The Good Wife "Dramatics, Your Honor" Review: Bad Calls

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 24, 2014

The Good Wife S05E15: "Dramatics, Your Honor"

Folks. I'm wrecked.

I'm exhausted. I'm jetlagged. Something horrible happened in the most recent episode of Hannibal that had already kind of upset me. But this? This... this had me crying.

I mean, I have a critical response to Will's death—boy, it sure is a handy and lazy way to resolve whether or not Will would've testified against Peter in Dubeck's little crusade!—but, dammit, I don't care right now. I'll care soon, I'm sure, but right now I just... need to not do my normal analysis. We can do it in the comments, but I'm not going to do it it here, not yet.

Even as Will grew angry and petty and singularly focused on ignoring his feelings in an effort to crush Alicia—all claims that his crusade wasn't completely personal be damned—I still loved Will Gardner. I really always have. He was a cocky and crafty lawyer, willing to do anything to win, skirting just on (and sometimes over) the edge of the law. He was the quintessential TV defense attorney, but never completely loathsome. It does help that The Good Wife is populated with plenty of cynical, amoral characters, so that instead of Will existing on a spectrum where the two endpoints are Shining Knight Attorney and Irredeemable Defense Attorney, he exists within a range that cuts off somewhere between those two archetypes, with a trickster lawyer like Elsbeth being as "good" a character as the show is interested in depicting.

And as much as Will loved the finer things that practicing law afforded him, they didn't always consume him. Take his insistence on Jeffrey's innocence, for example—even though it was one of those cases that exists on legal TV shows to help soften up the defense attorney as a character, it illustrated that Will's dedication to and mobilization of the law wasn't always for his own personal gain. Sure, from a character psychological standpoint, the thrill of getting Jeffrey freed would've fed into the conversation Will had with Kalinda, about the thrill of doing what they do, but it did help someone else (provided we believe that Jeffrey was innocent; Will certainly did). So while the law was always a game for Will, it was a game that he played to win for his client, because a win for his client also meant a win for him.

On the flip side of the law were Will's relationships with those around him. I expect that we'll be thinking more about those relationships as the season winds down and individual characters respond to things, but here are some quick thoughts:

– I can't think of a more embittered-but-loving pair than Will and Diane. An affectionate working relationship that never felt contrived or pointless because of the lack of sexual tension between the two. They could high-five, scheme, and dance, and it always felt like no matter what they ended up doing to each other, they'd always have each other's backs.

– With Kalinda, there was the sense that Will didn't care about her past. He didn't need to know her secrets or to understand the enigma that is Kalinda. He respected the woman Kalinda became after she fled Nick's stupidly stupid clutches, but he didn't care about Nick. That stuff just didn't matter to him. Will and Kalinda understood one another in their own "there's us and then everybody else" ways, and I'm so glad that they had that scene in the bar. "Want a hug?" "Stupid."

– Alicia... Alicia is thornier, trickier. Will gave her that helping hand when no one else would, he carried that torch, tried to make a case for himself, and then licked his wounds when it didn't work. But those months when they were together? During those months, Alicia was happier than she'd ever been since we'd met her, and Will was the most fulfilled by something other than the law than we'd ever seen (or would ever see) him. Those months cost them both a great deal, and as we'll likely see, Alicia isn't completely done paying for them.

And that leaves us with Josh Charles. I've been a big fan of his since Sports Night, and in fact, his presence helped spur me to check out The Good Wife after a professor of mine told me I should be watching it (I came in halfway through Season 1). So much of Will's likability was due to Charles. He'd hit lines near-perfectly: cocky without being annoyingly arrogant, and with an elegant deadpan that would crack with a rakish grin. Charles does sad, soulful eyes like few actors on television can, a skill he likely honed while making sure that if an audience member in the last row of a theater performance couldn't see them, they could damn well feel them. Say what you will about whether you ever truly brought into Will's deep, unrequited love for Alicia, but if there's someone to fault for you not buying it, I'd point the finger at The Good Wife's writers and not Charles. He either made sure the material worked just well enough, or—in the case of Will's loathing of Peter—he actually transformed what was written into something suffocatingly palpable, in a good way.

Which brings us to the gangbuster of a run that The Good Wife gave Charles this year (according to Deadline, this has been the plan pretty much since the start of the season). We've certainly been theorizing as to what would happen to Will since Charles' contract is almost up, and with meaty episode after meaty episode for him—especially, of course, "The Decision Tree"—it seemed that the show was trying to convince him to stay when it was actually giving him a well-deserved swan song to go out with. The Good Wife, and television in general, is a little poorer now that Josh Charles and Will Gardner won't be appearing on our screens each week.


– A few additional critical responses: THAT'S A SHIT-TON OF FALSIFIED BALLOTS. There's no possible way there were that many. C'mon, show. Also: Did I like how things went down? No, not really. I think an additional episode with Jeffrey to build the story a bit more would've helped a lot, but then The Good Wife might've overplayed its hand. And, surprise!—violent character deaths, while shocking and emotional, also feel like you've been cold-cocked from behind, something I'm not sure I'm ever happy with. However, how much did you love that we had a pure procedural episode this week, with no inter-firm warring?

