We don’t know about you, but we are still very much in recovery from that bombshell The Good Wife dropped on us last Sunday. Setting aside the fact that we still get choked up thinking about what happened, we now have to turn our eyes to another, very important question: how, exactly, are you supposed to follow that up?
It’s a question that plagues every writer who drops a major bombshell. Actually doing the deed – whether it’s killing a character or changing the premise of the show – is only half the battle. The other half is what you do afterward, to prove that what you just decided was the right move, and that this isn’t the end of the world. And in this case, there’s also paying respect to Will Gardner and to Josh Charles, by properly observing Will’s demise, and not just writing his loss off after one episode.
There are a lot of important parts to “The Last Call,” as there should be. Alicia finds out that Will phoned her the morning of his death, and wants to know what he had meant to say, while Diane grapples with the loss of her partner and best friend. This is the stuff that we want to see, that we need to see as audience members invested in these characters. Nobody sat around last week saying, ‘Gee, I wonder how that voter fraud thing is going to turn out.’ We sat around crying over Will; in fact, just the flashbacks this week were enough to bring us to tears all over again, just getting one last chance to see Josh Charles.
However, there’s still everything else up in the air: David has to be the one to bring up keeping the firm moving even in the immediate wake of the tragedy, while Eli and Peter still have the investigation to worry about, and Cary must fill in for Alicia during a crucial deposition. Of course all of those things seem like little dots on the periphery when we’re so emotional, but they’re there and they should be.
And everybody, everybody brings their ‘A’ game here. Whether it’s Alicia tearfully admitting to Grace that she can’t find solace in God over Will’s demise, or Cary getting as angry as we’ve ever seen him, or Diane telling an indignant client that he’s fired, or Kalinda confronting Jeffrey Grant, there are so many moving moments in this episode. There’s also a sort of introduction for Finn Polmar that gives us a further idea of what Matthew Goode is going to bring to the table; he does a fine job of portraying his character’s internal conflict, and creating an empathy for him, even though he’s being introduced in the middle of all this madness. Applause is due to the entire ensemble, most notably Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski, for obviously great efforts.
It’s a major plus that Good Wife co-creators and executive producers Robert and Michelle King penned this installment. As great as the show’s writing staff is, an episode of this importance absolutely needed to be handled by the creators, the people who know this series better than anyone. They do a wonderful job of balancing the various demands of the episode; they take us on a ride where we’re able and allowed to mourn Will along with the characters, but also tastefully find ways to maintain the storylines that must continue on. If the Kings don’t get an Emmy nomination for this script – up there with Josh Charles earning one for his work in his last half-season – there’s something very wrong with the TV world.
You also have to love their little touches, like ending the teaser on nothing but the audio of Will’s final voicemail for Alicia. It’s simple and it works perfectly as a small tribute, never mind that it segues into a major point of the episode. And they don’t give us the easy answer of ever finding out what Will had intended to tell Alicia; they leave us with that unrest, that as much as it’s horrible to live with, is much more truthful. Those are the little things that we’ll remember long after Season 5 is over.
We can deconstruct this episode for a couple hundred words more, but the best way to nail it down isn’t analytical; it’s emotional, because that’s what an installment like this is really about. I’ll close this review on a personal note that I hope encapsulates why this episode works: thirteen years ago, my best friend was killed by a reckless driver. And I still vividly remember the emotional trauma that resulted from his death (which, ironically, it was Josh Charles in Sports Night that got me through), how I struggled to find an explanation and how I wanted justice for his loss. This installment of The Good Wife reminded me, however painfully, of exactly what that journey was like. And considering that so many of us are mourning Will Gardner, capturing that truth and taking that journey is the best thing we could’ve asked for.
The Good Wife continues in two weeks at 9 PM ET/PT on CBS.