This is it! In its final episode, The Good Wife rose out of the ashes of a mess of a season and grasped at the character-driven brilliance it had in its heyday. Before that, it attempted to make sense of a character whose contradictions, changes, and choices were opaque to her and wonderfully complex on screen.
I’ll recap it, then follow up with final thoughts—a farewell to this flawed masterpiece of a show.
Previously on The Good Wife:
Alicia Florrick stood by her state’s-attorney husband Peter at a press conference where he admitted to sleeping with prostitutes and a host of other sins, then slapped him in the hallway outside afterward. While Peter was in jail, Alicia returned to work as a lawyer at a firm run by the elegant liberal Diane Lockhart and her old flame from college, the passionate and often ruthless Will Gardner. She and Peter separated; she had an affair with Will, but broke it off when her children made things “complicated.” She and Peter reunited; to get away from her feelings for Will, she broke off and started her own firm with her erstwhile rival Cary Agos, which began an accelerating cycle of firm disbandments, acquisitions, and reshufflings, and ended up with Diane and Alicia as the sole name partners of a firm located in the very same offices that Lockhart Gardner once held. Meanwhile, Will, who’d never forgiven Alicia for leaving the firm the way she did, was slain by a client on trial for murder. Alicia began sleeping with her emotionally unavailable, supposedly charming investigator Jason, and finally asked Peter for a divorce. If only he weren’t on trial yet again for supposedly interfering with a murder trial that we saw nothing of when it first happened…
And with that, to the finale.
When we start, we’re in the car with Eli, Peter, Alicia, and Lucca, all talking frantically on their phones. In the back, Eli is sitting between Peter and Alicia, which looks very uncomfortable but to me is probably the perfect picture of this marriage, or even this show. Lucca’s blathering about the plea deal, while Alicia’s talking to Grace. The latter two pause their conversations to discuss the fact that a short deliberation often means bad news for the defendant.
In the courthouse, Alicia pedeconferences with Connor Fox, trying to persuade him to keep the two-year deal on the table. But he too is convinced the short deliberation means a guilty verdict is coming, and he’s upped his offer to four years. He tries to scare her, saying Peter’s facing ten years away from his kids, but she gets all up in his grill and asks, “You think you can play the emotional card with me? You think I’m gonna break down and cry? Look at me. Do I look like I’m breaking down?” Connor pretends not to be intimidated, but reduces his offer to three years. She declines, but offers him a surrender today to give him a press cycle all to himself, if he gives her two years. He nods.
When Alicia finds Peter, he’s kneeling in front of a crying Grace, trying to comfort her: promising to be at her graduation, and begging her to “make your mom forget this.” Grace nods, and he goes to “comfort Eli.” Eli’s voice trembles as Peter thanks him. Peter even admits he made a mistake with Eli earlier this year (by hiring Ruth Eastman instead of him) and that he’s sorry for that. Eli does not admit that he spent half the year trying to sabotage Peter’s campaign in revenge.
Alicia and Grace sit in the front row at the courtroom, Alicia’s arm around Grace, as it’s called to order. Judge Cuesta starts to read the plea deal, which includes a damning recital of all the things Peter is admitting to having done. Just then he gets a note from the jury: they haven’t actually reached a verdict. They just have a question. Connor tries to push the plea deal forward, but Diane says it hasn’t actually been entered, and Cuesta accepts that Peter is rejecting it. “OK, well then let’s listen to the question the jury asks, I mean, I’m excited about this!” he says sarcastically. Alicia has a smile that hums with tension, more like a seasoned lawyer anticipating an exhilarating courtroom battle than like a woman who’s experiencing personal relief for her husband’s reprieve.
The jury’s question is a request to hear the recording of the 911 call, which was previously only entered as a transcript. Alicia explains to Grace that that’s good because they want the jury to focus on the murder instead of on Peter. Grace surmises that it’s because they want to “distract” the jury, and Alicia agrees, but reminds her that that doesn’t mean Peter is guilty. Grace says she knows. Good job, Alicia. Way to keep your kids’ illusions that their dad is a nice dude other than that whole sleeping-with-prostitutes thing.
Lucca meanwhile has marched off to call Jason to get him to help. Jason is sitting in a car in his shades for no apparent reason. “This is not over,” she says. (The theme of this episode, in many respects, is that nothing is over. And that probably sums up quite well where we leave Alicia. But more on that later.)
