The Shocking Plot Twist in "Dramatics, Your Honor", 'The Good Wife' S5Ep15
***Warning: Extensive Spoilers Below***
I had the most peculiar reaction to the big plot twist on last night's episode of 'The Good Wife'. I laughed. Did I find Will Gardner's sudden death funny? Of course not. Characters have died on shows before, but typically that death is written and packaged in such a way that emotions are heightened and tears are falling before the character takes his last breath. The music. The slow pan. The tears of the other characters on screen. We, as viewers, are shoved toward devastation. A prime example of this is Mark Greene's death on 'ER', a death set in the beauty of Hawaii with the soundtrack of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'. Last night's episode of 'The Good Wife' gave us something else. Shock. And so I laughed. Because I couldn't believe it. Because even as the screen showed us Will's desperate client Jeffrey eyeing the guard's gun, even as we heard shots ring out, even as Kalinda and Diane stilled in shock outside the courtroom, it didn't seem quite real. Everything was fairly fine for the first half of the episode. And then it just wasn't. This, I believe, was the Kings' point. Death doesn't always warn you. It's often brutal and sudden. Death isn't always an episode that threatens the main characters but then kills the supporting ones instead. In reality death can destroy people who are central to our lives and leave us alone in an instant. The episode was made more powerful by the actors' reactions to Will's shooting. Even when Kalinda and Diane discovered Will's body, bloody and covered by a sheet in the corner of the emergency room, they didn't break down in tears. Emotional music didn't play. They just stared and then began to call the people who mattered. This death wasn't designed to be overly emotional. It wasn't an episode of 'Grey's Anatomy'. Sure, I sobbed for Lexie and Mark and George. But I laughed for Will. I stared at the screen in increasing shock. I, like the characters on the screen, could not believe he was really dead. Tears come later. Twitter exploded in response. People refused to believe that he was really dead, a reaction that echoes death in the real world. The show prepared itself beautifully for this genuine reaction by barely preparing the viewers at all. We had been forewarned that this episode was an important one and a plot twist, but it seemed likely that it would have to do with the Federal case against Peter of which Will's potential testimony was a key component. The promo insinuated that Will betraying Alicia would be the turning point of season five. Instead, Will's death will impact every major player on the show, it also shakes up the main plot of the first half of the season. The federal case against Peter was the major threat this season, yet it was insinuated that Will's testimony was essential. What will happen to that plot now that Will is dead? I think it's also interesting to note that the first person after Will's sisters that Kalinda and Diane thought to call was Alicia. Regardless of the fallout between Alicia and Will, it is recognized that she need to know immediately. She is essentially his loved one. Throughout the show a recurring joke (and truth) has been that Alicia is a handholder. She understands clients emotionally and helps them get through court. Lockhart/Gardner lost that when Alicia left to start her own firm. Will has never, throughout the show's history, been portrayed as being particularly good at handholding. What if Alicia hadn't left? Would she have recognized the emotional distress of the client? Would she have sat next to him and talked him through his panic? Moments before Jeffrey Grant shoots the gun we see him reacting poorly to the prosecution and defense arguing and laughing with the judge. He shoots, in part, because he is alone. In prior seasons of the show Alicia would have been next to him. Speaking of Alicia's involvement, it will be interesting to see what degree of guilt she feels. As a gesture of goodwill and loyalty to Will she did not meet with Jeffrey's parents when they requested a second opinion. If she had, there's a likelihood she would have taken the case. That she would have been in that courtroom and been the one shot. Or that her very presence would have caused Jeffrey to react differently. At the end of season three of 'Downton Abbey' we had a similar plot twist. The show seemed all happy and content and then Matthew crashed his car and died. But even that didn't have quite the emotional impact of this death. Of course it was shocking and done with little advanced fanfare. But still, as I watched Mathew joyously drive his car down on empty road for an extended period of time my roommate leaned over and whispered, "something bad is going to happen". In this episode of 'The Good Wife' we saw the client reach for the gun. It put me on edge, waiting anxiously to see what would happen. But ultimately we saw nothing. The camera had cut away to the courthouse hallways, following Kalinda, and so we weren't in the room when the shooting occurred. That distance. Hearing shots but not seeing anything that was happening, made the moment all the more shocking. Sometimes less is more.