Monday, March 31, 2014
First, as a huge fan of the show, let me react personally. “NOOOOO!!!! HOW COULD THEY DO THAT?!! NOOOOOO!!!!! ANYONE BUT WILL!!!! Except maybe Alicia. Or Elsbeth. NOOOOOO!”
Okay. Had to get that out of my system. Now my professional opinion. “NOOOOOO!” Sorry. That just slipped out.
It’s very hard for a writing staff when creative decisions have to be made not based on the best dramatic storytelling but to accommodate some real life roadblock. Actors want to quit. Actors tragically die in real life. Actresses get pregnant. Actors get hospitalized. Snowstorms halt production. Strikes halt production. Actors have conflicts that must be dealt with.
Occasionally these lead to great stories or a terrific new direction that the showrunner would not have thought of otherwise. But more often than not these hurt the shows. When CBS forced us to get rid of the male lead on ALMOST PERFECT it effectively killed the series. The heart of the show was the romance and now that was gone. I think season two episodes were extremely clever and very funny, but they lacked the emotion and thematic clarity that season one had.
So when Josh Charles announced to them last year that he wanted to leave the show, they were left with an agonizing decision. They chose to kill him off. And somehow they managed to keep it a surprise. How they did that I’ll never know.
Anticipating a lot of viewer outrage, the Kings wrote an open letter to THE GOOD WIFE fans explaining why they opted for that decision. And their reasoning made perfect sense.
And knowing how artful they are, I’m sure the rest of the season’s episodes will deal with his demise in honest yet surprising ways (unlike say DOWNTON ABBEY that dealt with character deaths in the most on-the-nose ways possibly). Last night's episode had some wonderful moments.
Still, I worry.
Not only was there such amazing chemistry between Alicia and Will, in the three episodes leading up to his death they ramped up that chemistry even more. Yes, it made the death more shocking and more of a loss, but there’s the real danger that it backfires, only pointing out how important Will was to the series, and will result in angry fans abandoning THE GOOD WIFE for good.
A lot of people won’t give a shit why the Kings felt this move was justified. They hate it and won’t come back. Period.
I also think so many series regulars have been killed now off of shows that audiences are frankly just tired of the devise. Hasn’t Rob Lowe been bumped off of multiple series?
THE GOOD WIFE in reruns will now play differently. There will be a sadness to watching earlier episodes. I don’t know whether that will make them less enjoyable or more poignant. Killing Will Gardner could be a very costly mistake. Time and ratings will tell.
So the Kings have taken a huge risk (only because their hands were forced). Can they rebound from this? If any writers can it’s Robert & Michelle. I strongly recommend you don’t give up on THE GOOD WIFE. Even if you’re furious or haven’t gotten out of bed in a week. Give them a chance. Yes, their backs are up against the wall. But isn’t that what makes for great drama?
I also look forward to whatever Josh Charles is in next. He's a terrific actor.
That said... "NOOOOO!"
UPDATE: The ratings for last night's episode went up. And I expect when DVR viewing is figured in the number will rise even higher. Stick with the show. Trust me, you will be rewarded.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM