'The Good Wife' Bosses on a "More Humbled" Alicia, Kalinda's "Most Emotional Moment" Ever

"It's going to change it down to the core," co-creator Robert Kings tells THR about how Archie Panjabi's exit will impact the series.
Jeff Neumann/CBS

Ever since Archie Panjabi announced she would be leaving The Good Wife at the end of the current season, fans have been clamoring for one thing: a Kalinda-Alicia (Julianna Margulies) reunion. The former BFFs, who developed a tight bond over late nights, tough cases and tequila shots, went their separate ways at the end of season two when Alicia learned that Kalinda had slept with her husband years earlier. It's now been more than two years since the duo shared screen time, but viewers' wishes will be finally be fulfilled Sunday when the two come face-to-face in the season finale.

"There was a lot of excitement about bringing them together again," co-creator Robert King tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I hope the fans like it. We liked it so we felt very happy about it, but I think they will too."

So how will Kalinda's departure change the show? How will Alicia's latest venture to start her own firm differ from the last time around? And what's ahead for a potential seventh season? King and co-creator Michelle King spoke with THR about all those burning questions and more.

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The last episode ended with Alicia asking Finn to start a new firm with her. How will their partnership be different from her venture with Cary?

Robert: This is Alicia going back to basics. She doesn't want anybody to control her fate so she wants to keep it small. She wants to take only cases she wants. She wants to help people more. Strangely enough, when Michelle and I first pitched this to CBS, this was actually where we started with Alicia after the scandal — that she was going to start a firm out of her apartment and in fact, it was only in development that it got moved to be a larger law firm, which is fun and we loved it, but actually this is Alicia trying to make things go on her own.

What new challenges will she face that she didn't face before with Florrick/Agos and getting that started?

Robert: In our mind, this is her at the bottom of the totem pole. The scandal, unfortunately, was not Peter's scandal. It was her scandal. It was her losing her famed status. She had always been thought of as 'Saint Alicia,' the victim. The victimhood made her saintly. Now because of the public knowledge of her affairs, of her supposedly stealing the election, all that has made everybody look at her as scandal-ravaged.

Michelle: She not only has problems from the outside, she also has a crisis of confidence. It's made her less secure than she was.

How does that lack of confidence change her as a lawyer and also as a person going forward?

Robert: It's made her more humbled. One of the things we're looking at with the finale is the way she was when she first started out in the law, and how much her ideas of the law have changed. In many ways, there's kind of an urge to use her new maturity and her new understanding of the law to help people that otherwise she would have just ignored. The Lockhart, Agos & Lee [firm] that she just left doesn’t take clients that are below a certain strata. Alicia is going to be much more like the TV show The Practice where she will take cases from the lower classes.

Michelle: While the scandal hasn’t changed her skill level as a lawyer, it certainly has changed the type of cases that she can attract.

Well, hopefully that means she's at least not taking on drug kingpins this time around.

Robert: Yes, you're right. (Laughs) The Alicia we see at the end of the season needs a second chance and she wants to help people that need second chances.

Why do you think it was important to make her humble again and to have her exposed in such a public way this season?

Robert: Because it makes her an underdog. It's very hard with Alicia Florrick whose husband is the governor and keeps moving up through the circles of power, it's always hard to make her an underdog in this world. It's very good to have an underdog Alicia and we love how Julianna Margulies can play this underdog status. It's very good to have everything pulled away from her.

What can you say is the theme for next season?

Robert: Part of the theme we won't give away, but I think one of the things we wanted to play is Alicia getting back on her feet, and probably in fact a lot of people getting back on their feet.

These last couple of episodes have really brought Alicia and Peter to a very different place than where they started this season. What can you say is next for them?

Robert: The key is there is a Bill and Hillary [Clinton] quality to them. They're very supportive of each other when they're being attacked. In many ways, they are each other's best defenders when they're being attacked, and that goes beyond sexual love and even marital loyalty to something even deeper. They feel an infinity for each other and in suffering the slings and arrows of power and the struggle for power. What you find is not necessarily that that brings them closer together as sexual beings, but in fact brings them together as co-defenders of their honor.

This season has been great for Alicia and Eli because they spent so much time together on the campaign. Now that she's not in politics anymore, where do they go from here?

