HILLARY AND ALICIA
The Good Wife era-end
With only a few episodes left in the tank, The Good Wife was Canada-bound.
In an episode of the show nearing its 7-year-run, Alicia Florrick — played by the never-not-crushing-it Julianna Margulies — travelled to Toronto. The mission? To help an NSA Agent get out of custody after being detained by customs officers when he tried re-entering the United States. As the drama has been wont to do — its genius always having been that it’s a morality play and a wham-bam study of gender wrapped in an episodic legal procedure — the episode requisitely ripped from headlines, all the while giving Alicia a break from her messy love tug between husband Peter Florrick (the now-Governor of Illinois, played by Chris Noth) and her new investigator-turned-sex-slave (in the form of Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
As things finally amble to a close on the CBS/Global drama, however — the final episode airs May 8th — one thing’s certain about its legacy, rising at a time of “prestige” cable shows, and when binge-worthy streaming shows came into vogue (both of which are consumed in 13-ish episode gulps): The Good Wife, if nothing else, showed it was possible to put out 22 deeply character-shaded, deftly-written episodes over a season. At a time when old-school network TV isn’t where the action is, it’s been a buoy of hope.
Learning that the show was capping — which has meandered a bit this last season, even if full of gems — I had one prevailing thought: how interesting it is that The Good Wife is ceasing just as Hillary Clinton’s final dash is happening right now in her quest for the Oval Office. In one way or another, the shadow of Hillary has always hovered over the show; right from its pilot, which famously began with the wronged wife of a disgraced political husband standing, Mona Lisa-like, during an official press conference, and then promptly shifting to a scene where she promptly slaps him behind the scenes.
There were many public-eye husband scandals that the premise of the show could be referencing — at the time “Weinergate” was all the buzz — but the whispers of Hillary and Bill were unmissable. Notably, lest we forget: on Alicia’s first day back to work at a law firm, partner Diane Lockhart — power femme to the max — gestured to a photo of herself with Mrs. Clinton, saying to Alicia, “If she can do it, so can you.”
Christine Baranski, who plays Lockhart, has readily admitted to the Hillary-isms in her role. Playing a fictional character that was part of the all-too-real generation to really grasp the levers of female power — the women that those millennials going gaga for Bernie Sanders might well take for granted and all together. Baranski told The Daily Beast: “She has one of those tough journeys that women had in the ’60s, going into the ’70s. She followed right behind Hillary Clinton and went to Wellesley, and then to law school, and had high aspirations. She’s a very independent woman, and yet there’s a vulnerability that I often see in the writing.”
Indeed, in a show that’s been an embarrassment of riches, cast-wise (it hasn’t hurt that it was one of the rare shows to film in NYC, drawing on all kinds of stage actors, even in small roles), Diane Lockhart has long been the most intriguing, and the most quietly ferocious, to me. (Pet peeve: how has Baranski not won an Emmy for this role?!) Strong, flawed women: that’s always been the backbone of The Good Wife.
And yet, Emmy-winning Margulies mused about the character at the heart of it, during a panel session recently, “I’m constantly reminded about how sad Alicia is. The only way I can separate myself from her is if I leave her at the door. That’s why I insist on us having wigs every season. I need to be able to physically take her off.”
Not quite an anti-hero, and yet complex as hell, the irony of The Good Wife has, of course, always been the “good” in her title.
This column originally appeared in an edition of 24.