Reflections on The Good Wife: Alicia Florrick, like Walter White, was no hero

SUMMER 2009 PRESS TOURNo-one would ever try to argue that season seven of The Good Wife was even close to the quality of the previous six seasons, but ultimately it delivered what it needed to deliver: an unhappy and uncertain ending for Alicia.

This was a show about morality, as the title, the premise and pretty much every episode made clear. It was about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. the wrong thing for the right reasons, and both other configurations.

Alicia was not a hero. Yes, we were on her side at the start, after she was blind-sided by the discovery that her husband had not only cheated on her with prostitutes but was also going to prison, leaving her as breadwinner and single parent to their two children. But anyone who remained on Team Alicia throughout everything that happened next really couldn’t have been paying attention. Alicia wasn’t Walter White, but we could no more trust her justifications for her behaviour than we could trust his.

Alicia might have told herself she was motivated by her duty to her family, but as her children grew up and started challenging her, she began to show her true colours. I’ve no doubt the actor who played Zach needed to be swiftly written out of the show, but to have him effectively expelled for secretly helping his underage girlfriend obtain an abortion was a low blow. Given how much Zach looked up to his dad, it can’t have come as a surprise that he’d struggle to keep it in his pants, and that there would be consequences.

Grace, meanwhile, went down a different path while in the care of “Saint Alicia”, getting sucked into Christian fundamentalism via YouTube (or ChummyVids, or whatever it was called). How did Alicia respond to this cry for help? By passing up the opportunity to discuss morality and religion in a grown-up way and repeatedly telling her daughter to be a “good girl”. It’s little wonder Grace – who showed such promise as a lawyer when working for Alicia and Lucca – was ultimately willing to defer her entry to college in a show of support and solidarity to her undeserving father. This was a situation entirely of Alicia’s making.

When it came to her professional life, Alicia was as ruthless as any man and unapologetic for it. Yay feminism! Oh but wait – she was also perfectly happy to capitalise on her husband’s name, even when they were entirely estranged. Yes, she proved her worth at Lockhart Gardner, but so did Cary, so did Lucca. Alicia reeked of entitlement, never pausing to consider whether she actually needed or deserved a million-dollar apartment or a never-ending supply of the finest red wine. She was never humbled. She never seemed interested in Diane’s politics, even when she embarked on her own political career. She was only interested in looking after number one.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the show’s final season was the way in which Alicia’s relationship with Will was redefined as a great love story cut short by his untimely death. While there was some acknowledgement that this was a fiction, and a product of Alicia’s wishful thinking about what could have been, viewers were still deceived. Alicia and Will together were electrifying, because their relationship was illicit and Alicia was finally setting cutting loose and enjoying herself. But the most impressive thing about their time together was the way it ended. Not with explosive rows and recriminations (those came later when Alicia betrayed her mentors), but with a simple acceptance that they weren’t meant to be a couple in the long-term. They had just been two lonely people (a rudderless playboy and an uptight goodie-two-shoes)  seeking a connection, who’d had a great run.

Alicia was a pretty good lawyer, but she would never have made a great politician.She was good at playing the part of a loyal wife but it was far from clear that she’d make a great girlfriend. In the end, with her half-frozen forehead and cold stare, she sought to convince most of those around her that she had no emotions at all. What do you think happened after that slap? Did she have an epiphany? I doubt it.

Published by Shona Craven

Writer, editor, talking head

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