Betrayal, Privacy and Corruption on the Season 5 Finale of The Good Wife

19 May

Season 5 of The Good Wife has focused on the idea of starting anew and it has been a decision both thrust upon characters unwillingly and with careful plotting. Betrayal and corruption are in the DNA of this world; it is how we came to meet Alicia Florrick as she symbolically stood by her man in the pilot despite accusations of corruption and the betrayal. Alicia has come far since that press conference and this year has shown more than any, how much has changed since then.

As a viewer it has been a thrilling ride – even when dealing with the trauma of Will’s violent and unexpected death – and this finale captures the energy that has flowed throughout the entire season. It mirrors the explosive “Hitting the Fan” without coming across as a retread; featuring an energetic score, so many moving pieces, scheming and disloyal gestures. The shadow of Will looms and while “A Weird Year” is missing a scene as powerful as rage-filled table sweep, Will does ultimately play a role in how this season ends.

The Good Wife 5.22Cary and Alicia started this firm for fundamentally different reasons even if their point of entry was the same. It was a direct result of the equity partner shenanigans in season 4 and how they had been mistreated at Lockhart Gardner, but Alicia’s final decision came because of her overwhelming Will feelings. Alicia doesn’t have the same level of animosity or resentment towards LG as Cary does and this tension heats up this week. Cary doesn’t want it to be like it was and now he has control, well control over his work life, his personal one is another matter all together. Cary sees a merger as a huge step back, Alicia disagrees and when Cary goes behind her back to Canning it blows up between them and in front of everyone. One issue I have with this storyline is how little they have focused on Cary and Alicia as partners; there has been the odd hint at tension, including Cary’s reaction to Diane last week, but this divide has occurred without enough to back it up on screen.

The layout of their offices has been a source of contention and comment whenever anyone visits (Eli is the most vocal) and while the open plan is very modern, it’s also means there is barely any privacy. Privacy or lack thereof has also been a thematic concern this year with the NSA wiretapping and it culminates with the use of the conference call camera in the finale. Lockhart Gardner leave their camera on by mistake and this leads to an ethical debate with Clarke being the only one who disagrees with this accidental surveillance. What it informs them of is so much more than just strategy as they become aware of multiple schemes including the plan to get Diane bumped from her role at LG, Diane’s merger idea and Kalinda’s manipulation of Cary. A result of the many different plots going on at once and the constant phone calls is that the tension is increased and there is a frenetic energy that is as disorientating to the viewer as it is to the characters. They are constantly in flux and nothing is certain, not even by the end of the episode.

Ok, let’s plot out who is challenging who; David Lee and Louis Canning are scheming against Diane and Florrick Agos, Diane wants to merge with Florrick Agos, Alicia is up for this merger and Cary is most definitely not. Elsewhere the State’s Attorney race has turned even more contentious as Eli has found something that will sink Finn, so they offer it to Diane instead. Diane is still pissed about what happened with the Supreme Court Justice position and doesn’t seem to want the SA position anyway. So this is where we are for most of the finale.

The Good Wife 5.22 Diane and CanningEverything shifts when Canning brings word of his nuclear option and how Will’s acquisitions prior to his death is going to cause Diane’s downfall; it doesn’t matter that she had no involvement and there is nothing she can do about it. Canning’s motives for doing this are all wrapped in his own mortality “My work is my life” and he thinks it will keep him alive longer. The fact that Diane has built this firm from the ground up doesn’t matter to Canning and he really is as slimy as it gets. In this moment it looks like Diane is well and truly defeated and she even tells Kalinda that she has no fight left in her. There is an alternative path and thanks to a prompt from Kalinda – who is now very much Diane’s confidant – Diane proceeds with mystery option number 3.

The Good Wife 5.22 meetingNot a merger, but Diane asks Florrick Agos to take her and her $38 million in billings and while this always seemed like a likely scenario it is still incredibly satisfying to see it play out. This meeting takes place in the no doors conference room and the tension between Cary and Alicia is palpable as they sit at either end of the table. Clarke continues to play mediator and this wide shot highlights all the major players in the scene. The flash of pink helps Cary stand out and Alicia’s light grey suit differentiates her from the others at the other end. Robin is the only character in casual wear, highlighting her presence and Diane is the focal point in both the red of her costuming and the message she is there to deliver.

