“The Good Wife” made TV history last weekend by pulling off one of the most surprising main character deaths of all time. The death was greeted with universal shock by viewers who could not believe that Will Gardner (Josh Charles) was suddenly gone, given that he had been a crucial part of the CBS drama since the beginning.
In real life, Charles asked the creators to write him off the show – not due to a contract dispute or ugly behind-the-scenes behavior, which lessened the blow for diehard fans. Sunday’s episode showed all the characters reeling as they learned Will had been fatally shot in a courtroom by one of his clients. It was one of the most compelling hours of TV in a while: Here are five of the most emotional moments from the episode:
1. Alicia’s reaction
We pick up right where last week’s shocking conclusion left off: A tearful Kalinda calling Alicia to tell her the news. Alicia’s reaction, as expected, is tough to watch. “But – I just saw him yesterday,” Alicia whispers, shaking. The rest of the hour isn’t much easier, from her breakdown with Diane in the Lockhart Gardner law offices to her realization that Jeffrey Grant shot Will. “That was supposed to be my case,” she says, starting to tear up again.
In conclusion, Julianna Margulies shouldn’t think too hard about which episode to submit for Emmy Awards consideration this year. She spends the entire hour with a stunned, glazed look that somehow conveys total devastation and nerves of steel as she processes the death of her former lover and soulmate. Buried under it all is intense regret, as she’s spent the last few months battling Will as she split from Lockhart Gardner and started to steal his clients.
2. Will’s voicemail
Speaking of which, most of the episode is Alicia searching for answers about the brief, mysterious voicemail Will left her on her phone hours before he was shot – she missed his call at 11:32 a.m. “Alicia –” the message starts. Then, she hears the judge in the background talking to Will as he says “Hold on, your honor.” Then he ends the message to Alicia: “I’ll call you back.”
Alicia is frantic, trying to figure out what Will’s last words to her meant – was he calling to end their feud? Or to yell at her for stealing more clients? Alicia’s quest takes her to the judge’s office, who says Will took the fatal bullet when he tried to grab the gun from Jeffrey. Then the opposing counsel, prosecutor Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode) tried to save Will’s life, getting shot himself in the process.
That leads to a wrenching visit when Alicia finds Finn in the hospital, loopy from surgery. Finn, in a bit of a daze, tells her about Will’s last moments: He kept opening his mouth like he was trying to speak, and squeezed Finn’s hand until the paramedics arrived.
However, Finn is able to bring her a small amount of closure when he tells Alicia that yes, he overheard that Will had been upset on a phone call at one point during the day: But that was because he was mad at someone named Damian (the sketchy new lawyer Will recruited earlier this season). So that, if nothing else, gives Alicia a small amount of peace that perhaps Will hadn’t been angry at her when he called.
(And since Matthew Goode has recently been promoted to series regular, this might not be the last we hear about what happened to Will in the moments he died.)
3. Diane on a warpath
The only one who could understand Alicia’s level of grief? Diane Lockhart, Will’s fellow law firm partner and closest ally. Diane starts to break down as she catches sight of Will’s empty office — right before she realizes she has to break the news to the rest of the firm and figure out where to go from there.
Afterwards, she quickly snaps into Fierce Boss mode. First, she immediately fires an intern she hears loudly, dramatically bawling in the hallway, a woman who had worked there for a week. “Are you done? Are you done crying?” Diane icily asks. “Get your things and go home. Take your things from your desk, leave here, go home and never come back.”
More satisfying: Diane essentially telling Bob Klepper (Will’s top wealthy client who demanded a face-to-face meeting that day to decide whether he should take his business to another law firm) to go to hell. She fires him as a client in front of David Lee, the cantankerous partner obsessed with making money. Plus, she tells Klepper she called other firms and told them about his callous reaction to Will’s death; they won’t be taking him on, either.
“That felt good,” Diane says as Klepper leaves, stunned. “Turned me on,” David nods approvingly.
(Side note: David Lee, basically an evil robot, nearly breaking down in tears when he first heard the news? Did not see that coming.)
4. That Kalinda/Jeffrey Grant scene
The always steely Kalinda absorbs the news as only Kalinda can – going into investigator mode and trying to track down exactly what happened. We learn a little more about what happened in the courtroom: The sheriff was apparently checking a text from his girlfriend and was distracted when Jeffrey grabbed the gun. Jeffrey’s new lawyer tries to say that the bullet that killed Will wasn’t necessarily from Jeffrey, since other guns started going off when it happened.
Kalinda quickly corners the medical examiner and finds out that Will had been shot three times, and the bullet to the thorax that killed him matches the gun Jeffrey used. Knowing all she needs to know, Kalinda coerces her previous fling, detective Jenna (Jordana Spiro) into distracting the guard monitoring Jeffrey, who is on suicide watch in the jail cell.
“Why’d you do it?” Kalinda asks him. Jeffrey lies down sobbing in his cell and doesn’t answer. “You killed my friend,” she says.
Then Kalinda holds up Jeffrey’s belt – if he wants to end it all, he has 10 minutes before the guard comes back. Jeffrey races up to the bars and tries to take the belt, but Kalinda snatches it away from him.
“No,” she tells him. “You’re gonna live with this. You know, Will was a good man. And I loved him. And he was trying to help you. So you live with that.”
She turns around and walks away with the belt, as Jeffrey, hysterical, starts weeping “no, no, no” over and over.
5. The imaginary Will flashbacks
Josh Charles reprises his role in Alicia’s imagination: At one point, she imagines him tapping her on the shoulder in the hospital, saying that it was all a big misunderstanding. “It was all a mistake, can you believe it?” Will says, smiling. “They thought it was me because the body was shot in the face.”
The worst, though? What Alicia imagines what Will had been saying in those voicemails. The first is calm Will: “Alicia, this feud, it’s stupid – I care about you too much.” Then angry Will: “Alicia, are you kidding me? Leave my clients alone, Alicia. Find your own.”
And to especially twist the knife, the one that closed the episode, as Alicia imagined one more thing that Will wanted to say:
“Alicia, I’m sorry. I want what we had. I want to be with you and only you. Forever. Call me back, please.”