Jason arrives in the courtroom in time to hear the harrowing 911 call, in which a terrified female voice narrates that someone’s trying to get into her apartment until she’s cut off by the sound of gunshots. There’s a curious rattling sound right in the middle, which Jason manages to record perfectly on his little smartphone despite the fact that he’s standing in the back of a very crowded courtroom. The jury asks about the rattling sound, which was transcribed as “an inaudible noise.” Immediately all the lawyers on both sides stand up and demand a sidebar in unison.
Outside, Jason listens over and over to the sound. When Lucca hears him doing this, she asks, “Is that the sound at 0:48? What is it? How are we going to find out?” Jason starts pressing all the different ringtones on his phone, some of which are distinctly rattle-like. “What are you doing? What’s that?” Lucca asks. Finally Jason finds a ringtone that matches the sound, because that was clearly what he was doing. Lucca’s like “It’s a ringtone!” Um. Yes. That was why he was doing that. Welcome to where the rest of us were thirty seconds ago.
Then Jason says the phone was someone else’s, and Lucca asks how he knows. Wow, it’s like solving a mystery with Joey Tribbiani, with this woman. Jason says, sounding way too portentous for a man who’s explaining the painfully obvious, that he knows because the victim was using her own cell phone to call 911. Lucca happily claps him on the shoulder and dances off to pass along Jason’s brilliant deductions. That rather lacked the sparkling excitement of Kalinda’s deductions, I must say.
Sidebar in the courtroom. Connor clearly doesn’t want the jury to pursue their questions, while Diane does. Lucca breaks in to announce that she knows what the noise is, so Cuesta says they’ll reconvene tomorrow with legal arguments as to whether the jury should hear the evidence.
Back at the office, Lucca shows Alicia and Diane the ringtone. Alicia says she thought Jason wasn’t working on this, looking a little perturbed. Diane thinks it’s good to keep the jury occupied with this question. A memory comes to Alicia: in her second year, they argued a case involving Sweeney that was similar to this, whatever this is. I had read rumors that Will was coming back, and this mention of a case from her second year was when I decided it was safe to get really really excited. (I’m not even going to try to pretend in this last recap that I’m not a giant fangirl for Will.) Diane says they should dig up precedents, and that it looks like an all-nighter.
On her way out, Lucca advises Alicia to thank Jason. She closes the door and reveals that Jason thinks Alicia won’t divorce Peter if he goes to prison. Alicia asks what that means. I think it’s pretty clear what it means, kid. Lucca expands: Alicia “tend[s] to confuse responsibility and love.” Then she asks, “Who do you want to come home to, every night? Who do you want to see when you open your door?” she asks. All of America—or, all of the five people left still watching this show—yell Will Gardner’s name at the TV. But Lucca has forgotten all about Alicia’s laundry-room tantrum, so she’s still on the topic of Jason.
At home, Alicia listens to Regina Spektor and leans back on the bed. She sees herself walking into her apartment and finding a man at the counter. It’s Jason, and he kisses her. Then she’s reentering, only to find a different man at the counter: Peter, who gives her a kiss too. Meanwhile, I was about to have a heart attack each time I saw the back of a head, convinced it might be Will.
The real Alicia grows more serious and rewinds to the beginning of the fantasy one more time. She finds Will at the counter. YAY.
Real Alicia jerks her head, calling herself to reality. She gets up, closes the door on her darkened, empty apartment. Then she stands and goes further into her fantasy: she’s kissing Will. They pull back to look at each other, then kiss again. (I’m basically melting into a puddle at this point. My mother, ever the romantic, merely commented, “Wow, not a flattering angle.”) Real Alicia opens her eyes and chides herself: “Stupid.” She takes a deep breath, slams her laptop shut, grabs her glasses, and leaves.
Cut to the darkened Lockhart Florrick office, where Alicia paws through a file cabinet, then bypasses the caution tape blocking off the twenty-eighth floor to get to a different file cabinet. In her office, she reviews a brief and finds a sticky note: US v. Nuñez.
