The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 20: “The Deconstruction”
Written by Ted Humphrey
Directed by Ted Humphrey
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on CBS
That’s the length of TV time since Alicia Florrick and Kalinda Sharma occupied the same frame, or shared a scene in the same physical space. They’ve exchanged texts, emails, and even called each other up on the phone, but for all intents and purposes, it’s been two and a half seasons since they’ve meaningfully shared a scene. It’s been pointed out many, many times before (including these recaps), but since “The Deconstruction” appears to contain Kalinda’s goodbye, it’s worth hammering on just how absurd this all is one last time.
Season six has struggled mightily, especially coming after the series’ best season to date, and “The Deconstruction” really underlines just how badly the Kings have bungled the season’s major arcs. The State’s Attorney run has been as twisty and convoluted as you’d expect, but the stakes just haven’t been there; whether she landed at a government desk or Florrick Agos or some new firm has never felt all that pressing because none of those outcomes gives us any new perspective on the character or the way she views and experiences the world of the series. Alicia smashed her moral compass a long time ago, and only pulls it out from time to time, only to put it away again whenever the glass pricks; none of that changes just because she’s back in the legal fold.
The Good Wife has, historically, been able to get away with being a series largely concerned with well-to-do white lawyers squabbling over which fraction of the 1% they’ll wind up getting to be part of by virtue of being, among other things, exceptionally witty and human. One of the more glaring weaknesses of this season has been the need to address Archie Panjabi’s exit, and the lackluster execution of Kalinda’s story this season has served to underline just how precarious the series’ balancing act has been for a very long time. Ever since Alicia and Kalinda stopped interacting, the writers have had to effectively quarantine her in subplots, with or without the aid of interim investigators (RIP Robin), and in the process, Alicia lost the character who used to be her greatest confidant.
With Kalinda apparently gone, it’s difficult not to wonder what might have been. Maybe the State’s Attorney run would have been a little more compelling if Alicia had been able to spend time with a friend, elucidating her thoughts on the process, as opposed to constantly fending off her campaign staff and/or starting impromptu romantic entanglements without warning. The series has tried to replicate that sense of warmth and humanity by having Alicia spend time with her daughter, or with Finn, or (sometimes) having a heart-to-heart with Diane, but in truth, the series has never been able to quite fill the hole left by their absent friendship.
That’s what makes the manner in which Kalinda’s exit is dramatized especially galling. She turns up at Alicia’s apartment to leave her a goodbye note, but is instead greeted by Grace; Alicia stepped out to make peace with Diane following a massive misunderstanding involving her planned return to the firm. Kalinda makes a tour of the room, chuckling at old photographs and recoiling at an image of Peter (in case we’d forgotten the reason for their irreparable rift), before simply walking out – no face-to-face goodbye. When Alicia returns and reads the note, she weeps openly – but we get the distinct impression it’s more a straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back situation, what with her already having had to give up her State’s Attorney-hood and endure an emotional rollercoaster of a day at her former office. Cary walks into Kalinda’s apartment to find it empty. Roll credits.
The Good Wife is nothing if not hyper-aware of audience expectation and perception, and has never been shy about making metatextual jabs and references to underline its levels of self-awareness. That’s what makes the utter lameness of Kalinda’s apparent exit so remarkable. The Kings and their writing staff know very well that viewers are confused and annoyed by the treatment of Kalinda. Nevertheless, given one last chance to repair the damage done to one of its most significant characters ever, they’ve instead opted for a dramatically inert, drawn-out exit that has robbed the season of a golden opportunity. It’s all the more disappointing since last season’s handling of Will’s exit was remarkably impactful, not only for its suddenness, but for the way the absence of Will generated incredible emotional and narrative beats for the rest of that season. Meanwhile, season six only has two more hours to let Kalinda’s exit reverberate, and I’ll be very surprised if the character is evoked much beyond that. It’s a damned shame.
I got so caught up in the Kalin-drama that I neglected to spend any time on the rest of the episode, which mostly boiled down to “mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes is barbaric.” While the effort being made to give Diane some things to do in this portion of the season has been theoretically admirable, the actual subplots she’s been handed have been mostly forgettable “issues-of-the-week” fare, and this one’s no exception.
David Lee would like you to know that he has always been a conservative.
The episode’s best moment was also its most GIF-able, in which the Florrick Agos partners exchanged the widest shit-eating grins in TV history.
Are neck flexes a thing? Diane’s chain was insane.
One of the season’s best recurring characters comes back again: Linda Lavin’s Joy is a low-key delight whenever she turns up.
“That’s the street name. When I was on the street…I need the drugs.”