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Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Good Wife--Ends With A Slap Not A Bang

I've been thinking about the Good Wife's ending, mostly so I don't have to think about the fact that it's over. This is the end. 

I think about the wonderful, telling moment in the second to the last episode.  Corrupt, manipulative Canning tells Alicia that her husband has had a long-term affair with ASA Geneva Pine, broken off just three months ago. (The actress, Renee Elyse Goldsberry, whose brain moves so fast her sexiness has to race to catch up.) 

"Oh, no! He's having an affair?" And Alicia works up crocodile tears. 

It is a marvelous moment, showing us that a) Alicia no longer lives in denial. Those feet are planted, those eyes wide open, and b) she is no longer manipulable, even by Canning, the master manipulator.  In fact, a moment later, when Canning says, "don't get me wrong--I've always been an admirer of yours," Alicia leans in, close to his ear, and whispers, "I know." Thus calling him and raising him in one adept moment. (And it was painful to see the brilliant Michael J. Fox barely able to enunciate, though he was terrific, as always.)

I know I'm not the only one who loved this moment. The writers, too, adored it so much that they repeated it in the next episode, virtually word for word--someone trying to undermine Alicia, her miming fake crying, etc.--Overkill as far as I'm concerned. 

Thanks, Hollywood Reporter
But then the authors had a different goal. I wanted to see where Alicia was going. They wanted to steer her somewhere to make a point. (Yeah, I know---Alicia is their character, so um, duh, they have the right to steer her wherever they want.) 

And where the Kings wanted Alicia to go was the journey from being the victim to being the one creating victims. They showed this, they felt, by having Alicia use word of Diane's husband's affair to discredit him as a witness and thus keep Alicia's husband from jail, this so Alicia could run off with her bearded, older-yet-still-a-boy-toy, Jason Crouse, (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who never had much to do on the show but think deep thoughts and look sexy.) 

Now, I do not live in New York or Los Angeles. (Yeah, I know they were writing Chicago, and took the political situation from there, but I always felt they were really writing New York, or at least ambicoastally.) Even when I lived in New York or L.A., I never became a true citizen of those worlds. In Los Angeles, I lived in an inner-city neighborhood, the kind where people helped you fix your car instead of parking theirs to block everyone else because they felt entitled to do so as I have observed repeatedly on Los Angeles' West Side. 

In New York, I did visit the wealthy world of The Good Wife, attending parties in what I thought of as "houses, like pheasants, under glass," decorated to impress rather than be lived in--with their wealthy and successful owners living their lives for show without, as far as I could see, much of a battle with ethics. 

On my day off, though, I took the bus out of the city and traveled to small towns to be around real people. (I came to believe that there were, indeed, kind, ethical, exceedingly wealthy people, but they tended to stay home, so you rarely met them.)

My point is that I view The Good Wife--or celebrity gossip-- through a lens of Midwestern morality. And from where I sit, the affair that Kurt McVeigh (a subtle and funny Gary Cole) had with his "favorite," had been waving its flag for episodes. McVeigh was choosing to hide it and Diane was choosing to ignore it. (Does everybody in the The Good Wife have affairs? I can't think of anybody who had a good marriage, save for possibly Finn Polmer--See kind, rich, ethical people, above.) 

So, sorry, Kings, I don't view using McVeigh's affair as a betrayal of Diane by Alicia. Kurt was the one who betrayed Diane, not Alicia. 

And Alicia never promised fidelity to one man and cheated on another, right? All her affairs were committed after her husband was blatantly caught with hookers, while she had continuing proof of affair after affair after that. (Clearly, the only thing that would keep Peter Florrick honest was a chastity belt, though Chris Noth gave us a lovely vulnerability in these last episodes--very nice acting, Mr. Noth.) 

Nor did Alicia cheat Diane by betraying her law firm. No, that was what both of them did to Cary Agos, (an increasingly less golden-boyish Matt Czuchry, his secret smile growing more and more pinched and bitter as the series progressed.) Alicia flat-out lied to Cary in a way that was, indeed a betrayal. But the Agos character, who would and did blithely lie in the service of ambition during years past, was allowed to grow enough to decide to leave the rat race and teach. (And has anybody else had a burned-out performer as a teacher? Keep your heads up, Agos' students--it can be a very mixed bag.) 

I was never a fan of the Alicia-Jason relationship, seeing it as filled with ghosts and appealing to Alicia because it was easily controlled. I would have liked to see her joining with up with shiny Lucca Quinn (played by the shiny Cush Jumbo), except the writers made Quinn, too, someone who avoids all relationships--Part of that wealthy New York world. 

What will I miss the most? The complex characters. The brilliant acting, starting with Julianna Margulies. The stories that provided human, funny insight into complicated political and technological twists--from Chum Hum, to the goat-video-watching shenanigans of the NSA. A chance to follow stories about interesting characters with gray hair, and all those wonderful judges and lawyers. The chance, week after week, to see some of the very best character actors in New York City knock it out of the ball-park, even when they were playing against some of the best catchers and pitchers in the world. 

And, as I have mentioned before, a role model during a very rough time in my life--a way to be a woman in a political world without dissolving into tears, crocodile or otherwise, to not give a damn about being liked, to hold my head up and straighten my shoulders and barrel through, and watch as the monsters, one by one, are beginning to fall by the wayside--and to still be real, and human, and yes, vulnerable, throughout the battles. 
Because unlike Alicia, who gave up on her political aspirations and her dreams of creating a difference in the world, I still believe that it is possible to make change. Tough as hell, but possible. 

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