The Good Wife: What the critics said (and why they’e wrong)

The Good Wife

There’s a broad consensus among critics that the final series of The Good Wife was weak, but not everyone agrees about why (or whether that slap was justified).

Brian Moylan for The Guardian:

Though [Alicia and Diane’s] final confrontation was dramatic, it boiled their relationship down to two women fighting over their husbands. Both women (and, by proxy, the show) fought to elevate the roles of women in society and this catfight betrays that notion.

Diane certainly fought do to this (and, by proxy, the show), but Alicia never did. She only ever sought to elevate herself and her immediate family.

Lucy Mangan for The Guardian:

In Alicia, we had a protagonist who was that holy grail of primetime female figures – More Than One Thing. She was a lawyer, wife, mother, lover and friend* – in the round, all of them, all the time, and it was great. She was good, bad, wrong, right, petty, brave, clever, stupid – she was real. And viewers coped. The writers coped. The cast coped. It was a small-screen miracle not really seen on that scale since the days of Cagney and Lacey.

I mostly agree with this, but I’m not sure Alicia really had any friends (Kalinda and Lucca don’t count) and I think this was significant. Yes, shows only have so much screen time in which to flesh out their characters, but it was made clear that Alicia had prioritised the role of wife over that of friend. My understanding was that the friends who deserted her during season one weren’t old college buddies or other longstanding allies. They were the couples Alicia and Peter socialised with (who had no time for tainted singletons).

Kara Brown for

Alicia is no longer the woman she was in season one. She stands now, removed, masterfully stoic and much more independent. We see a literal gesture of her emancipation when she refuses to take Peter’s hand after his speech and walks away from him for good. (Probably.)

There was nothing remotely masterful about her stoicism, and there was little evidence of her being any more emotionally independent than at the very beginning. She didn’t “refuse” to take Peter’s hand – rather, she was distracted by her thoughts of trotting off after another man. There’s no strong evidence to suggest she then walked away from Peter for good. Much as she insisted she’s wasn’t planning to divorce him because she had a better offer in the shape of Jason, that was clearly bullshit.

The ones who got it right

Joanna Robinson for Vanity Fair:

Is Alicia a villain or an anti-hero? It’s hard to quite see her that way after all the good she’s done for so many seasons. But the inclusion of Will Gardner in the finale momentarily humanizes Alicia while also highlighting the idea that Alicia’s transformation into Peter has been a longtime coming.

Joshua Rothman for The New Yorker:

In its preoccupation with guilt, “The Good Wife” resembles no literary work more than Kafka’s “The Trial.” In both stories, the theory is that there’s an ultimate court of law, a higher, final, moral court, in which we’d all be found guilty if all the evidence were put before the judge. At a minimum, we’d be guilty of being weak, self-interested, and dishonest—of being human.

Published by Shona Craven

Writer, editor, talking head

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