The Good Wife "The Last Call" Review: The Unknown

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Mar 31, 2014

The Good Wife S05E16: "The Last Call"


Death can be hard for some television shows, and sudden deaths even harder. They can be difficult for the writers to conceive, difficult for the show to then properly dramatize, and then difficult for the audience to accept. If "anyone can die!" is built into a show's DNA—like on Law & Order (to a certain degree), Lost, most basic and premium cable drama since 1999—then you can expect the suddenness to a point, and death hangs over the characters and their every interaction.

If death isn't in the series' standard bag of narrative tricks, then the challenge is all the worse because we're simply not expecting it. Even on medical shows like M*A*SH* and House, where death is often a fact of life, the deaths of main characters can still come as a shock, whether it be over the Sea of Japan or a sudden and unexpected suicide. In the case of The Good Wife, we haven't had a sudden death since Jonas Stern (remember Stern?!) died quietly in his office in Season 2. It's why Will's death and Josh Charles' departure are both so shocking and so out of character for the show; that's not the kind of thing that happens on The Good Wife.

Like the death on House, the questions become "Why?" and "How?" For the audience of The Good Wife, those questions have been answered by a full-scale press storm of interviews and phone calls and open letters and discussions between fans. For three of the women in Will Gardner's life—Diane, Kalinda, and Alicia—"The Last Call" was about determining the answer to those questions.


I don't want to say that Diane had it the easiest of the three, but she may have been the one to earn the most immediate and satisfying amount of closure compared to where Kalinda and, especially, Alicia were by the episode's end. She also, however, had the more immediate concern of how to keep her business afloat now that that her other managing partner had died. It's a decent distraction from having to cope with the grief, but also a way to cope with it. Of course, that didn't stop her from firing a barely-hired intern who was sobbing in an hallway when Diane, who has known Will for decades, couldn't get that time to grieve.

It may have been crass when David Lee—whose near fit of crying almost broke me all over again; HE DOES HAVE A HEART—wanted to take the time to get Will's clients in line and make sure they didn't jump ship, but it's what both he and Diane ultimately needed. And it resulted in Diane getting to fire Will's asshole of a client who basically saw this as an opportunity to leverage himself some more attention with a face-to-face meeting while people are in mourning. Diane's brutal take down of him, including blackballing him for a couple other firms in Chicago, was the most pleasurable sequence in the whole episode: "That felt good." "Turned me on."

As a semi-related aside: Cary does the exact same thing to an opposing lawyer who decides not to be respectful of Cary wanting to delay a deposition (for a client they poached from LG). He comes out guns blazing in the deposition, destroying the doctor's character, leading the other attorney to want to call things off. Cary's reply to why he's being so aggressive: "I want to get out my aggression and my anger by destroying your client. Now sit down. I said sit the hell down." Always a nice to have a reminder that Cary and Diane are often one and the same.


Kalinda and Alicia both have mysteries to solve, and that means they're both in procedurals, of sorts. Kalinda wanted to know how Will died and Alicia wanted to know why Will called her, leaving a brief, ambiguous voice mail. Kalinda's search for her answer led her down the show's standard procedural beats of identifying suspects, figuring out if they did it, and why they did it. Then, as things often do with Kalinda, they got a little dark.

The speed at which Kalinda's investigation went could've been a distraction, especially as it involved Jenna greasing all the necessary wheels for her, but Kalinda needed answers here more than we needed this to be a driving mystery (that was partially the point of Alicia's plot, after all). Likewise, I don't know that it mattered all that much who killed Will, but Kalinda's someone who needs information, needs to know things. It is her job, yes, but it's also how she protects herself, how she gets what she wants. In this case, it was making sure he was laying down her wrath on the correct person.

Take this how you will, but Kalinda's enough of a cipher still that it her giving the belt to Jeffrey wouldn't have surprised me any more than her deciding to not give it to him did. Giving Jeffrey the belt would've been bad for Jenna—how horrible—but ultimately I think it's Kalinda's more sadistic nature that resulted in all the toying, her normal impulse to go Old Testament, either physically, emotionally, or sexually, to punish those around her. She's going to live with Will's death for the rest of her days, and now Jeffrey will as well, for however many days he'll have left.


