The Clare Spark Blog

May 12, 2016

“The Good Wife” series finale

[Update 5/18/16: yesterday a pundit praised Hillary for “standing by her man.” I hadn’t thought of “Alicia” as a stand-in for Hillary before, but it is plausible.]goodwife4

SPOILER ALERT. Preparing the audience for the finishing of a seven-season show, widely touted as “the best written show on television,” series creators Robert and Michelle King, explained to the viewers that the series was “about” the search for “power” by its star “Alicia Florrick” (played by Julianna Margulies), and, that power corrupts! (Lord Acton!) Hence the slap by the “betrayed” “Diane” (played by Christine Baranski).

You could have fooled me.

I had written about the series before, emphasizing what I don’t like about the law: at a point when the interlocking triangles were the main focus, as Alicia struggles with loyalty to the stability that makes her two children feel safe, versus sexual desire. To the dismay of the fans, the writers killed off her lover Will Gardner (played by Josh Charles), but another boyfriend emerged recently, another of the bad boys to whom Alicia seems addicted.

Her father never appears in the series, though a bohemian mother does, along with a gay brother. Freud is so passé.


The late Hannah Wilke with gun

So far, the Democratic playbook seems intact, as one would never know that Chicago is notoriously corrupt, and controlled by Democrats. Instead, we are immersed in the often amusing shenanigans of millionaire lawyers and wacky judges with nary but one Republican in the cast; for “Diane” proposes marriage to a firearms expert and a staunch conservative, ostensibly because of attraction to “guns” (ironically, gun laws are strictly enforced in Chicago, notwithstanding the notorious high death rate from illegal guns among the black population). Indeed, Alicia’s “betrayal” consists of an action that appears to break up this unlikely marriage between a staunch liberal feminist and her right-wing partner, hence “the slap” that supposedly echoes with a slap I can’t remember from season one. And now Alicia walks off into an unknowable future, as the strong, but ostensibly sold out feminist that we have admired (?) for seven seasons. Strong, but, we are told, corrupted by upward mobility. Odd that the writers, so happily married and creative, ended their acclaimed series on a sour note. Perhaps the Jewish wife “called the shots” yet again.

 writers Michelle and Robert  King as shown in Hollywood Reporter

writers Michelle and Robert King as shown in Hollywood Reporter

March 24, 2014

“The Good Wife” and bad timing

Josh Charles/Will Gardner

Josh Charles/Will Gardner

SPOILER ALERT. I have been thinking of writing something about The Good Wife (a television series written by Robert and Michelle King) for some time, but not until I saw the widespread coverage of the “bombshell” last episode (March23 2014), did I feel that I had enough for a blog. To be brief, the lead female character’s lover is shot by his adolescent client, he dies, and users of social media went wild with grief and shock.

See for instance this comment from Denver: What is notable is this critic’s recognition that lawyers (and the legal system) are not in search of truth, virtue, or honor, but are about “winning and losing.” I would add that the show depicts a bureaucratic system where “procedure” and thinking fast on your feet are everything. The amorality or immorality of the show are rarely noted by journalists.

As for the official publicity from CBS, the excuse for the upsetting dénouement is simple: Josh Charles (the actor who plays Will Gardner) wanted to leave the show after his contract was up, and “tragedy,” “bad timing” and “sudden death” mark all of our lives in this [vale of tears]. Blogs in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post took this public relations line and swallowed it without a murmur. Still I wonder 1. Contracts run out all the time, which gives the actor an excuse to renegotiate its terms. Did the producers balk? and 2. Near the beginning of the series Julianna Margulies was interviewed on CBS and stated that focus groups were split on whether “Alicia” should stay with her cheating husband (who would become the governor of Illinois in recent episodes), or leave him for the love of her life (Will Gardner) as her mother and brother had hoped.

Here comes the feminist part (and I don’t mean Delia Ephron’s broken-hearted lament in the New York Times). One reason I and other educated women like the show may be that it depicts able professional women whose sex drives do not quit during their middle age. And more, they must face the same moral dilemmas as men do, hence the irony and ambiguity of the title: what does it mean to be a good wife nowadays? And can anyone be “good” in corrupt Chicago, a corruption that is mostly hidden by the writers to keep the focus on sex, power, and the machinations of politicians to get elected? A bit of class warfare even creeps in, as the money-mad senior partners do not treat the exploited associates well, leading Alicia and “Cary” to leave the firm, creating ill will with their former employers. In future episodes, I predict that the bruises will heal as the main characters grieve for the departed Will, restoring broken attachments. That is how populism, the subtext of most popular culture, works. Meanwhile, we may gaze at beautiful, well-preserved actresses, dressed to the nines and wearing very high heels. So much for the feminist content.


As for ideology, the characters are Democrats and the drift of the show is liberal. Some episodes buttress immigration reform, others interracial dating, Alicia’s brother is gay (no big deal), Kalinda is bisexual, there are numerous black characters in the justice system, and the law firm of Lockhart Gardner has as one of its chief clients (a black man), the most important drug trafficker in Chicago (though they handle only his business enterprises). In other words, amorality and trendy issues for Chicago liberals dominate.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the media blitz on the last episode of The Good Wife is the viewer response. Fiction, especially great works or even better than average television series, may have replaced the lives we should be really experiencing. What happens to a polity when millions of Americans choose a show or movie to watch and identify with, as opposed to responding to the events, threats, and dilemmas in our own real lives? Or should we lean back and accept that life is necessarily tragic, this world is inevitably corrupt, and that we are all victims of “bad timing”? (For a second blog, this time on the series finale, see


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