, Your Honor” brings us back to the murder trial of Jeffrey Grant, a plotline that began back in November with the episode “The Next Week.” Across the aisle is prosecutor Finn Polmar, played by Matthew Goode, a terribly underrated actor that deserves to be known as more than ‘the guy from Chasing Liberty. Watching him and Josh Charles square off is one of the best courtroom matchups that we’ve seen from The Good Wife. They have a crisp banter together and both actors are in fine form; you believe that they really are the best at what they do.
But then comes the bombshell. Jeffrey, scared out of his mind and having been roughed up while in custody, snaps and – because there’s an officer nearby stupid enough to leave their gun holster unsnapped – starts shooting and hits both lawyers. Will is the more gravely wounded, and dies at the hospital. A random, completely senseless act that claims the life of – dare we say it? – the show’s best character not named Alicia Florrick. Naturally, everyone’s world is rocked; Alan Cumming is amazing in his reaction, even though Eli’s largely just there to hand Alicia the phone before her inevitable collapse. And this is the kind of show where there will be lasting repercussions.
Reports say this development has been in the works since Season 4 ended, so kudos to all involved for being able to keep it under wraps in this spoiler-hungry world for the better part of a year, and for putting in the effort to give Will an exit that has moments of semi-closure with each of the major characters, even if it’s not necessarily the one we would’ve liked for him. The emotional part of us would’ve liked to see him still breathing, but there’s also a kind of twisted sense to this, in that most tragedies are random and without any real answers.
In other news – as if it doesn’t all pale in comparison to losing one of the best actors on TV – Cary admits to Alicia that he’s dating Kalinda, Kalinda contemplates walking away from her job, and Alicia asks Cary to serve as her lawyer in a voluntary deposition with Nelson Dubeck (Eric Bogosian), who has more tapes. The rest of the series doesn’t stop just because of one plot happening, no matter how major.
But it’s impossible to watch this episode and not think about its long-term repercussions. Who’s going to replace Charles as the male lead in The Good Wife‘s ensemble? Is it Goode, a talented actor but who, playing a federal prosecutor, might be difficult to fit into storylines on a regular basis? Who could replace Charles, whose tremendous ability to forge an emotional connection with the audience is something that very few performers have, and whose character was so strongly written, especially this season?
Shows have gone on after losing or moving around their leads and improved (see: Linus Roache taking over the EADA position from Sam Waterston on Law & Order, or Rupert Penry-Jones replacing Matthew Macfadyen on Spooks), but that’s not a given. Especially since we know The Good Wife will return for Season 6, it’s important that the void be filled by an actor who has the talent and can carry the weight, because a top-tier show demands the ‘A’ game.
It was Charles’ decision to walk away, and we can only wipe the tears from our eyes and thank him for five seasons of hard work and great performances. But what the show will be like after him, well, that’s something you can’t judge in a week or maybe even by the end of this season. This will be one of those episodes we’ll always remember as one where everything changed.
The Good Wife continues Season 5 next Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on CBS.