I apologize for missing last week’s recap, which was of course the week the entire rest of the Internet was talking about The Good Wife. Since we’re catching up, and dealing with such a talked-about plot twist, let’s look at this post less as a recap, and more as an opportunity for a good discussion. It should go without saying that there are spoilers aplenty after the cut.
Will Gardner is dead. He didn’t die at the end of a long arc fighting romantic-TV-cancer, he was alive one moment, laughing with the judge and opposing attorney, and the next, he was gone. The day after the episode aired, Michelle and Robert King, the show creators, wrote a note to the fans, explaining their decision to make Will’s end quick and unexpected, rather than to send him off to Clooney his way through the Pacific Northwest or run off with his previously un-introduced OTP. Because that’s how death works. It comes out of the blue, on an otherwise perfectly ordinary day, without a parade or a lead-up, or a team of writers to give the dying the perfect last words.
In the most recent episode, Alicia discovers that Will left her a voicemail shortly before the shooting. It’s vague, and he’s cut off after a brief hello, but he promises to call her back. Throughout the episode, we see Alicia imagine what he might have wanted to say, from angrily yelling at her about poaching his clients, to declaring his love for her, and his desire to be with her forever. She spends the episode talking to everyone from the courtroom, trying to determine why he called her and whether he was thinking of her in his last moments, and trying to make sense out of events. Like real life, and not your typical network prime-time drama, she doesn’t find any answers. There’s no closure, there’s no last declaration of love, there’s no secret event that makes all the pieces make sense. Will Gardner is dead, and it’s never going to make any sense, not to Alicia, not to Kalinda, and not to us, the audience, even though we know he died because Josh Charles wanted to leave the show.
It was a bold choice, even if the trail was blazed by Whedon and Martin. Both of those fellas will gleefully kill everyone you love, but they’ll wrap it all up in some flowery-ass language and put a bloody vengeance bow on top. The Kings don’t have time for hand-holding and florid speeches, they’ll leave nothing but emptiness in the void formerly filled by a favorite character. I can’t help but respect that.
Will’s death also opens up a lot of possibilities for the storytelling possibilities in TGW universe. Will is the only male character who hasn’t been in a supporting role, with his absence, the show can focus more on telling the women’s stories. (Various MRA web hives just got a shiver, and they don’t know why.) TGW has always been a bit ahead of the curve while telling stories about women, one of the show’s biggest strengths is the ability to write complex, nuanced, layered women at the center of their own story. Will has always felt like an integral part of those stories, but I’m intrigued to see how the story develops from here.
Readers, how did you react to Will’s death, and what do you think it means for how the story progresses?