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The Good Wife, Ep. 5.15, “Dramatics, Your Honor” changes everything

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.15, “Dramatics, Your Honor” changes everything

Good Wife Dramatics 2

The Good Wife, Season 5, Episode 15, “Dramatics, Your Honor”
Written by Robert King and Michelle King
Directed by Brooke Kennedy
Airs Sundays at 9pm EST on CBS

FULL SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE BELOW

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Sometimes something happens and the world falls apart. Gravity drops out and you are left floating, untethered to your surroundings, separate in a way. Nothing makes sense anymore. The world doesn’t work in the way it’s supposed to and it may never function in that way again. Reality feels unreal, sounds reach you as if they are traveling through water. Nothing can touch you, because if it did, everything would fall to pieces.

“Dramatics, Your Honor” is a landmark episode of The Good Wife by any metric. It is the sort of thing that is difficult to write about, because it is the sort of thing that is difficult to grapple with, period. At all. And especially this early. It is an hour of television that evokes a deeply personal response, and my feelings toward it may (and probably will) change in the days and weeks to come. But right now, all I can think is that I loved Will Gardner.

I loved him as a character. He was deeply complex, morally ambiguous, often unscrupulous. He was a striver with a huge self-righteous streak that he often did not earn, a romantic who had serious difficulties with the reality of a relationship, a dedicated fighter for causes he believed in and those he was paid to fight for.

I loved him as a man. He was loyal, to a point, and deeply wounded when he sensed disloyalty. He was passionate about his work and about the people in his life. He was both a lover and a fighter, and above both of those things, he loved the fight itself. He was a good man. He was a bad man. He was something ineffable and in-between those two. He was human.

Good Wife Dramatics

What effect his death will have on The Good Wife going forward remains to be seen. It has been revealed that Josh Charles asked to leave the show last season and was convinced to stay on to allow the show to tie things up in this way, and honestly, my first thought from a critical perspective is that I’m not sure this was done particularly successfully. But then, the goal was not to end the story of Will Gardner neatly, nor to tie up loose ends. The goal was to drop the bottom out, on us as viewers and on the characters on the show, all of whom loved Will even when they hated him.

His final stand is defending Jeffrey Grant (Hunter Parrish), who is accused of raping and murdering Dani Littlejohn, and who Will firmly believed is innocent, even when the evidence suggests otherwise. His final opponent is Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode, who will probably play a part going forward in filling the void left by Will’s death), who tries at every turn to undercut Will’s defense by taking his best points from him. It is a classic trick, but Will never loses a beat. It can be hard to trick a trickster, and Will was that if nothing else.

His faith in Jeffrey ends up killing Will (and Jeffrey’s detachment from the proceedings presages the emotional reaction that many fans, myself included, felt after Will’s death was revealed). He ran out of tricks in the end, or at least, his best ones couldn’t have saved him. And he leaves in his wake a series of people who will be broken by the news of his demise.

Diane Lockhart runs toward the sound of gunshots tonight, before she even knows where they are coming from. Before she even knows Will is in danger, hurt, or dead. That is the woman she is, strong in the face of opposition, cool in a crisis, and brave enough to face anything that challenges her. Diane and Will had a tumultuous relationship, but deep down, they loved and respected each other. Though “Dramatics, Your Honor” doesn’t give us one last scene of Will and Diane drinking together to celebrate a victory, Cary and Alicia do reference this practice, and it says volumes about the way that Will and Diane viewed their partnership. They were equals, even when they fought; friends, even in the wake of various slights and betrayals. They were a team, ready to take on all comers, and when Diane begins to make some tough phone calls, she has to steel herself to make the toughest.

Good Wife Dramatics 3

Kalinda and Will understood each other better than anyone else on the show, and the episode reminds us of their deep connection. Both were creatures who thrived on their work, who lived for it in some sense, who became their jobs to escape the things about themselves they didn’t like. Kalinda remained a mystery to him, but Will didn’t particularly care about solving it. He never seemed bothered by her reserved manner in the slightest; he had crossed enough witnesses to know how to handle someone who didn’t want to reveal themselves and he respected Kalinda’s ability to shroud herself as fully as she did. When Will was hurt, Diane and Kalinda were the first to arrive at the hospital. But they both knew, almost immediately, who should actually be there.

Alicia. It’s impossible to definitively call Alicia the love of Will’s life. There’s just not enough we know about his past. But she was certainly something close, the woman he kept coming back to, the one that became a distraction in a bad way (unlike his various other flings that he could use like a break and then discard when work called), the one that pulled him away from his work and back into real life in ways that made him uncomfortable. Alicia and Will spent decades circling each other, meeting briefly and then being torn apart. I honestly expected that the series would end with the two of them together, a final rebuff by Alicia to the notion that she should be “the good wife”, her choosing instead something much more than that, a meeting of equals who cared enough about each other to get through the various obstacles thrown in their way and who could have made each other better, given time.

When Alicia betrayed him, Will went to war, but more importantly, he dove completely into his work. No more distractions, no more lowering his walls or exposing any vulnerabilities. Last week, Will claimed he had never let the personal effect the professional, but everyone knows that isn’t true. In fact, if anything, the effect Alicia had on Will was to make the professional personal in ways he was still reeling from on the day he died.

There’s a lot to say here. There’s a lot that will be left unsaid. Weeks from now, perhaps even seasons from now, The Good Wife will still be reeling from the effects of “Dramatics, Your Honor”. Some reeling will almost certainly occur in this space in the weeks to come. But for now, the world has just fallen apart. Everything has broken down, and even when the pieces are put back together, there will still be a hole. There will always be a hole. Time cannot fill it, nor would we want it to. Will Gardner was great, and he was awful; he was brilliant and he could be amazingly dumb. He wasn’t evil or good, he was always ambiguous, floating in between, hard to pin down in part because he liked it that way. But always, he was human. And I loved him.

Notes:

-Yes, this reads more like a eulogy to a fictional character than a critical analysis of “Dramatics, Your Honor”. But Will, like all great television characters, blurred the line between fiction and reality. He felt real. He felt vital. He felt alive. So for this week, he deserved to be given a proper send-off.

-“You think this is the way Will and Diane talk?” “We just need a shot of bourbon.” “I’ll get some…”

-“Do you need a lawyer?” “No, I have Cary.” “Cary Agos? Are you sure he’s up to it?”

-“It’s like Perry Mason here, with all this late-arriving stuff.”

-“We may have our differences, but you’re the better lawyer.” “I am, aren’t I?” “And so humble.”

-“You will be bored sick. Life is overrated, and you’ll miss it.”

-“When you figure something out, you live for that.”

-“When your men are trailing me and are too far away to hear, just have them signal, and I’ll talk louder.”

-“You’re losing, Mr. Dubeck. Any other questions?”

-“Kalinda?” “Yeah.” “That’s why you can’t leave.”

-“Alicia?”

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