– I never ever ever ever recognize Matthew Goode, who played the fantastically named Finn Polmar.

– Alicia's stern, icy, "No. I'm good." just felt so great during Dubeck's deposition.

– Here's the promo for what's coming up. Yet again, CBS has put together another great trailer for the season. (Thanks to @Ladybug_Jojo24 for getting me a link so quickly!)

What did you think of "Dramatics, Your Honor"? How about sharing some of your favorite Will moments in the comments?

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  • skiso1 Jul 27, 2014

    Just devastating! I knew it was coming but coud not help being in tears after watching the episode.
    I never cry for these kind of things. NEVER; because I know all the tricks! I have to admit they got me there.
    Quite surprising because I'm invested in a lot , A LOT of tvshow..... but WOW first time in 10 Years now that I am gutted devastated and angry about the death of a character.

  • lindablundell1 May 09, 2014

    I loved the Will/Alicia thing in this show, saw last nights episode In UK and there was Will dead on a hospital bed. Are you kidding me!
    Quite gutted, he was one of the best characters and just when I thought things might get heated up again sometime soon, Bang!!

  • ElainePinto Apr 01, 2014

    Wonderful, wonderful episode for a so far flawless season. But I fear for the future of the show. Will Gardner was, by far, the most interesting character in TGW.

  • cnygen Mar 30, 2014

    That episode left me gutted. I cried like a baby. I didn't know that Josh Charles was leaving, so it was a total shock. I love it when writers do these kinds of things before a finale and without any hype. I'd much prefer a sucker punch than to see it coming a mile away. I am so sick of promo trailers that either build up hype over nothing, or that spoil what should have been a powerful, surprising moment. Well done TGW writers.

  • lynn132 Mar 30, 2014

    I avoided spoilers like a champ. I even DVR'd the episode (to marathon the episodes since the break) only to have Amazing Race or something go over this one by 40 minutes. I'm lucky it did because I could not have handled this episode with anyone else home! Now I recall that Josh Charles was leaving but boy was I ever mad until I got to Noel's review. I was ready to compare the shooting to a Grey's stunt but as I reflect I am actually excited to see where this goes. To write out a character perfectly is never easy but I think the aftershocks of this one will play out very well. I still might ask my mother to stop watching to avoid a heart attack though.

  • wiggle47 Mar 29, 2014

    ever since Taraji P.Henson/Jos Carter died in the Person of interest the show is not that great. and I LOVED it until. Now Jos Charles/Will Gardner is also dead/leaving!!!!
    For me its over.
    Like Hensen Gardner was one of the leading/important role.
    well will see.

  • Jux_ta_pose Mar 29, 2014

    unfortunately i came across the spoiler by accident but I'm not sure if I'm annoyed that I knew before watching the episode or relieved I had the heads up so I wasn't blindsided. I have no real bond with the 'Will' character so it didn't destroy me, although don't get me wrong it was shocking. I do think purely as a plot point its brilliant as it adds another dimension to the show and a the perfect showcase for the actors left behind to deal, to shine in the aftermath of this tragedy.
    Good luck Josh, wherever this leads you next...

  • Madelynn1984 May 01, 2014

    I was also spoiled and ok with it. I generally prefer advance notice on my deaths, to be honest. But. . . since I knew it was coming, I was hypothesizing ways for him to go, and I unfortunately thought of a couple that were better than what they wrote, so I was a bit disappointed with how it went down. I thought, Oh wait, shooting, I guess this must be the uninspired way this is happening. . .

  • opalemeraldcat Mar 29, 2014

    I wasn't caught up, so I knew what happened. I still wasn't prepared... I'm destroyed, and all I can hope is Alicia goes from a saint to a goddess and pulls me from the wreckage while she assumes her true glory from the fire of mourning... Also Kalinda and Diane.

  • letsgoanna Mar 29, 2014

    Im sitting here with my mouth hanging open, didnt see that coming at all!

  • ScienceFan Mar 27, 2014

    The Good Wife is the best and most intelligent drama TV show right now - maybe with the exception of Games of Thrones - and it is filled with great actors - Of course Julianna Margulies aka Alicia Florrick is outstanding but even Archie Panjabi aka Kalinda Sharma and Christine Baranski as Diana Lockhart make the show interesting - Personally I think that it's the women in the show who make the show fly - This last episode (E15) was great - especially Alicia's conversation with Nelson Dubeck - She totally dominated the scene - The death of Will Gardner (Josh Charles) was really dramatic - shocking and unexpected - I can't wait to see the next and last eps of season 5 - And how can I wait for so long until the next season? - For there will at least be another season - Yay!!! - Maybe I should re-watch all the previous seasons so I won't forget what it all is about until the fall

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