Alicia had the bulk of emotional and story weight to carry this week, and understandably so. It is her show, after all, but it's also her relationship with Will that's been the engine for a lot of stories since "Hitting the Fan." His death shakes things up for her in ways that it simply can't for Diane or Kalinda, or anyone else for that matter. This is Alicia's loss, and the episode wisely chose not to shy away from that.

There's of course the search for who can fill in the gap of the voice mail, why Will called her, but it was the reaction to each bit of information to adjust her sense of how things happened, from a prison thug in an orange jumper to Jeffrey in his suit and tie firing the gun, to all the different possibilities of what Will's call was about. If it was him furious ("Are you kidding? Leave our clients alone."), him being apologetic about their fighting ("This feud is stupid."), or if it was him, as she may have chosen to make it as Peter embraced her, calling to want to take another swing at being together ("Alicia, I'm sorry. I want what we had. I want to be with you, and only you. Forever. Call me back, please.")

Like the show's memory pops, these imagination pops, are quick, staying around just as long as they need to before cutting back in less than a heartbeat to the external world as someone shakes Alicia out of her thoughts. It used to be that we had very little access to Alicia's inner-workings, relying only on Julianna Margulies's finely calibrated facial expressions. The memory pops give us access in a new but still vaguely elliptical way that doesn't undermine Alicia's emotional complexity by showing what she's thinking; it actually enhances it.

In the end, while Diane and Kalinda found some solace, Alicia did not. She did find out that Will wasn't calling because he was mad—Damian (remember Damian?) was stealing clients—but it's of little comfort because the question lingers. Between this and the thawing of their relationship in the previous two episodes, Alicia is left to deal with the trailing off that is her relationship to to Will Gardner, with little to draw comfort from but the sincere religious feelings of her daughter and the insincere sincerity of her husband. She's alone in her grief, both by choice and by circumstance, holding herself together with one last imagined smile.



SIDEBAR

– I do admit to singling out M*A*S*H and House on purpose since, like The Good Wife, both had to react to actors wanting off their shows as well. Indeed, House's episode was devoted to explaining the unexplainable, in a similar way to Alicia's fruitless search for what Will called her about. It ended without answers, too.

– Diane's massive chain-link necklace is yet another piece of statement jewelry that I'm convinced only she could make look amazing.

– Will's granola hippie girlfriend wasn't given any space to mourn Will's death. Thank goodness.

– I didn't mention it above, but I really loved Alicia and Grace's scene this week. Alicia doesn't keep her pain in check, Grace doesn't back down from that pain, and Margulies killed in it.

– That's two episodes in a row we've had detectives from the show's early seasons reappear. Last week it was Felix Solis on the stand; he hasn't been around since Season 2. And this week it was James McDaniel questioning Jeffrey; he's been absent since Season 1.

– One other blast from the past: This was the first time Kalinda and Alicia spoke to one another in roughly a season, let alone had TWO conversations. Maybe they'll actually share a scene soon, too, something I don't think has happened since the Season 4 episode "Boom De Yah Da," which was 27 episodes ago. When Alicia asked Kalinda what she was going to do, I hoped the answer was "shots of tequila."

– In case you missed the news, Matthew Goode, who plays Finn Polmar, was promoted to a series regular for... the remaining episodes of Season 5. No word yet on what this means for him in Season 6, but it seems to me like a pretty clear trial for the character's continued presence on the show.

– Now that we're all emotionally drained, it's time for a quick break from the show! We'll meet back here on April 13 to discuss "A Material World." Luckily, from that episode forward, it's new episodes and no breaks until the finale on May 18, so buckle your seat belts.


What did you think of "The Last Call"?


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  • scs7900 Apr 22, 2014

    I just started watching the good wife. I am on season 2 episode 22. It's really bummed me out that Will dies. I'm hoping there is a small chance that Will survived and is in protection of the US Marshall's b/c bishop or something. Kinda like Claire from "the following"

  • NasiaVoulieri Apr 14, 2014

    Noel... where is tonight's review??? It is 6 in the morning, here in Greece, and I just watched the episode and hurried online to read your review, but it was nowhere to be found!!! Hurry up!! I need to comment!!! :D

  • joanmarie5 Apr 11, 2014

    Just wanted to say that it is indeed a great loss to the show regarding the role of Will by Josh Charles. However, you had us hooked from the start when in the Pilot, Julianna Margulies, delivered in her amazing way those lines regarding a scorned woman. There have been many other moments in the show that have my applause. Just my two cents: keep doing what you are doing: wonderful writing, amazing casting and great talent. Make Tony Scott proud. By the way, excellent casing call with Matthew Goode. It is not common for me to chime in, wanted to let you I appreciate the show.


