I went to a Tribeca Film Festival screening today of tonight’s new episode of The Good Wife, followed by a discussion with Robert King, Michelle King, Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, and Cush Jumbo about the show and the upcoming finale.
First of all, the episode was fabulous. You should all watch it. The drama kicks up for both the clients and the main characters, and some of our favorite guest stars are back (notably Dillinger and the rest of the NSA crew, plus the inimitable Kurt McVeigh). Cary makes a sad-eyed appearance, and there’s also an amazing moment between Peter and Alicia that shows so many layers of how they feel about each other. I’ll be recapping it later on, but yeah. Tune in tonight.
As it turns out, pretty much everyone is in agreement on the best episodes this show has ever done, and the episodes they’re proudest of. The episode in the beginning of season 5 (Matt Czuchry adorably knew the exact episode number and title — episode 5 of season 5, “Hitting the Fan” — which, to be fair, I also knew off the top of my head and I’m sure half the audience did, too, but Julianna Margulies teased him mercilessly!) where Cary and Alicia leave Lockhart Gardner, which in my opinion is the best, most intense episode ever, was widely agreed to be one of the best. Everyone was also very proud of “The Last Call,” which was episode 16 of season 5 (neither Matt Czuchry nor I needed to look that one up either!) and revolved around Alicia saying goodbye to Will after his shocking, violent death.
Can we just talk for a second about how ridiculously rare it is for a show to hit its peak in the fifth season? I can’t think of another drama that managed to do that; Friday Night Lights had some excellent moments in season 5, but the magic of season 1 was probably never surpassed. If you can think of any, put them in the comments!
I think this feat was possible because the Kings knew how long they wanted to tell this story for. They didn’t just put it into the world and hope that it would go forever (they said, “It was a show that had to end”), or just think through the first season and figure the rest would come to them later. They knew the story had a beginning, a middle, and an end — and they even knew they wanted to kill off a major character right in the middle! They saw it as a demarcation line that would divide Alicia’s arc into a before and an after. So it makes total sense that season 5 was the best season, the most intense; they had truly been planning towards it, and earning it, all along.
Even though, as Robert King said, “We didn’t know it [the death] would be Will till Josh Charles wanted out of his contract.” Apparently, they thought it might be one of Alicia’s kids!
Cue everyone sighing and wishing it had been Grace instead of Will. Oops, did I just write that?
But Matt Czuchry’s not the only person who knows a ton about the show. Cush Jumbo got to represent everyone in the audience by being a huge Good Wife fangirl. She had watched it back in drama school in London and never dreamed she’d actually be cast on it. When she got on set, “I even recognized some of the extras,” she said. Julianna Margulies laughed and agreed, “She knew every judge.” Cush Jumbo, by the way, is a) extremely beautiful in real life, so beautiful her face seems to glow; and b) has a great British accent. Apparently this really confuses fans who stop her on the street; she says that they’re frequently gushing about her role on The Good Wife and then as soon as she thanks them, they get very confused that Lucca is British!
But Matt Czuchry has the fan encounter story to end all fan encounter stories. He was once recognized in the locker room of a gym — by a naked man. He recounted drily, “I was sitting. He was standing. He loved The Good Wife. Things were floppin’ in all sorts of directions. I have no idea what he said to me, by the way.” Love it!
No one was willing to give away much about the series finale, unfortunately. Julianna Margulies recounted how she was so emotional she had to read it four times — the fourth one with a glass of wine, “a wee glass, not an Alicia-sized glass,” she reassured us — before writing to the Kings to say she thought it was brilliant. Robert King said that the best TV endings are more novelistic and don’t tie up all loose ends (so I guess that means we still won’t find out what happened to Robin?). Cush Jumbo described it as “happy, sad, sexy.”
And in typical King fashion, Michelle King coyly refused to confirm the rumors that Josh Charles would come back for the finale. She named several absurd rumors, from Eli and Alicia kissing (which made Julianna Margulies cover her face in horror, though as you all may know, I’m secretly sort of rooting for them) to Alicia and Jason running away together, and said only one of the rumors was true. Let’s hope it’s the one about Josh Charles, because it’s been reported by plenty of reputable outlets and we’ve gotten attached, dammit!
Also, I want to note that the cheering when Josh Charles’ name was mentioned was way louder than the cheering for Jason.
Julianna Margulies also spoke eloquently about what we all want to see from Alicia in the finale. She said that Alicia’s challenge was to change and grow without becoming hard — and then added, “I’ll love her forever.”
So will we. So will we.
A few other things we learned from this panel:
- We found out exactly what happened with Alicia and Will at Georgetown! Apparently, they had a dinner date, but they got their times mixed up (ah, those two, with their bad timing…) and Alicia was waiting for Will at the restaurant for a long time, thinking he was standing her up. Apparently there was a scene where she explained all this to Margo Martindale’s Ruth, but it got cut — presumably from “Iowa,” the episode earlier this season when Alicia poured out her heart to Ruth.
- We weren’t the only people to think that hand job scene had some plot holes! Julianna Margulies says that while filming, they all joked, “Did Lucca go, like, three blocks away to get those chips?”
- Matt Czuchry thinks the fans are going to be really really happy when they see the Gilmore Girls revival.
- “Chum-Hum” was the Kings’ 32nd choice for what to name the Google-esque internet giant in The Good Wife’s alternate tech universe. The first 31 were rejected by the Legal department. What do you think they were? I’m guessing “Flugel”? “Wahoo”?
- Julianna Margulies would love to be able to play Eli Gold so she could do the eyebrow raise.
- But she also raved about how lucky she was, because actors are often afraid to commit to a single character for the length of a TV show, but when it came to Alicia Florrick, “Every day I was challenged as an actor to play her.”