“I can’t read that,” she says to herself. All at once she’s hanging out with Will in his old office, mid-afternoon. He calls US v. Nuñez the St. Jude of precedents: i.e. lost causes. Something about presenting more evidence after closing arguments. “Nothing’s ever over, remember that,” he says. (There’s the theme again.) They start bantering about why Alicia doesn’t remember this case: apparently during criminal procedure she was always “Drunk, lolling around.” That’s a different image than I had of Alicia. I imagined her studious, pale, constantly studying in the library while her boyfriend Peter went off and banged everyone in sight. Alicia denies that she’s ever lolled, but she can’t even name the professor when Will asks. Imaginary Alicia smiles at Will and says it’s good to see him again. But Imaginary Will doesn’t know what she’s talking about, so I guess he doesn’t know he’s dead.
Real Alicia stares into the deserted office and then she’s back in the fantasy. She tells Imaginary Will, “You wouldn’t like it here now. Things have gotten sad.” He says things were sad before, that their hating each other was sad. She asks if he really hated her. “Oh yeah,” he says with a cute nod. She laughs and asks him what to do with her life, but he says he was never very good at life. She says he made it look easy, and asks why she never came to him. Oh, Alicia. Will responds, “What did you say? It was romantic because it didn’t happen. So you got a little bit of both: life, us together; and now romance.”
Alicia has moved to her office couch, which as you’ll recall she once desecrated with Jason. She walks out into the main lobby of 28, and then walks away. The credits are simply shots of the empty offices: no Alicia at all.
Jason finds Alicia in the courtroom and she looks a little startled, but happy, to see him as he leans into her personal space and asks her to talk to Cary about the prosecution’s work. “Cary won’t help me, I’m the last person he’d help,” Alicia says. Jason says he disagrees, but that’s because he didn’t see how Cary looked at Alicia with his sad, disappointed eyes last week!
Diane comes over to them and gloats that she got David Boies to testify. For those of you who didn’t watch this with two lawyers, this is apparently a real dude. My parents got very excited because apparently he’s a famous lawyer; his Wikipedia page reveals that he’s represented CBS in the past, as well as Al Gore in Gore vs. the Hanging Chads. Anyway, Diane says Judge Cuesta will be impressed. Jason asks her to stretch out his testimony for a few hours so they can find out more.
When Diane calls Boies up to the stand, she grins at him and asks him if he’s “one of the foremost legal experts working today.” He looks tickled pink to be on camera, which is very cute. When he answers that he’d “rather not say that about myself,” Judge Cuesta gives a hearty laugh, because Judge Cuesta is a Boies fanboy. And it’s lucky for Diane that Cuesta is so interested in sucking up to Boies, because she needs to get him to testify for several hours. She asks him to tell the court a little about his childhood. Connor objects for relevance. “Oh, I think the relevance will become clear,” Diane says, barely even bothering to pretend she’s not lying. The judge allows it.
Meanwhile, Peter’s meeting with a donor. Not Lloyd Garber, who thank God, is not mentioned once during this whole episode. He tells the donor that “this isn’t over” (take a shot every time someone says this, and you’ll end up as drunk as Alicia) and “there are a lot of paths to the future.” The donor agrees and says that Eli told him as much: they’re going to move their investments to Alicia. Peter is shocked. The donor explains calmly that Alicia will divorce him and run for office, and that her approval ratings are great. Ouch!
Jason and Alicia are watching Cary teach as a guest lecturer. Alicia comments that he looks like he’s been doing this his whole life, and Jason spouts another little platitude: “It’s nice when people find their purpose.” I suppose this is serving as the end of Cary’s arc, which (I hate to repeat myself, but) was so beautifully developed for the first six seasons and skittered to such a strange, barely-a-main-character halt this year.
Alicia thanks Jason for helping with Peter, then brings up the fact that Lucca thinks they should talk. Jason sighs and steps closer to her, saying that his head hurts whenever he tries to figure out their relationship. Then he says, “Look, your husband needs you. I think sometimes you need to be needed. Keeps you from tipping over.” Before Alicia can respond to this unflattering but frankly justified portrait of her psyche, the class lets out; Alicia leans into his ear and does the Sexy Whisper thing she loves to do, telling him to wait for her. She turns to go see Cary, and behind her, Jason sighs.
In the emptied classroom, they ask Cary why the bullets weren’t found. Jason points out there’s a metal detector outside the evidence room. Cary asks his point. “The truth? You always talk about the truth,” Alicia says with barely disguised scorn in her voice, like, Oh, the truth, what a silly concept. Cary, irritated, says that Peter caused the mistrial and she doesn’t care what really happened. Alicia denies this: “If Peter did it, he did it. I want to know what happened either way.” Which is a patent lie. Cary sighs and says a search of the evidence room would take too long. Jason takes another tack, asking who could have been there with Patty to cause that cell phone they heard. Cary thinks about this for a second.