Robert: You'll see something in the season finale that will define even more where Alicia and Eli's relationship is going. So I won't give that away, but we had to contend with Alan Cumming being on Cabaret this year. We have him for all episodes next year, which is the first time we've had that situation with Alan. So we do think that one of the very core relationships next year is Alicia and Eli Gold because we love the way Julianna Margulies and Alan Cumming play together. It's great chemistry, so we want to take that relationship through some of its worst and best moments.

Sarah Steele has been great this season as Eli's daughter. Is there talk of bringing her back next season?

Michelle: It would make us very, very happy.

Robert: That's our goal.

Alicia's relationships with Diane and Cary have gone through a lot. Now that she's not working with them anymore, how will those dynamics evolve?

Robert: They're always going to be involved with each other either on opposite sides, or even on the same sides of cases. You're also going to find the Michael J. Fox character, Canning, involved with that, too. Meanwhile, there was this wonderful relationship we saw being developed in the later half of the year with Christine Baranski's character, Diane, and Oliver Platt. We're going to either develop that relationship more or bring in someone from Oliver Platt's world that will continue that relationship with Diane.

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One of the big questions for the finale is about Kalinda's exit. What can you say about the final scenes for that character?

Robert: In the final episode, I think, is the most emotional moment I've seen from a Kalinda storyline. Part of it is the very fact that it is a goodbye, but the other part is that Archie is amazing and Jules is amazing in these scenes.

How does her absence going into the next season affect the rest of the group?

Robert: It's going to change it down to the core. We wanted to play these characters leaving as if it were reality, in that when someone leaves your core group, it's almost like synapses in a brain trying to reconnect after a brain injury. It re-jiggles everything. You're going to find Cary most affected, but also Diane and even Alicia is shaken. You'll find in this last episode how much it shakes her.  And next year, we have new cast members who, in completely different ways, will hopefully fulfill some of the energy that you will lose with Archie. Just like Matthew Goode in many ways served some of the requirements of not missing Josh Charles, you'll hopefully find the same thing with some of the new actors.

This is the second series regular to leave. Now that you're starting to work on season seven, did that make this transition easier?

Robert: Having a character leave sharpens the collective mind in the writer's room because then you know you have to dramatically answer that and dramatically find a new direction coming out of it. The show never wants to be a position of saying, "OK, we've lost an arm, now let's recreate that exact arm." You want to create something completely new. Sometimes they say being creative is actually eliminating choices. I think that same thing applies to creating a new character. The very fact that you know you have to create a new character sharpens the mind.

Looking back at season six, are there things that stood out as successes or surprises?

Michelle: Cary being arrested at the very top of the season and how that impacted everyone in that world was successful. I loved how Alicia was thrown, how Diane was impacted, of course how Cary had to deal with it and ultimately how much it harmed Kalinda. That was all very fun to watch.

Robert: The other thing I think was successful was we have a new series of cast members who I thought created very memorable arcs. I thought Oliver Platt did a great job, and David Hyde Pierce as this candidate running against Alicia and then Linda Lavin, who played Joy Grubick, who we brought back three times. The only thing I didn't think worked as well is sometimes we carry threads a little too long and I would say the campaign I'd put in that part. Also, even though the show tries to be contemporary, we got burned on at least once when we played an episode about Ferguson and the topic had changed about what Ferguson meant, so I would put that in the area of things that disappointed me personally. I liked that we did different structures. We did one episode that was all in Alicia's mind — I liked that structure. I like being able to have the show do new things, and I hope the fans will follow along even if they may not like that particular episode, they know we'll always come back to a structure that they appreciate.

Are there other new things you know you want to try next season? Any issues you know you want to tackle?

Robert: Some of the things about tech and how it's changing privacy rules, how it's changing with companies and what is acceptable for companies to know about personal information is fascinating to us. I would say, structurally, we want to play with point of view — who brings us into the point of view of not only a scene, but an episode. It doesn’t always stay in Alicia's point of view; it might bounce around. We did an episode last year where each act was from a different person's point of view about a court case, and we'd like to try more things like that – different modes of storytelling. The other thing is we want to return to the NSA. We did a thread in the fifth season about the NSA that was both comedic and dramatic and we want to return to that because we feel things are changing very quickly.

There has been some talk about season seven possibly being the last. Is that something that you've talked about or discussed?

Robert: We have our own instincts on that, but obviously we never want to throw off CBS. We have our own feelings and we'd rather keep that silent at the moment.

The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS.