‘The Good Wife’ Finale and Its LGBT History

 

At the Tribeca Film Festival, (l-r) Cush Jumbo, Robert King, Michelle King, Julianna Margulies and Matt Czuchry. (Getty)

At the Tribeca Film Festival: (l-r) Cush Jumbo, Robert King, Michelle King, Julianna Margulies and Matt Czuchry. (Getty)

It’s sad, but true: This Sunday is the final episode of CBS’ long-running legal drama “The Good Wife.”

However, the series, created by Robert and Michelle King, was always so much more than a legal drama. At its core from day one, the series was a character drama with a legal backdrop. Sure, there were cases and office politics and drama (as well as the actual political arena), but this was a show where the characters and their relationships were what we tuned in for over the past seven seasons.

During last month’s Tribeca Film Festival, the Kings along with stars Julianna Margulies, Cush Jumbo and Matt Czuchry, were part of a panel talking about the seven-year journey of the show and teased how it might wrap up.

For viewers, don't be surprised if the ending leaves you more than a bit shaken. Of the final script, Margulies said during the panel, "I read it once, and I couldn't talk to anyone about it, because I was emotionally confused, because I was having so many emotions knowing I was wrapping this character up."

In fact, like her on-screen character (who likes to pour a glass of wine after a hard day), the Kings sent her a bottle of wine with the script. The note with it said, "Alicia should be drinking while reading this."

The Kings, Margulies and Czuchry laugh during the panel. (Getty)

The Kings, Margulies and Czuchry laugh during the panel. (Getty)

Margulies admitted to pouring the wine (not as big of a pour as Alicia would have, she joked) and said, "I read it a fourth time and I then could digest it." Her response to the Kings after finally feeling settled with the script? "Nothing but brilliant," the actress said.

All that teasing aside, will the show go off a deep end by, say, bringing back someone from the dead or another uber-reality shocker? “The Good Wife” has never been a show you would compare to “Game of Thrones” or even “Empire,” but more grounded in reality. Instead, maybe it’s time to give the characters a proper (albeit happy) ending. “It didn’t feel like a show that you could keep having crazy things happen to you,” Robert King said during the panel. “At a certain point you escape the realm of probability.” Czuchry added that he’s happy the show and the fans are getting closure.

Michelle King did address one of the bigger rumors out there that Josh Charles, who left the show when his character was killed off during the show's fifth season, would be returning. Of that and other rumors, she said, "I heard that Peter is going to be starting another affair. I heard that Alicia and Eli kissed. I heard that Alicia and Jason ran off happily together. And I heard that Michelle Obama guest-starred. And I will tell you that one of those is true."

And while the panelists said nothing more about where Alicia’s love life would end up, since she’s currently between her soon-to-be ex-husband (Chris Noth) and her new lover (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Robert King did say, “I don’t think the best finales wrap up all the loose ends. They are novelistic. And novels, sometimes there’s a little ambiguity, which is fun.” Hmmmmm…

And while the subject of Archie Panjabi and the Kalinda character understandably did not come up during the panel, given the alleged tension between Panjabi and Margulies (prompting their final scene to be shot with green screen so they wouldn’t have to actually film together), “The Good Wife” should also be remembered for being of an era when LGBT stories and characters were a part of the fabric of the show from the early days.

From a time in the series when Panjabi (l) and Margulies would actually shoot scenes together. (CBS)

From a time in the series when Panjabi (l) and Margulies would actually shoot scenes together. (CBS)

In fact, besides Kalinda, there were a number of other LGBT characters on the show. Here are some of them:

Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi): There was something revolutionary about Kalinda in that whether she was sleeping with Cary Agos (Czuchry) or a few of the women we saw her involved with on the show (see below), her sexuality was something that the character and the show didn’t use as promoting a big agenda. In fact, the agenda was perhaps not to have an agenda! Sure, other characters commented on who she was sleeping with and tried to put her in a labeled box, but at the end of the day, Kalinda was simply living her life by her rules.

And despite what was going on behind the scenes of the show, the final season of the show was missing something by not having Kalinda around. I personally don't know that Luka (Jumbo) was meant to be a replacement for the character, but thankfully the characters were written too differently, though they did both serve the function of being a female friend to Alicia. That said, Panjabi brought so much to the show and to Kalinda that even when she was off on her own story, Kalinda was just as compelling as Alicia. The final season definitely missed that spark brought by the actress and the character.

Owen Cavanaugh (Dallas Roberts): The recurring character of Alicia’s brother rarely had a story of his own, but whenever Roberts (and Stockard Channing as Alicia and Owen’s mother) was on the show, it grounded Alicia in family and made her feel more human. Thankfully, Owen’s sexuality was never an issue, and he was already out when we met him for the first time in the early phase of the show. Should we have seen more of Owen in the show? Not especially, since his occasional appearances were common on the show and having him in the picture full-time may have thrown the show out of rhythm.

Kalinda's relationship with Sophia (Kelli Giddish, r) was one of the steamier on the show. (CBS)

Kalinda's relationship with Sophia (Kelli Giddish, r) was one of the steamier on the show. (CBS)

Sophia Russo (played by Kelli Giddish): Before she picked up the detective badge on “Law & Order: SVU,” Giddish played an early lover of Kalinda’,s and their scenes together were some of the sexiest the show had ever done. Wisely, their relationship was in the show as a way to shed more light on the mystery of Kalinda, who had always been so guarded and protective of who she was. Giddish and Panjabi had a definite spark and while their story was an early part of season three, Giddish would return in season six. But, probably due to her “SVU” duties, wasn’t able to be around more.

Lana Delaney (played by Jill Flint): Before Russo, though, Flint popped up in the show as an FBI agent who was doing some investigating of her ow,n but also falling into bed with Ms. Sharma. Lana was more of an adversary for Kalinda, though their feelings for each other (sexual or more than sexual) often made things more complicated. You definitely got the impression, especially in the sixth-season episodes, that there could’ve been a real relationship there, but whether it was their conflicting careers or Kalinda’s inability to let people get close, they never got their happy ending.

Ironically, besides those recurring characters, looking over the guest star list over the years, there were more than a few out actors that appeared on the show like Alan Cumming, John Benjamin Hickey, Michael Urie, TR Knight, Nathan Lane, David Hyde Pierce, Monica Raymund and Denis O’Hare. 

And just as straight actors like Roberts, Panjabi, Giddish and Flint were playing LGBT characters, many of the gay actors were playing either straight characters or characters whose sexuality was not explored. Lane's Clarke Hayden (in seasons four and five) always seemed like he could be gay, but his story function was more about the law firm than anything else.

That said, the point is that “The Good Wife” made a statement without overtly making one in that gay actors can play any role, even if it happens to be straight, and straight actors regularly play gay roles. In short, the show is a perfect example of how sexuality doesn’t have as much to do with a good actor and the role he or she could play if given the opportunity.

And while the final episode is either going to wrap up the journey of Alicia Florrick or at least send her off into the proverbial sunset, the ride has been a good one. And the show, for everything it did over the past seven years, will be missed.

“The Good Wife” finale airs Sunday at 9 pm on CBS.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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