Back at the courtroom, Diane is pulling a Rachel and dragging Boies through his entire life history while Connor tries not to fall asleep. At one point she laughs and asks, “Could you expand upon those thoughts?” He’s confused (“What thoughts?”) because the last thing he said was a bare confirmation of fact. “Uhh, well, the thoughts about, you know, what we were just talking about,” Diane says. A valiant attempt, but this wakes up Connor, who objects on relevance again. Diane withdraws and then, seeing that Alicia’s back and ready with their next witness, asks just one question: “Do you think US vs. Nuñez applies here?” He says yes, and she says no further questions. Um, didn’t they have any real testimony they were going to get? So confused. “No rebuttal, not really sure what I would rebut,” Connor Fox sighs. But Cuesta just leans over and shakes Boies’ hand and says it was “an unadulterated pleasure.” Hee. Boies gets off the stand, remarking, “That was interesting.”
Diane calls up a new witness to the stand: the woman whose cell phone went off during the 911 call. Meanwhile, Alicia finds Grace sitting in the audience, and when she asks why Grace isn’t on her way to Berkeley (did Grace graduate? When did the summer pass? Is Zach living in France now? SO CONFUSED), Grace says she’s staying. Alicia drags her out to the hall and insists she needs to go to college. Grace says she already called them and delayed for one year because she won’t leave Peter when he’s in trouble. “You wouldn’t do it, I’m not gonna do it either,” she insists.
How well Grace has learned from Alicia: put your own priorities off to stand by the men in your life. Alicia looks, rightly, horrified.
Diane is questioning the witness Jason and Alicia brought. It’s Sutton Foster, which took me a second to realize—and that one second is about all the time she spends on screen. She says that she left after her phone rang, but Diane points out that the gunshots were very soon after the sound of her ringtone. Diane asks to hear the 911 tape again. As Connor objects, Cary arrives and stands in the back, observing. Connor argues that they’re not trying to actually solve a murder, and Cuesta rules that the jury should deliberate with the evidence they’ve already had.
Cary goes to see Matan and asks if they missed something. Matan says they didn’t, but agrees that the bullets are probably still in the evidence room. Cary brings up a classic season-one concept: the way the police used to “pit” evidence. Matan’s a little suspicious, but Cary assures him he just wants to know if that happened. They could search the evidence boxes for just a few hundred cases, since the way cops pitted evidence was to drop it in the files of a case just closed. Cary has remained beautifully uncorrupted by everything that happened to him while he worked in the law: he does still care about the truth.
Somehow Connor’s become nervous about his prospects; he’s now offering Alicia just one year of jailtime, which she refuses. He brings up having met her, at some speech Peter gave before his troubles, where Alicia made a joke about the terrible twos and “freakin’ fours.” He sighs and says there aren’t many laughs now. Alicia gets up on her high horse and reproaches him: “Really? I don’t make you laugh now? The wife of someone you’re prosecuting for corruption doesn’t amuse you?” She says if he offers one year probation, she’ll work up a “demure smile,” then gives him a toothy, terrifying one on her way out.
On the one hand, this is being used to show how feisty she’s gotten, how take-no-prisoners she is. She doesn’t make nice with him. And that’s cool and everything, but on the other hand, it’s like, calm the fuck down, Alicia! There was absolutely no reason to jump down his throat for that innocuous comment where he was clearly trying to defuse tension, not reproach her for not being a smiling woman all the time.
Peter, who’s been advised to stay away from the courtroom since Cuesta doesn’t like him, meets up with Eli at a nearby hotel. Eli’s all smiles until an angry Peter calls him out on what he’s been saying to donors. Eli tells him it’s a smart move to move “political assets” to Alicia, because donors can’t stick with him after this. Peter asks how this won’t taint her too, and Eli admits that the divorce will separate her. He also says, in response to Peter’s question, that Alicia doesn’t know about this yet. Stricken, Peter leans on the balcony. Eli tells him it’s a smart move, and apologizes. Peter seems more or less accepting, though he’s not pleased. I actually don’t know if I find this development to be in character for Eli. He loves lost causes; he loves Peter, absolutely, probably even more than he loves Alicia; would he really ditch him now, before the verdict’s even in?
