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The Good Wife isn’t afraid to go headlong into the “shitstorm.”
When CBS’ critical darling ended its last season, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) was planning her exit from Lockhart Gardner with fellow associate Cary (Matt Czuchry). At Monday afternoon’s Television Critics Association press tour session, reporters were presented with a first look at a scene in which Alicia is confronted by the firm’s partners about fourth-year associates possibly defecting, not knowing that she was a part of that.
The decision to depict the calm before the storm was intentional on the part of executive producers Robert and Michelle King. “We really want to get the audience wet with this difficulty of betraying your firm,” Robert King told reporters.
In fact, they spoke to people in the industry to provide context to the situation portrayed on the show, which hits its landmark (Robert King hints that it will be a “blowout”) 100th episode this season. “We’ve been interviewing a lot of partners in agencies — and not just law firms — about what it’s like when they leave and take clients, and it’s a shitstorm. What we want is the quiet before the shitstorm.”
“I think [Alicia]’s leaving the law firm because she knows if she stays there, in her peripheral vision [there] will always be Will (Josh Charles),” Margulies said, “and she can’t move forward with her commitment to saying yes to being first lady of Illinois as long as her and Will are working together. I think in her heart of hearts, she thinks that’s the smart move.”
Margulies admitted that her “heart sank” when she read the season-four finale script, believing that the person who would appear at her door would be her sometimes lover Will. So when she found out it was Cary she was pleasantly surprised. “It was always going to be going for the professional and intentionally going for the misdirect,” Michelle King said of the pivotal season-ending scene.
The Good Wife is known for incorporating real-life headlines and scandals in the political sphere into its episodes and arcs. With the Anthony Weiner “sexting” scandal resurfacing amid his bid for New York City mayor and the Edward Snowden/NSA situation (Robert King called it “fascinating” and said it provides a framework for the season), Margulies and the Kings admitted that they are the gifts “that keep on giving.”
Robert King hinted that one of the big themes that will be explored will be whether sexual dalliance increases with power. “Does he find himself tempted?” Robert King asked, referring to Alicia’s husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the recently crowned governor of Illinois, noting that new addition Melissa George will play an integral part in answering that question.
Returning to a position of power will be an intriguing journey for Alicia, and glimpses of how she will handle her new stature “started seeping in a little bit” last year. “It is incredibly provocative to be in a powerful situation,” Margulies said. “She’s very aware she’s choosing a slippery slope. She isn’t quite aware of this eruption that’s about to happen because of the war she’s causing at Lockhart Gardner.”
Though The Good Wife has gathered a bevy of key guest players, the Kings affirmed that season five will be more centered on the core characters. “It’s more about our team, not about the guest stars coming,” Robert King said.
Carrie Preston, Gary Cole and America Ferrera will all return in the new season, with George, Juliet Rylance, Ben Rappaport and Jeffrey Tambor joining.
The Good Wife returns Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. on CBS.
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