When the character death on “The Good Wife” had loyal viewers flooding every entertainment site, forum, and social media outlet to vent all of their shock and outrage, the creators of the show decided to address fans in an open letter. One of their reasons for killing off Will Gardner (Josh Charles), said Michelle and Robert King, was that “to us, there always was a tragedy at the center of Will and Alicia’s relationship: the tragedy of bad timing.” Was that really all it was?
Season 1, Episode 17 – The First Kiss
When Alicia (Julianna Margulies) comforted Will over a heartbreaking case, a vulnerable Will escalated that comfort into a passionate kiss. A shocked Alicia eventually bolts from his office, escaping to her car, only to have second thoughts and go back to Will. Only he’s not there. Just a few seconds of missed communication and she’s on her way back home, where she takes her sexual frustrations out on her estranged husband. Which complicates things still further.
Back at work, Alicia is filled with remorse and wants Will to forget all about the fact that she came back for him that night. He agrees not to bring it up again. “We have bad timing,” he tells her. “We’ve always had bad timing.” So begins the tragedy the Kings laid out for us.
Season 2, Episode 1 – The Phone Call
Season 1 of “The Good Wife” ended on a cliffhanger, with Alicia left to decide whether to support Peter in his State’s Attorney campaign as his devoted wife, or move on with Will. There was also a moment in that last episode, when Alicia realized that Lockhart Gardner was not always on the noble side of things. You could almost count this as an initial seed of doubt in Alicia, in wondering if Will was really the guy she thought he was.
The pivotal finale led up to two phone calls that we picked up on in Season 2. In the first, Will sees Alicia on TV, standing by her man, and he tells her to forget all about it. In the second, he tells her: “My plan is ‘I love you.'” Of course, nosy Eli gets his hands on that second message and deletes it. So the two stumble in the dark for a long time after, each confused about the other’s desires and motivations.
Season 4, Episode 13 – The Partnership
The Will and Alicia relationship had many ups and downs throughout the episodes of “The Good Wife”. But deep into Season 4, a pivotal moment happened. Alicia was offered a partnership in the firm, which she was understandably excited and honored by. Through the course of a bankruptcy hearing, however, she discovered she and other associates had been asked so that their buy-in would help boost the company’s finances.
It was another tragic moment, one of the perils of mixing business and personal relationships. The betrayal Alicia felt would inform her actions regarding Will from this moment onward.
Season 5, Episode 5 – Declaring War
In the appropriately titled, “Everything is Ending,” Cary and Alicia’s plan to leave the firm and start their own is abruptly exposed. So begins the bitter war between Alicia and Will, the latter feeling deep betrayal at her secret machinations and client-stealing. As we learn later in Season 5 of “The Good Wife,” Will’s overly harsh reaction comes from his feeling that Alicia had been using him from the beginning. He gradually reinterprets every moment of their infatuation as some sort of power move on Alicia’s part.
Season 5, Episodes 14 & 15 – The End
As she prepares a speech about her triumphant return to the workplace, Alicia herself wonders about her motives. Had she used Will’s previous attraction to her to get that first job, or had it been simply a friend helping her out? After all they’d done and been through, it seemed hopeless–our favorite couple could never fully have the kind of trust a successful relationship needs.
Even when Alicia went to Will outside court, to graciously inform him that his clients had tried to hire her instead, we couldn’t help but wonder if she had ulterior motives. Though she never mentioned the case against Peter for voter fraud, was a part of her trying to mend fences with Will to help her own cause? Or was it a true desire to honor the best part of their friendship?
“The brutal honesty and reality of death speaks to the truth and tragedy of bad timing for these two characters,” say the creators. “Will’s death propels Alicia into her newest incarnation.” Will that new incarnation create an even harder shell around herself? Or will she see the tragic turns of her relationship with Will and guard against creating that kind of mistrust again?
‘The Good Wife’ airs on CBS, Sunday nights at 9 p.m.