Alicia calls Peter to tell him they’ve found the bullets, interrupting the meeting. In chambers, Diane describes how they were found and argues for their being included because it will support the contention they argued last week, that if the bullets weren’t from Locke’s gun, Peter would have no reason to hide it. She gets a call and announces jubilantly that it might be the results.
It’s Kurt, at her office, saying that the results are definitive. Alicia and Diane, who are listening to him on speaker out in the hall, are thrilled until Kurt corrects them: the bullets are definitively from Locke’s gun. Alicia leans back on the wall, discouraged. Diane says they have to try to back down without seeming to back down. Alicia says wearily that she doesn’t know if she cares anymore. “He’s your client. That’s why you care,” says Diane, still the mentor (for at least these next few minutes).
When Diane goes back into chambers, she lies to the judge and says the call wasn’t about the results. Is that legal? I guess if it’s not in court you’re allowed to lie? She’s about to back down, but the too-competent Lucca jumps in and makes the US v. Nuñez argument for her. Alicia and Diane give her very obvious alarmed looks, and Alicia tries to tap her elbow to warn her. “What?” Lucca hisses before continuing with her argument. Hee! Connor again argues that the precedent shouldn’t apply, and Cuesta asks Diane for her argument. “Well, we stand by our original contention,” she says, obviously (and amusingly) trying to make her argument as weak as possible. “What we originally said. All relevant evidence is what we want,” she says. “Strong argument,” Cuesta says sarcastically. I can’t believe neither he nor Connor Fox figured out what was going on there. I do perfectly believe that Lucca didn’t.
Alicia arrives home to find one of her three mental images acted out: Peter’s in her kitchen, though sadly he isn’t pouring her a glass of wine. He says he didn’t do it, and she says it doesn’t matter. He asks her what he should do, and muses to himself about how much he hated jail last time. But Alicia’s not particularly sympathetic this time; she merely responds with a little parental update on Grace and her dumb-ass life decisions. Then her phone buzzes: court’s back in session. What time of day is it, even? Why did she go back home? What’s happening?
Anyway, look who’s back: it’s Holly Westfall, Kurt’s young blonde Republican friend, testifying about the bullets. She performed a different test today from the one Kurt originally did, and hers found that the bullets definitely came from Richard Locke’s gun. (This was completely confusing to me, and they don’t explain it till later, when Kurt testifies that he did the testing as a favor to Diane’s team and then checked it later against Holly’s results.) Anyway, now Connor is thrilled about including the bullets, and Alicia hisses to Diane that they need Kurt to testify. Diane refuses, but just then Connor calls Kurt to the stand. He marches in, looking like he’s walking to his own execution.
Back in the office, Alicia and Diane are screaming at each other, and amusingly, paying no attention to Lucca’s milquetoast attempts at intervention. “I had nothing to do with him testifying,” Diane yells. “He’s your husband, do you know what that looks like?” Alicia bellows back—always concerned with how things look, is Alicia! Alicia wants to undercut Kurt’s testimony because he’s reversed himself in the past. Diane says he only did it because she convinced him to, and when Alicia still wants to use it she gives a throaty yell: “No!” Alicia goes ice-cold: “Diane, you have a client. My husband. You have a duty to zealously represent that client.” (When they start throwing around that “zealously represent” phrase, you know they’re talking about ethical breaches.) Diane twists herself into knots trying to justify this, saying that they’ll look bad if they try to undercut a witness known for being honest. But we know she was recently reduced to tears over her guilt at, however slightly, compromising him; and she’s fighting, tooth and nail, not to be put in that position again. She tells Alicia to get her fired if she wants to go after Kurt. Alicia narrows her eyes silently, as if she’s standing down, and Diane walks out triumphantly—but she doesn’t know the monstrous Alicia Florrick she’s helped create, who, as soon as Diane’s gone, tells Lucca she needs her help to cross-examine Kurt.
In the court, Cuesta asks if Diane has a cross for Kurt. She says no, but Lucca stands up and says she has just a few questions. Blindsided, Diane turns a horrified look backwards towards Alicia, as Lucca begins pressing Kurt on his change of attitude. Diane grows progressively more upset while Kurt parries questions about his change of opinion, his consultation with Holly Westfall, his sale to Holly Westfall, and then—cringeingly—his possible affair with her. Connor objects, while Diane closes her eyes in pain. Lucca and Connor argue, and Cuesta rules that Lucca may proceed.