  • Metissa Apr 07, 2014

    Very good episode, I was bawling for the last 20 minutes... Loved the scene between Alicia and Grace!

  • paris_slim Apr 07, 2014

    Whatever merits this episode had, we were disappointed by it and I think it's the least good episode of the series. There were moments, yes, but the entire "piece" was not even close to what most episodes contain, a balance with light stuff, moral issues, and the heavy stuff. Is there another season? I see 18 episodes on the list. TGW is one of the best, possibly the best, most intelligent series on TV. If it ends, we lose a little piece of what makes TV worth watching. We'll be sorry when it ends.

  • fafafafa Apr 04, 2014

    As for the last call, seems to me it would have been about Will warning Alicia about this Damien guy stealing her clients as well as from him. Or possibly, just hers. Anyone else figure this?

  • eddaruston Apr 01, 2014

    I don't think Peter is altogether a bad guy. I think he genuinely cares about his wife and did what any husband would in that moment, trying to find out if she is okay. I think the awkwardness between the two can lay on Alicia' shoulders as well. If she still has unresolved romantic feelings for Will, then she should be clear about it with her husband. As for her professional tension with Will, she made the decision to leave LG, which she knew would be painful for Will since he gave her a chance when nobody else would. In the previews for the next episode we get a glimpse of Peter and Alicia quarreling. If she forgave Peter for his past indiscretions, I don't think it's fair to bring it back up. Alicia made the decision to stay married to him. We should be responsible for our own actions, and only we can suffer the consequences of our own actions, not lay the blame at someone else's feet when we're down. Great show, definitely portrays human beings very realistically as none of us are all good or all bad.
    Cary kicked a@@!!!!

  • JT_Kirk Apr 01, 2014

    After so much pain and angry backlash for a week, then seeing positive marks from the viewers of this episode, I have to wonder if CBS wouldn't have been wiser to simply air the 2 episodes back to back. Each episode holds up well on its own, but there was a lot of bitterness from the fan base, enough to make the news, and it makes me think that it might have just been wiser to give them this feeling right away.

  • JT_Kirk Apr 01, 2014

    Great review, and I'll add that I think this was a fantastic episode. Some of the filming, editing, and scoring choices were good enough to be called truly cinematic. Once again, The Good Wife shows itself to be the best show on television.

    Oh yeah, I forgot the suicide on House, that was a biggie. Thanks, Obama.

    Diane taking down that attention-whoring intern was damned good, I'm not sure about firing the client though, that felt a bit roughshod.

    David Lee, and Eli Gold, their reactions really did hit home. They both are usually the sleazebags who have to do the dirty work and have to think about the dirty work all the time, so to see them shaken and connected in a way that's not the norm for them, those were both oustanding works. I honestly didn't know what we were going to get with David Lee when we started following him, it could have been terrible "take over the firm" silliness, instead it was poignant.

    Cary was the one that made the episode, "sit the hell down." The idea that we don't get more of that Cary saddens me. How the producers felt they didn't have strong enough male leads with Cary and David Lee and Peter and Eli is beyond me, I guess because only Cary is a regular cast member technically.

    So Noel, how could this be a procedural for a procedure so poorly defined prior to this? How does one get answers and closure in something as chaotic as this?

    I was pleased that sleazy Jenna didn't take advantage of Kalinda in this situation in any way.

    The thing I like most about the memory pops is their lack of flashy "look at me" gimmicks, the only gimmick generally is eye contact, there's no fancy camerawork or gauzy filtering or sound effects.

    I could not have been more pleased that they got rid of Damian this way, that was a joy.

    The feeling of "what if..." will too often linger between lost loved ones, that is the unfortunate truth of losing people and the show captured it well.

