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‘The Good Wife’ comes to an ambiguous end

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Julianna Margulies in “The Good Wife,” which ended its seven-season run on Sunday.CBS

There wasn't much to love about the series finale of "The Good Wife." The episode wanly rolled around the billiard table like a poorly shot ball, failing even to approach a pocket.

There wasn't much to hate, either. The CBS series more or less just — excuse me — petered out, an OK hour that wasn't quite as good as most of the many, many hours that had preceded it.

Even a surprise appearance by Josh Charles as the spirit of Will Gardner, sweetly talking about love with Alicia, helping her shake free of his memory, wasn't enough to give the finale significant emotional weight. Anyway, I'd thought she'd already dealt with her feelings about Will, and their scenes together were warm and playful — "I'll love you forever," she tells him, "I'm OK with that," he wryly responds — but largely unnecessary. It felt like a strained attempt to trigger a few viewer tears.

While the finale dealt definitively with the fate of Peter, who takes a plea deal of a year's probation and steps down from the governor's office, it wished and washed over Alicia, who spent the better part of the hour in a tizzy about her love life. Let's just say the episode would fail the Bechdel Test miserably, as Alicia, with intervention from Lucca, fantasized about which man she'd like to come home to — thus the Will fantasy — and finally decided to go for Jason. You know, Sir Bedroom Eyes, or The Man Who Would Be George Clooney, or, as Peter called him to Alicia, "your investigator."


Personally, I was hoping Alicia would decide to go solo for a bit, but she nixed that idea in the penultimate episode, when she said, "I'm not someone who likes being untethered." I'd thought that independence might be where the show had been heading, especially as the women of the firm began to band together. I'm not saying being independent means there can't be men; I'm saying that Alicia's increasingly desperate attachment to the men in her life — including Peter, whose hand she held for the media and the jury — spoke of her lessons not learned across the length of the series.


Her behavior toward Diane in the finale, too, told us she was still very much a work in progress. It led to the most dramatic moment, The Hallway Slap, when Diane let loose on Alicia's cheek and launched a thousand GIFs across the Internet. Diane slapped Alicia for making her husband, Kurt, look bad in court. In her fight for her husband's freedom, Alicia had lost sight of Diane and human dignity. She deserved that stinging wakeup call, perhaps, but we'll never know if it turned the all-women law firm into a dead dream.

I suppose show creators Robert and Michelle King were trying to leave Alicia's story in a state of ambiguity, mid-tension. When we first met Alicia seven seasons ago, standing by her disgraced husband, she was a naive victim who needed to set out on the journey of selfhood that we've watched since 2009. When we see her in the final minutes of the series, she is once again standing beside Peter while the cameras flash, but she's a different person now, one who has become a professional tiger, one who is no longer burying her head in the sand — even if she still can't tell the difference between a man and a disappearing silhouette, She remains in the process of becoming, it seems, but she has changed.


"The Good Wife" was a show that improved on the formulas of network TV, and saying goodbye with so much still up in the air is part of that pattern. Closure is overrated, especially for a series that has never been pat. But still I felt unsatisfied by the ending, as if something important was being withheld, as if the real step forward we've been waiting for will never be taken.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.