During “The Good Wife” sixth season finale on Sunday night, attorney Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) and investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) had a scene together. In the same room.
If you say “who cares?” then you’re not one of the many “Good Wife” viewers wrapped up in one of the most intriguing television mysteries of our time: How is it possible that Alicia and Kalinda — once best friends and major characters whose professional worlds frequently collide — have not shared a scene together in two years? Not that they haven’t spoken: Alicia and Kalinda often talk on the phone in scenes obviously filmed separately. But their characters literally have not been in the same room on screen since the middle of the fourth season.
That is extremely strange: Not only did the characters used to be attached at the hip, but their story lines are so dependent on each other that it has become noticeably bizarre that they no longer interact. Conspiracy theories abound, but one keeps rising to the top: That Margulies and Panjabi hate each other in real life, to the level that they can’t even handle being in the same room on set.
Of course, it’s typical Hollywood to blame issues on two actresses not getting along, so let’s get this out of the way: There is no tangible evidence for this feud other than increasingly loud whispers among the entertainment industry set — but to viewers who have noticed their separation on-screen, it’s become an accepted fact.
During an interview last week with creators Robert and Michelle King, we asked about the rumors that the actresses don’t like each other, and if they heard fans were questioning how the characters had remained apart for so long.
“I’ve been reading that, too,” Robert King said, adding that the separation has been intentional as a part of the story, and he hoped viewers would enjoy the Alicia-Kalinda moment in the finale. “I think they’ll be happy with the last episode — the last episode goes there.”
And how would he characterize Margulies and Panjabi’s relationship on set? “I would say ‘professional,'” Robert King said.
Over time, this alleged “feud” has simply become some people’s most reasonable explanation for Alicia and Kalinda’s separation that ultimately rings false to fans of the show. It’s a rare blemish on an Emmy-nominated prestige drama largely considered to be one of the best shows on television.
Given that Kalinda’s arc is over (Panjabi already announced she’s not coming back to the show next season) let’s take a deep dive and break down this conspiracy in five steps.
STEP 1: The evidence.
In August 2014, before the beginning of the sixth season, Buzzfeed puts together definitive evidence that Alicia and Kalinda haven’t interacted since Season 4, Episode 14. The story points out how that doesn’t make much sense, considering how close the two characters used to be. Though some fans may have noticed before, this brings the issue to the mainstream.
STEP 2: The reasoning and denials.
Some fan sites and blogs go deep into the conspiracy theory. In October 2014, this extensive blog post sums up quotes given by “The Good Wife” creators Robert and Michelle King, along with Margulies, for the reasons why Alicia and Kalinda stopped physically interacting. A key fact to note is that Margulies, in addition to being the main star, is also a producer, giving her decision-making power.
The Kings and Margulies explain it doesn’t make sense for Alicia and Kalinda to be pals because Kalinda once slept with Alicia’s husband, Peter (Chris Noth). That’s true: Kalinda confessed this at the end of Season 2, and hey, even in fictional TV world, that’s not something you bounce back from easily. Still, by Season 3, the characters had largely made up. Then suddenly, in the middle of Season 4, they stopped appearing together.
Margulies tells The Huffington Post that the friendship between the two characters was “played out,” and “To bring it back would be going backwards instead of moving forward.” When Robert King is asked by The Daily Beast about Margulies’s comments, he talks around the issue at first but eventually says, “We won’t get into a public fight with Julianna on this because she knows this character almost better than anyone.”
In other words, it appears that Margulies helped make the call on killing the Alicia-Kalinda friendship for good. Before this season’s finale, the Kings reiterate the only reason for the split was for the good of the plot.
“I think we stumbled into part of a good idea, which was the longer they were apart, the more the audience wanted to see them together. People noticed after a while and there was an urge, this hunger,” Robert King said to TV Guide. “I think that’s always a good thing. But that wasn’t the intent. the intent was after the revelation of Kalinda sleeping with Peter … I think we all — the actresses, the writers — felt like we were trying to get over that problem too easily in Season 3.”
STEP 3. The on-screen fakery.
Oddly, the show continues to pretend the characters are still in the same world, having them talk on the phone or by obvious separately-filmed shots. (When their close friend Will Gardner died a shocking death, Alicia and Kalinda only talked on the phone.) In the third-to-last episode of this season, Kalinda just misses Alicia at her apartment and left her a note before leaving town. When Alicia read the note, she breaks down crying, interpreted by many as devastation at losing her friend.
After that episode, TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Daniel Fienberg blast the producers on their HitFix.com podcast for letting two stars’ apparent dislike of each other impact major story lines of a show — and criticize the writers for “manipulating” the audience into empathizing with two characters who clearly haven’t been on screen together in years.
“Margulies’s refusal to work with Panjabi, or vice versa, or both, whatever happened there — which they have done a remarkable job of keeping a lid on because you would think someone, somewhere would have leaked something over the years — it’s hurt the show and it’s certainly hurt Kalinda,” said Sepinwall, who noted he couldn’t remember the last time something like this has happened on television on such a high-profile show.
Listen to Fienberg’s rant in its entirety here, but here’s a portion:
I was really upset by how they handled [that scene]. Don’t pretend that we have to care because we are little simplistic children who you can yank around and manipulate. I know these two characters have nothing to do with each other, because you’ve never put them on the screen at the same time before. You have allowed a petty conflict between your leading lady and your Emmy-winning co-star to dictate the way you’ve told stories for a year and a half.
And that’s on you. You can either play peacemaker, or you could have killed Kalinda off a year and a half ago. Or instead of peacemaker, you could have sat these two actresses down and said, ‘Excuse me, you’re freaking professionals, I’m writing scenes for you because that is what this show requires. Sit down, act, be professionals. I don’t care if you hang out after the show, this show needs your two characters to be interacting.’ Or you can do what they did, which is pretend that it isn’t happening, pretend that it isn’t happening, and then pretend we’re supposed to care after they did that.
I think they sacrificed drama for petty bickering between two stars who really should be grown-ups. And apparently they’re not. I don’t know a darn thing about what happened between them, but I do know that lots of people in lots of different jobs hate each other and don’t like spending time together. But sometimes you have to because that’s what the money’s for. It’s your job. You do what the show asks you to do. And instead, the Kings buckled to their producer star – or to Archie Panjabi, whatever it was, I don’t know – they crippled the drama and then expected to backtrack and make it meaningful and they couldn’t do it.
STEP 4: Acknowledgement/wink at the viewers.
In the much-anticipated Kalinda-Alicia reunion Sunday night, Kalinda says goodbye before she skips town to avoid a dangerous drug kingpin that she sent to jail. Their words appeared to speak right to the audience:
“Alicia … I’m not very good at talking, I never have been,” Kalinda says as the two briefly met at a bar over tequila, their old tradition. “But I do need to say this: My time with you as your friend was the best I ever had. And I’m sorry. I’m really sorry that things got messed up.”
Alicia smiles sadly. “I wish we had the chance to do it over again,” she said. Then the two characters acknowledged that they’ll never see each other again. Then Kalinda disappeared.
STEP 5: Truthers.
Every conspiracy theory needs truthers, and that’s what happens Sunday night. Turns out, the Alicia-Kalinda issue is so distracting that viewers don’t really care about the epic reunion. They just want to know if the scene was actually filmed together — many refuse to believe it was real, suspecting CGI trickery.
Panjabi deflect questions about the lack of Alicia interaction over the last two years, telling Entertainment Weekly, “I think that’s a question you need to ask the producers.”
However, Panjabi said, “What is great is that relationship between the two women is one of the best relationships on TV, in terms of it being the most honest.”