THE GOOD WIFE: How Shall The Show Survive Losing Will Gardner? (2014)

"The Good Wife"
“The Good Wife”

The heartbreaking surprise of last week’s episode on THE GOOD WIFE was the sudden and shocking death of Will Gardner (Josh Charles). Due to the utmost secrecy of everyone involved, audiences everywhere gasped in unison and distress when Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) came across Will’s lifeless body, unattended in the hospital emergency room.

It should have been obvious that something devastating was about to happen as the gunshots rang out and the entire courthouse erupted. But as Kalinda and Diane (Christine Baranski) made their way towards the bloody courtroom, there was always a moment of hope that Will would survive, that the paramedics would reach him in time and save his life. After all, D.A. Finn Polmar (Matthew Goode) had pulled Will to safety.

But just like Kalinda and Diane, the audience was caught off guard and sat in silence as the horrifying reality set in. THE GOOD WIFE had dared to kill off one of its most beloved characters. It was small consolation as the producers and star Josh Charles all took to the internet and news shows to reassure devastated fans that it was Josh’s choice to leave the show and that his exit had been planned for nearly a year. Even harder to process and accept was learning that Josh chose to stay with the show in a directing capacity.

For, after all, what is THE GOOD WIFE without Will Gardner? Will had been instrumental in saving Alicia just as she was drowning in the wake of her husband Peter Florrick’s (Chris Noth) political scandal, which sent him to prison in Season 1. Will was also the reason Alicia did not completely fall apart as the mounting financial bills came crashing around her when her husband’s financial assets were frozen and seized. Will not only gave Alicia a job she desperately needed, he was her lifeline at a time when her self-esteem had taken a critical blow. He appreciated her contribution as a lawyer at his firm, he provided her with opportunities new associates rarely were offered, and he made sure her career was not only protected, but also shepherded.

In the subsequent years, Will and Alicia only grew closer as their college attraction continued to blossom as Alicia struggled to free herselff from her claustrophobic marriage to a discredited former state attorney, who had not only repeatedly cheated on her, but put their entire family near the brink of ruin. Finally after only betrayal too many, Alicia even allowed herself to embark on her own affair with Will; but only after throwing her husband out, which he richly deserved.

Thus, we were all a bit heart-broken when Alicia finally broke off the affair and returned to her philandering husband. She was doing her best to repair her marriage and her family, and while not entirely deserving, she was giving her husband a second chance. But in doing so, she was denying her own heart; something her own mother and brother reminded her of every chance they got. Everyone knew who held Alicia’s heart, but she was determined to pursue what she thought was the more responsible and proper life for her and her children.

But between the pain of the break-up with Will, as well as this season’s decision to leave Lockhart Gardner and start her own firm with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), everything seemed to be driving Alicia and Will farther and farther apart. Even the battles for clients and cases seemed to foreshadow their doomed future. Yet recent episodes hinted at a possible reconciliation. Will and Alicia had begun to remember all the intimate times they had spent together and undeniable pull of attraction and the longing of love buried in their hearts. No matter how hard they fought it, love kept pulling them closer and closer.

It only made the unexpected death of Will that much more painful. We felt that loss acutely. We knew, as did Kalinda and Diane, that the first person to notify had to be Alicia. Even Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), the moment he got the call, did not hesitate to get Alicia. She was the one and only person that deserved to know — without one more second of delay.

This week’s episode “Last Call” takes everyone through those pivotal few hours as Alicia, Diane, Kalinda, Eli, Peter, Cary and those closest to Will, go through the initial shock and grieving stages from his death. There is no time-jump. In honor of a character whose death impacts everyone’s lives on such a gut-wrenching level, THE GOOD WIFE reveals how each reacts and grieves. There are tears, there is denial, there is anger, there is rage, and there is in the end a gaping hole where Will Gardner used to be in everyone’s hearts.

It honored the character and the actor beautifully. Grief should not be skipped-over or denied. The show recognized that even the fans deserved to be a part of the painful grieving process. It is only then that we will accept the loss of a character we held so dear.

For all his faults, Will Gardner was the romantic hero of this tale. He was the knight-in-shining-armor who had rescued Alicia and made her believe in love again. He was the one who we always believed would be the one to ultimately sweep Alicia off her feet and give her the happily-ever-after life she deserved. To have that dream ripped so cruelly away makes us all now wonder what is next for Alicia. Shall she find a way to move on after losing essentially one-half her heart? Shall she finally have the courage to pursue a better life without her husband, who has taken so much from her and cannot give the love she truly deserves? And what shall become of Lockhart Gardner? How shall Diane and the LG law firm overcome the loss of their courageous leader and fearless knight?

The answers to these questions are perhaps unanswerable. Yet THE GOOD WIFE endeavors to try. But it will be painful, and it is pain we embrace, as the loss of Will Garner should be felt. That pain should be remembered and it should hurt while we all grieve along with them.

So bring your Kleenex, maybe a glass of wine, and sit back to be a part of the grieving journey after losing such a precious character. R.I.P. Will Gardner. We celebrate your life and the amazing man you were as we watch and remember.
THE GOOD WIFE’s special episode “Last Call” airs this Sunday, March 30th at 9:00 p.m. on the CBS.

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