The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘The Good Wife’s’ ambiguous finale: Alicia sees dead people, but at least she’s got her life back

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick and Josh Charles as the late Will Gardner in the series finale of “The Good Wife” on CBS. (CBS)

Note: This review contains details of Sunday’s series finale of “The Good Wife.”

“The Good Wife’s” last episode Sunday night on CBS certainly left something to be desired in terms of full conclusions, but the finale was right in line with how our best TV shows end in this Golden Age – on a big note of ambiguity (is Tony Soprano alive or dead? Did Don Draper come up with the singing Coke campaign or didn’t he?), but also in a way that seems truest to the show’s nature and its lead character’s deepest desire to live her own life.

In the end, in a scene that seemed a tad more dreamlike than real, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) stood in the concrete hallway behind a hotel conference room as each piece of her former life disappeared. Moments earlier she had stood one last time at an emotional press conference with her scandal-plagued husband, Peter (Chris Noth), who had taken a plea deal (one year’s probation) on charges he tampered with a murder investigation and also announced he would step down as Governor of Illinois. He reached out for Alicia’s hand, but she was gone, through a door, chasing after the shadowy figure that she believes is Jason (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), her current flame. She couldn’t catch up and Jason was gone.

When Alicia turned around, there was her colleague, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), coming in to deliver a hard slap (a wonderful slap, a slap for the ages!) across Alicia’s face – payback for the testimony that ruined Diane’s marriage. (Seven seasons of “The Good Wife” begat layers of personal conflicts, you see.) The final message seemed clear: Alicia will divorce Peter and Jason is gone. So, too, is the dream of the all-female law firm with Diane. So too are an array of friendships: Alicia and Diane, Alicia and Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), Diane and Cary; Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) and Peter; Eli and Alicia.

Left with zero (except her Regina Spektor playlist), Alicia never seemed freer to start her life anew.

Except for the pesky problem that she now sees dead people. This may be the thing that divides “Good Wife” fans forevermore – the frequent appearance in the final episode of the ghost of Will Gardner (Josh Charles), Alicia’s one true love, whose death a few seasons ago set the show on an entirely different (and often better) course. Some swooned to see Will again; others groaned.

The Good Wife’s controversial decision: Josh Charles, creators defend violent ending

Ghost Will not only gave Alicia a little advice about pursuing Jason (he’s for it, even if he and Alicia and the entire world seem to agree that Jason’s great for sharing a pizza after a vigorous roll in the sheets, and not much else), he dispensed legal advice (United States v. Nuñez, of course!) that helped Alicia save Peter’s skin. What a guy.

For a show that has prided itself on basic feminist principles and stories about the many strong, smart women (colleagues, friends, rivals) who populate Alicia’s world, there was something about the finale that failed the always handy Bechdel test, spending too much of the show’s final hour preoccupied with which man Alicia would end up with, while sending Diane out on the symmetrical but trivial note of marital betrayal and a broken heart. These were some of the strongest women in prime time. The last we saw them, all they could talk about were men.

Yet, in the end, we should all feel happy for Alicia. The sting of Diane’s slap will soon wear off; the Florrick v. Florrick divorce papers will process themselves amicably; and surely a few more glasses of Pinot noir (and perhaps prescription drugs) will chase off the hallucinations of Will. For what it’s worth, I still think Jason will wind up back in Apt. 903 for some occasional nookie; and perhaps Alicia will warm up to Eli’s scheme to make her the next governor of Illinois. We’ll never know (until there is a “Good Wife” reboot 10 or so years from now), but it seemed like the show’s husband-and-wife creators, Robert and Michelle King, wanted us to understand that Alicia will always, somehow, dramatically prevail.


‘The Good Wife’s mission accomplished: Alicia has triumphed