Finally Diane opens her eyes, stands up, and walks out of the courtroom. This is the moment. Though in the final reduction they are fighting about their husbands, they’re also fighting because they’ve chosen very different moral paths: Diane is choosing to resist some basic level of what I’d call indecency, while Alicia, bent on saving her family no matter the cost, is willing to do anything to win. Her sideways look at the end of this scene shows that, on some level, she is conscious, and perhaps ashamed, that she has besmirched herself, again. She’s cut ties with someone in order to win, again. She’s chosen herself over her colleagues, again.
Out in the hallway, she stares into the distance, looking—I would say weighted down by this new knowledge about herself. Imaginary Will’s voice interrupts her: “What is the point?” She repeats the thing about zealously representing her clients, and Will says Diane understands that. Alicia’s not quite convinced: she pleads, “What about ethics?”
Will, oh Will. He says, “Hey, ethics change. We’re all adults here.” He was always an adult; he always understood that he lived too complicated a life to see himself as an ethical being, whereas Alicia still doesn’t quite see it. Anyway, Alicia mourns that things were simpler once, and Imaginary Will says they were never simple.
Connor and Alicia are meeting again. He summarizes that after all that drama, the bullets aren’t even going to be entered into evidence for their case. She smirks and asks for his offer. He agrees to one year probation—which will mean Peter resigning. He says Peter won’t want to wait for a verdict because he’s guilty. Alicia, unruffled, says they’ll consider it and starts to walk out. “He won’t get better,” Connor calls after her. She pauses, just for a second, but not to say, “Well, duh,” as perhaps I would have.
Back in her kitchen, she and Peter are talking once again. She advises him that juries are unpredictable. He murmurs that his career will be over, and she says, not unkindly, “I think it’s over anyway, isn’t it?” (It’s not over may be the theme of the episode; but for Peter, the theme is it’s over, it’s over.) He gives her a sharp look, but she still knows nothing of Eli’s plans for her. As Peter leaves, he tells her he’s going to take the deal—but he needs one more favor. Can she stand by his side when he announces it? Alicia agrees, looking a little mournful.
She turns to go back into the apartment, looking around at its emptiness. In comes Imaginary Will from behind her, for one last conversation. He advises her to go to Jason, because she’s done with Peter. “Like a fever, it’s over.” More like a years-long battle with cancer (or an STD), but OK. (And notice, again, it’s over.) Alicia protests that Jason’s not Will, and Will agrees, “Very few people are me.” There’s a silly interlude where they talk about Jason liking “boy things,” whatever the hell that means, and Will laughs and says, “You have so little self-awareness!” If any line in this episode sums up the entire show, it might be that one.
But then Will kind of pisses me off by spinning Alicia around and asking her if she wants to live in this place alone. She agrees it would drive her crazy, and Will tells her to go to Jason. She almost runs off; then she returns. With her stilettos, she’s almost facing him eye-to-eye. After a long time, she says she’ll love him forever, and gives him a close hug. He touches her face—and sends her off.
Excited, Alicia strides through her firm, looking for Jason—who’s nowhere to be seen, surprise surprise. She asks Lucca about it, but Lucca says he’s gone. Alicia calls him and leaves a voicemail: she asks where he is, saying she needs to talk, and that it’s over with Peter.
In front of a blurry room full of press, Alicia and Peter join hands, her giant good-wife diamond glinting. Their last press conference. Cameras blast at them. The same scrapy music is playing that was playing when Peter gave his speech at the end of season 1, when Alicia was considering picking up that fateful call from Will.
Anyway, things go quiet. Peter gives his speech. Alicia stares off to the side and sees Jason standing there, inexplicably. Then he disappears, as Peter is thanking Diane, Eli—and his wife. Alicia gives a very small and begrudging smile, ignores the hand he extends, and dashes off to look for Jason. Ugh, Alicia, if you’re going to play the good wife one more time, at least commit! Peter’s calling her name behind her as she realizes that Jason isn’t there.
Walking back, she runs into Diane in the hall. Without a word, Diane slaps her hard in the face. Alicia sobs, shocked, holding her cheek. Then, with a visible effort, she composes herself. Steels herself. Straightens herself—blinking away the tears, arranging her jacket, squaring her shoulders—and walks back down the hall. Alone.
