Season 2 of The Good Wife has been leaving me on edge every week, and we haven’t even gotten through the first month. While Season 1 allowed Julianna Margulies to show off her acting chops, mysteriously coming 'round to stand by her deceitful husband despite little evidence that he understood the impact of his cheating, Season 2 gives us a much more delicious story: the good wife teetering ever so close to becoming the bad spouse. Alicia (Margulies) has had a crush on her boss Will Gardner (Josh Charles) for decades, and the show's creators are toying with us as they dial the sexual tension up and down. And now Alicia has been totally mislead regarding Will’s intentions, due to Eli Gold's deletion of a vitally important voicemail. (If only she knew what that message said!)
In real life, a betrayed woman could justifiably nurse her hurt for months, even years. But thanks to the need to keep TV plots moving, Alicia is moving on with her life—and she's not shy about reminding people of that decision. While she relishes holding the power of forgiveness over her cheating husband, she toys with the possibility of being bad herself—with Will.
We will have to wait to find out which way Alicia will turn. For now, it’s worth remembering that she is just the latest in a long line of TV heroines who have survived, usually a little battered, to tell their tale of betrayal. Here are four favorites who each took a different path to get back at their men...
Beating him at his own game:
Dallas's Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray, 1978-1989)
No actress has ever summoned up all the feelings of betrayal in a quivering lip better than Linda Gray. Married and divorced twice to oil baron J.R. Ewing, Gray's character Sue Ellen sought her revenge with six affairs, two with the miserable Cliff Barnes. And despite her terrible treatment at J.R.’s hands, she was usually able to offer her rivals some choice advice. Who can forget the line, “Isn't it funny how the mistress always thinks she knows more than the wife? If she's so smart... then why is she the mistress?” Not to mention, “I sure didn’t stay because of love, I stayed until I could do to you what you have always done to me.”
Taking the high road:
Knots Landing's Val Ewing (Joan Van Ark, 1979-1993)
I am no student of history, but I occasionally mix up Joan of Arc with actress Joan Van Ark. Thinking about it some more, there are some similarities. Joan of Arc was born a peasant and led the French army to several victories before being captured by one lot of rogues, sold by another, tried, and then burned at the stake at age 19. Joan Van Arc’s most famous character, Val Ewing, was married at 15, deserted by her alcoholic husband Gary, turned out of her mother’s home, lost her child to J.R. Ewing’s clutches for years (yes, him again), reunited with then-divorced Gary when he had an affair with neighbor Abby, had a nervous breakdown, and was later kidnapped. Yet Val always kept her calm, despite Abby’s unpleasant goading. Well, almost always.
Granting forgiveness without forgetting a thing:
Sex and the City's Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon, 1998-2004)
It’s a miracle that any man managed to last more than one season opposite demanding lawyer Miranda, but Steve Brady somehow stood the course from the second season onward. Different-sized paychecks were their main bone of contention, and eventually Steve did start seeing another woman, Debbie. Steve and Miranda eventually reconciled, but not before the pain of dealing with Steve's affair caused Miranda to utter the fatal words to Carrie’s boyfriend at their wedding rehearsal dinner: “You two are crazy to get married. Marriage ruins everything.” And we all know what happened to Carrie as a result.
Fighting back… without leaving the house:
The Sopranos' Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco, 1999-2007)
Few TV heroines have displayed as much patience as Carmela. Marriage to Tony Soprano was never going to be easy, given his "profession." But his constant infidelity and the cavalier way he treated her would surely have driven most women to fly the coop early on. Instead, Carmela quietly developed romantic infatuations with a painter-decorator, her priest, and one of Tony's own men. One of the defining aspects of Carmela’s character was that she hardly ever left the McMansion in which Tony installed her; it provided both comfort and a terrible prison from which she never really escaped. And finally, it provided the backdrop to her magnificent, fiery showdown with Tony.