Screen / The Good Wife

The Good Wife Mourns Will Gardner in “The Last Call”

In their letter to the fansThe Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King said of killing Will off that his death would open up more dramatic doors for the characters left behind, but especially Alicia. “The Last Call” rolled back a few minutes from the ending of “Dramatics, Your Honor” to watch Kalinda call Alicia to tell her of Will’s death. It was the start of many notifications of Will’s death, a notification that came in the middle of another busy day and caught everyone off-guard. Kalinda told Eli (who later told Peter) and eventually Alicia. Alicia told Cary. Diane told the partners, and David Lee told their clients. And everyone was overwhelmingly shocked and confused at Will Gardner suddenly being dead. While Kalinda and Alicia got to go on searches for meaning in Will’s death, most of the characters were caught up in relentless and insensitive realities that wouldn’t take a break for their grief. 

Will’s death acted mostly as a unifying force amongst the characters. The tension between Lockhart/Gardner and Florrick/Agos seemingly dissolved, beginning with Diane and Alicia’s tearful embrace in front of the elevator. And when David Lee saw Alicia, he offered her his condolences, a far cry from their angry interactions since Alicia and Cary’s departure. Later, Diane collaborated with Cary to ensure that no rival firm would take on a client who was insensitive and entitled even in the wake of Will’s death.

While we’re on the subject of Diane, she’s always been a practical presence at Lockhart/Gardner, especially when juxtaposed with Will’s own energetic and oftentimes emotional reactions, but in the aftermath of Will’s death, Diane’s more than willing to take on both Will’s ruthlessness and heated responses to other people’s bad behavior. This (and her abrupt firing of a weirdly-distraught intern) is probably only the beginning of Diane navigating what Lockhart/Gardner is going to be with without the Gardner and how she’s going to steer the firm, and herself, going forward. For the moment her slight deviation is not without fans. David has always been focused on keeping the firm fiscally sound, but he was delighted to see Diane kick an important client to the curb, and Cary (though we didn’t see it) went along with Diane’s plan.

And surprisingly Kalinda reunited with Jordana Spiro’s Jenna to delve into the details of Will’s death, and she definitively discovered that Jeffrey did shoot Will (but no one on our end really doubted that), but the why was harder to pin down. A broken down and suicidal Jeffrey was unable to explain, only able to say “I didn’t mean to”. Will’s death was senseless and random (but heroic as it came as Will attempted to stop Jeffrey’s shooting), the result of an anguished and unbalanced kid, and there’s no satisfying answer to why it happened.

The entire cast had a lot of grieving to do, but since last week ended with Alicia about to be notified of Will’s death (and since it is called The Good Wife), Alicia’s reaction was always going to be the big one. Of course Julianna Margulies rose to the occasion of portraying Alicia’s muted but obvious grief and her icy but fragile exterior as she navigated a world without Will for the first time. The Kings recently spoke on the big tragedy of Will and Alicia being their poor timing, and a voicemail, a call Alicia missed, is just another example. On it Will only said Alicia’s name before being interrupted and promising to call her back. Alicia and Will have always been meeting each other at bad times, and on top of Will’s untimely death, it’s the most consistent factor of their relationship. Something was always in the way, pushing them right out of each other’s reach at the moments when it would have mattered the most, and a few tweaks in a timeline could have brought them both some happiness with each other. Or would it? Maybe, maybe not, but now we’ll never know.

And Alicia will never know why Will called her. Josh Charles returned as Will in Alicia’s imagination as she considered the many reasons he could have been calling: to call an end to their feud, to condemn her for stealing another client, to tell her he wanted to be with her. Both Alicia and Kalinda were looking for answers: Kalinda wanted to know why Jeffrey killed Will, and Alicia wanted to know what Will wanted to say, but both wanted to know why Will died at all. And neither got an answer.  Alicia turned to Finn (after going to Diane, the judge and Finn’s assistant) who was with Will in his last moments, and he had no insight on what Will called her for.

Matthew Goode has since been upped to a series regular for the remainder of the season, and the Kings have admitted that he’s there to fill in the space vacated by Josh Charles in providing some “male energy”. Whatever that means, Finn’s a fine character, and despite his function to fill a space Charles’ departure left open, it was clever to bring him fully into the fold as a window to Will’s last moments. Our introduction of him in court was charming and fun but no less capable, and he’s instantly admirable because of his attempts to protect Will during the shooting. His scene with Margulies in the hospital, dealing with the loopy affects of his painkillers but remaining earnest and somber, was affecting and also a good way of connecting the two characters and anchoring Finn to the show.

“The Last Call” was only the beginning of the consequences of Will’s death. The grief on display in this hour was only the immediate aftermath, but there’s still a lot to come.

Stray Observations

  • David Lee’s reaction to Will’s death was the one that made me cry mainly because David’s smarmy behavior has never made way for the kind of emotion he displayed this episode, and seeing him have such a strong reaction to Will’s death (in the privacy of an emptied conference room) was emblematic of the relationships forged between the characters even alongside petty workplace squabbles
  • Cary tapped into some of his mean guy reservoir in the face of a terrible opposing counsel, and it was fantastic. I know the law is serious business, but you’d think people would have some decency and just let some things wait until tomorrow.
  • The Kalinda/Jenna relationship was only hinting at some depth before their sudden breakup, but it was nice to see Jenna being quietly supportive and helpful in Kalinda’s time of need, and that did more for the pairing than their antagonistic but sexually charged interactions of the past.
  • The person Will was calling to scream at for stealing clients was Damien. So that‘s where he went.
  • While Alicia was mourning Will’s death was probably not the best time for Grace to try to convert her mother to Christianity, but their conversation fit nicely into the episode’s theme of finding some meaning in Will’s death.

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