In many ways I thought this was a hell of an episode. The Kings have referred to the entire show’s arc as “the education of Alicia Florrick,” and if you look at it that way, this episode marked the completion of a new stage of her education. First she had to learn the truth about Peter. Then she had to learn how to abandon her demure purity to succeed in the legal world. She learned even more shitty things about Peter. She learned her capacity to betray, to stand on her own, when she left Lockhart Gardner. She emerged, bruised and defeated, from her first political campaign. In this season, she learned to stop caring what others thought. But she still didn’t really know herself. She didn’t really understand her own compulsion to stand by Peter, because she kept framing it as something noble, or necessary; similarly, she didn’t really understand why she had turned Will away until it was too late. She also didn’t, perhaps, realize entirely how much she had turned away from ethical purity and set her feet on the path to power until this moment. There had been a lot of backstabbing amongst the LG lawyers, but Alicia was constantly telling herself that she was doing the right thing, that she wasn’t backstabbing anyone, blah blah blah.
When Diane slaps her—and Alicia takes it—she realizes in that moment that her old image of herself was completely false. Already throughout the episode, she’s given herself (through Imaginary Will) some insights into why she hasn’t sought out happiness in the past; clearly, she’s turning over and mulling what Lucca and Jason have said about her own strange conception of love. And as for Diane: how fitting that it’s her female colleague, who also seems to have spent much of her life alone, who brings her to this last moment! After forging an alliance with Diane for months, she took Diane’s marriage and brutally ground it to dust to save her own husband (and, perhaps, subconsciously to open up the way for herself to rise faster out of the ashes of his career than she could have if he had really gone to jail). She is no heroine and no victim. She’s an antihero; if not entirely corrupt, she at least has a streak of corruption, running deep.
But of course, it’s not over. There will always be new stages to Alicia’s education. If she knows now that she doesn’t know herself, perhaps her task is to gain that knowledge. And then to use it, maybe, to rise to power in Chicago politics, or even state or national politics. It’s not over: even now, the mechanisms of political power are assembling themselves to open a path forward for her.
All of that is great. But I do have a big problem with how the Jason thing was handled. In a way, Lucca may have represented some naive viewer orientation that the show was trying to disown, the viewer who tunes in for the love interests, who is most interested in a romantic ending. Always a little bit unable to grasp the complexities of Alicia’s psyche, Lucca went about, in her sweet way, just trying to reunite Jason and Alicia, convinced that they were true love for no real reason.
But the focus on Alicia’s feelings about Jason for so many minutes of a finite-length series finale felt off to me; it would have been better to use him as a lens through which to make sense of her relationship with Peter, rather than using Will as a lens to analyze her feelings for Jason. Shows usually privilege the long-term, not the fleeting, in these last minutes. Instead, the show really left itself open to the interpretation that Alicia was actually in love with Jason; when your dead true love advises you to go to someone, you’re investing that new someone with a high level of emotional significance, no?
I also wish they hadn’t basically implied that she would go crazy if she had to (gasp!) be single and live in her apartment alone. Wasn’t this the woman who didn’t even like her kids? In the nineties, this kind of ending was really popular. Show the Career Lady her empty house, get her to run after the Mel Gibson type who she thought she was too good for. Totally gross. The only thing saving it for me is my strong sense that this is supposed to be an illusion Alicia spins for herself, a false image that distracts her from whatever it is she truly wants (which, I’d argue, is power).
The way Jason was used in the last scene did work quite well as a metaphor, even though as many other critics have pointed out it stripped Alicia of all agency in ending up alone. If the problem with Jason was partially that he was such a blank slate—Alicia could write anything she wanted onto him, and he would never communicate enough to contradict it—then seeing a mirage of him, beckoning her away from Peter, is perhaps the best metaphor for what has happened to her this season. It wasn’t Jason pulling her away; she had simply lit on Jason as some sort of beacon to guide her away from the sham marriage that had become a fetter, preventing her from making something new and glorious out of her life. As a plot device, though, it was weak.
But damn, that last scene. I thought it was great. The show ended with a lucid, undeniable view, for both us and Alicia, of how far she’s traveled down the road from mousy victim to a woman with power. The episode as a whole also gave her a new view into what’s been holding her back—her desire to be needed, to be responsible for someone—and that made me think that in her future lies an even more unapologetic grasp at power. I hope she does live in her apartment alone. That is the most fitting ending for this prickly, unknowable, defiant, and perhaps truly corrupt character. Whom I have absolutely loved, and loved watching.