    Grace and Alicia's religious conversation was highly charged and very impressive, I'm not sure I saw Alicia as the kind of parent to pull that move, but it had weight none the less and made Grace's simplistic religious views feel very separated. I'm surprised that aspect didn't make the rabblerousers froth in the media the next day.

    Diane's necklace was so gaudy, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it.

    Agreed on Will's awful girlfriend, thanks for not putting that in our faces.

    I think the worst part about Finn Polmar is his name, it's awkward in a "look at me" sort of way. Goode did quite a solid job with his hospital scene (pretty sure some of his other work was left on the cutting room floor, as there were shots of him dragging Will in the promo that I didn't see here or in that previous episode), but every time someone talked about Finn, his clunky name came up and it felt stilted, like they were trying to drill it into the audience. Good character, bad name.

  • Madelynn1984 May 02, 2014

    Hahahaha. "Thanks, Obama." Yeah, that was kind of a bummer. And he was back to acting quite fast after that, too, so it made me wish they hadn't killed him off.

  • noelrk Apr 01, 2014

    Oh, we'll still get take-over-the-firm-silliness. David Lee's patient. So is Julius Cain. WHO IS COMING BACK VERY SOON, PRAISE BE. (Damian's also back next week, so, you know, take what you can get.)

    I should have clarified! There's an interesting way of thinking about the procedural framework as a way bringing order to the chaos, so the search for the answer, for closure, for satisfaction. When you boil it down, the procedural as a genre. be it law/legal/medical/sleuthing is about bringing order to chaotic system, about finding the truth to something. This episode just happened to be a bit more subverted in that there's no answer, even if there's a bit of persona satisfaction that can be eked out. Hmmmm.....

    IT'S A TERRIFIC NAME AND TAKE BACK EVERY NICE THING I EVER SAID ABOUT YOU.

  • JT_Kirk Apr 01, 2014

    I have no problem with "take over the firrrrrrrm!" stuff, just not the moment we see the character find out about Will's death. It probably would have been in-character for him, sure, but it would have felt like an ugly turn.

    Julius Cain must be damned patient!

    Nooooo! Not more Damian Boyle. :-(

    I don't think I agree with your assessment of what it means to be a procedural. A procedural should be a show that follows some sort of procedure (hence the name) to solve something, but that's not always finding truth. ER rarely found truths, but it solved problems in a very procedural manner. Many law shows these days aren't about truth but about achieving the best possible outcome for their clients - The Practice was big on that, for example. Meanwhile, Kalinda and Alicia seek their own truths in the aftermath of Will's death, but they do it in their individual manners and they're not even sure what they want from the outcomes of their searches.

    Finn Polmar is no "Noel Kirkpatrick", that's for sure. Finn, Polmar, I think it's both odd names together, we already have a Finn on TV, Fin Tutuola on SVU (spelling is immaterial in this case). Now I have no nice things said about me anymore. :-( again.

  • noelrk Apr 01, 2014

    Way to ignore the other Finn on TV, JT.



  • JT_Kirk Apr 10, 2014

    anasoares2092, yeah but that is a nickname at least. Good lookin' out though. So this is the new stripper name to take the tv by storm?

  • JT_Kirk Apr 02, 2014

    Finn comes from a post-apocalyptic future, everybody knows post-apocalyptic futures cause names to become weird.

  • creativeopinion Apr 01, 2014

    It was a very sad episode and few characters did what they had to do to feel better and in some way to honor Will. I like what the writers did there.. we couldn't just stop and grieve. It wouldn't be the 'TGW' we used to see.

    Sometimes you just have to take a minute and reflect. You just need that moment in order to move on. In that moment you don't care about the money or anything else and that's what Diane did. Some can say that she was acting irresponsible but i completely agree with her and support her decision. It's like what David said "the car is moving and someone has to drive" to take control but speaking of David, even him in that 'Diane' moment understood what she did (what the hell! get the f*** out! :) ). We also have had an interesting moment when David was alone in the office. I knew that he wasn't going to cry in front of everyone but it's good to know that he has feelings and he's not the robot :).

    Ok let's talk about Kalinda. She wanted to make sure what happened and that's why i love her character. She knew the window is closing and she pushed and did what she have to. Let's give her a True Detective role in Season 2 :)

    And finally! Cary! No words. You just have to see this:

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