Red is traditionally Alicia’s color, but since Will’s death it has been notably absent from her wardrobe. For Alicia red is often tied to sex, passion and power all of which has been missing since Will. Alicia asserts once again about how tired she is feeling, the ear this time is far less sympathetic and it’s something she has to yell twice before Cary hears her. Cary points out that work isn’t what is causing this inertia, implying it is Will. Alicia takes this suggestion rather badly, even if it’s true and it follows on from an earlier remark Cary makes about him being the new Will and that doesn’t go over too well either. It is still far too soon to poke this wound. It will be interesting to see how Alicia continues to move forward from Will as it still doesn’t feel like she has really confronted what this loss really means. Yes, she has made a decision with her relationship setup with Peter and yet there is this avoidance and repression that is classic Alicia Florrick.

Alicia’s lack of deep and meaningful relationships only goes to magnify her bottling up reaction. As an outsider, Finn has played an important role in Alicia’s post-Will life, not from a romantic perspective yet, but as a friend who doesn’t have all of this prior knowledge of Alicia. Finn is a blank slate in a way, he’s also a connection to Will and this gives him a unique position in Alicia’s life. Finn also doesn’t bristle when Alicia answers the phone with a not so welcoming “WHAT?” If Alicia does take Eli up on his State’s Attorney suggestion (which is met with a less aggressive “What?”) how will this impact her relationship with Finn? Of course we don’t know if Matthew Goode is sticking around for next season, the hope is that he will as he has brought a calming energy to the show.

Dirt exists on everyone and a fake affair with Alicia wasn’t Finn’s downfall in the end, even if it threw him out of favor with Peter initially. No, Finn bribed a prosecutor to help his sister and this is enough corruption to sink his SA bid. The only character who has yet to reveal their corruptible side is Clarke and he demonstrated just how much he believes in fairness by being completely against the monitoring of the LG camera, no matter how much it could help them.

The Good Wife 5.22 empty nestThe empty nest is referenced throughout “A Weird Year” and it is yet another upheaval and dramatic change for Alicia. I have to admit the screen got rather blurry at Alicia’s joy turned sorrow upon seeing Zach graduate, coupled with her “I just wish there was more time” remark. This statement could be read in a couple of ways; in the immediate as Alicia has spent so little time with Zach on his graduation day, in general terms as a mother or overall signifying the toll this year has taken on her. Time with Will has been stolen and it’s something she can never get back. It’s why her arrangement with Peter makes sense, even if the consequences down the line with red haired interns are going to be disastrous. Jackie can’t comprehend this decision when Veronica lauds it over her – I would love a Veronica, Jackie and plenty of wine sitcom – and it is problematic in how it means Alicia can move forward, but not really as she is still married and part of a power couple.

Eli’s career suggestion for Alicia is impulsive and I’m not entirely sure he’s thought it through as I’m sure there’s plenty of dirt on Alicia and her Saint Alicia reputation will get destroyed as soon as those hotel trips with Will get uncovered. Don’t get me wrong, I think a Good Wife where Alicia is SA and going against both of her old firms would be a lot of fun, it would just take some getting used to. The reason this season has been such a success is because they challenged the dynamics and while some of this was down to external factors like actors wanting to leave, Robert and Michelle King certainly rose to the occasion and delivered.

Below you can watch a conversation with Julianna Margulies about her career and towards the end there is a hint of where she would like to see Alicia go in season 6. It’s a long, but very fun discussion.


One Response to “Betrayal, Privacy and Corruption on the Season 5 Finale of The Good Wife”


  1. Can Alicia Florrick be Her Own Boss on The Good Wife? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 5, 2015

    […] with behind the scenes rumors and green screen phoniness. Season 6 was a huge step down from the triumphant and exhilarating year that came before it and the election plot was a disappointment on the whole; subsequently […]

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