Hours after the series finale of The Good Wife aired, creators Robert and Michelle King got on the phone to discuss the closer, which Robert King admitted had sparked controversy and a split of opinions. It was somewhat intentional, as he and Michelle King said that they were going for a finale that was “a bit unsettling.” They did not want a “forgettable” ending, which is what they felt a classic “romantic comedy” final scene would’ve brought. They did consider such ending with Alicia and Jason, the Kings said in the interview with Deadline, which also reveals who else they considered as the person to deliver the slap to Alicia in the finale and why they ultimately picked Diane; what the future holds for Alicia and the other characters (is a spinoff in the offing?); the bigger plans the duo had for Carrie Preston’s character on the final season; and how Josh Charles and David Boies came on board for the closer and who couldn’t make it. (Hint, plucky investigator Robyn was one of them).
DEADLINE: What do you think about the reaction to the finale?
ROBERT KING: I have a feeling there is either a big, big controversy or big split. I’m guessing that some people wanted some more definition with regards to who Alicia ends up with, and that would be Jason, and there is probably some concern about not ending in a way that puts Alicia in a happy place.
DEADLINE: Is there an alternative ending we will see on DVD one day?
MICHELLE KING: No, no, all the alternatives were discussed and rejected. This is the one we embraced.
DEADLINE: What are some of the rejected alternatives?
ROBERT KING: Three months ago in the writers room we sat down and had a big discussion of whether this was still the direction we should all go. The biggest argument was probably about (Alicia) chasing a guy to the airport, stopping him from leaving, a version of the romantic comedy ending. There are variations, like in Manhattan, you chase the person down and there is still the sense that it may not happen now but may happen in the future. We all had a big talk about that. Those are endings that may be satisfactory for the moment, put a smile on your face. They might send you to bed happy but they would really make it a bit forgettable and we worried that whatever the ending would be, it should matter. That’s why we all leaned toward this choice.
DEADLINE: You had said that you didn’t change your original Season 7 story arc when you found out the show was ending but, with the final scene mirroring the opening scene in the pilot, this did feel like a series finale. When did you decide to do that?
ROBERT KING: We’d always had in mind that those images that (pilot director) Charles McDougall gave us in the pilot – hand-in-hand walking in slow motion towards the press conference, that we would duplicate those images in this last episode. Because what we really wanted to do is have so much the same that your mind will try to make connections between the beginning and end. It’s like bookending anything. Two things would be out of place – one of which would be the husband reaches out for the wife’s hand, wife’s hand is not there, she has taken off. In the pilot, Peter reaches out and grabs her hand, almost yanks it off. The second thing is in this hotel corridor, the slap that took place of Alicia to Peter now would be someone else to Alicia. And we tried to create everything else as parallel so you would know that even though Alicia was the victim at the beginning she is now the victimizer in the end.
MICHELLE KING: The hope was always that the similarities would point you to the great difference in Alicia’s character.
DEADLINE: Why did Diane slap Alicia? She had been one of Alicia’s biggest supporters.
ROBERT KING: There were other people we considered but it did feel that it was most important that you had to have authority behind the slap. One of the other people we considered was Jackie, Peter’s mom. But in many ways she is a character that plays a little bit more comic. It was someone Alicia could dismiss very quickly. We considered Grace (Alicia’s daughter) but that was complicated by the fact that it was a blood relationship.
I think what made Diane interesting is the comment on feminism. Diane has been the woman who had broken through the glass ceiling and feels that women would follow her. The other thing is the marital parallel. Going back to the “Party” episode. Alicia looks at Diane and (her husband) Kurt as this happy, almost idealized marriage. So in helping her husband get off and her daughter, she hurts this other marriage. It felt dramatic, it felt complicated and it felt troubling. And in a way we wanted the ending to be a bit unsettling.
MICHELLE KING: And not only that, there needed to be a credibility behind the slap. Because we did want to dramatize that Alicia learns something and recognizes in the moment that she’s somewhat culpable. And unless it’s a character that has that sort of authority to Alicia it wouldn’t have resonated.
DEADLINE: The series followed the characters over a seven-year period. Where will they be in another 7 years? Will Alicia’s turn to the dark side continue?
ROBERT KING: No. I don’t think so. You can make softer Walter White comparisons but in fact Alicia is someone who, when shown her mistakes, she is constantly learning which I think is the most optimistic thing you can say about the character. The first slap in the pilot woke her up, it wasn’t just a slap to her husband, she woke herself up and realized that she had to take control of her own fate. Now with this slap, I think she has woken up again. As much as she is controlling her own fate, she is hurting people the same way her husband did. She has created collateral damage. And that is something she needs to change. So the optimistic way to answer that question is that she learns.
MICHELE KING: I think the seven years have shown Alicia to go from innocence to sophistication. And sophistication is a double-edged sword. It brought her strength but it also allowed her to make compromises.
DEADLINE: What about the other character’s future?
ROBERT KING: There has been talk about a spinoff, I’m not even sure where the process would be, but we love these characters, and if anyone made a deal with us today, we would be bringing evrery single one back. Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), Patti Nyholm (Martha Plimpton), Kurt McVeigh (Gary Cole), they are so much fun, we would do it in a heartbeat.
DEADLINE: Is a spinoff in the works?
MICHELLE KING: At this point, it’s just the morning after the finale.
DEADLINE: Why weren’t most of the memorable recurring characters in the finale?
MICHELLE KING: We thought of the last four episodes as really being part of the end because we knew we couldn’t stuff everybody we loved into the last episode of the show. So we tried to sprinkle as many as we could over the last four of the season.
ROBERT KING: For example Stockard Channing and Dallas Roberts, their goodbye was in the “Party” episode. Sarah Steele, all the characters we loved throughout. Unfortunately, NBC had Carrie Preston booked up. (She is on comedy series Crowded) We tried to get her for more, we actually tried to have her to be the lawyer in these last few episodes, but these contracts, they get you and they don’t allow you free for these things. Carrie’s Elsbeth Tascioni character we love so much and we wish she could be involved more in the end. Same for Patty Nyholm. We tried to get (Plimpton) for the end, and Jess Weixler (Robyn Burdine) but couldn’t. It’s strange that we could get that many actors but we had to work around schedules and that really cursed us in the end about how many we could stuff in the end.
DEADLINE: How did David Boies’ cameo in the finale come about?
ROBERT KING: We have a writer on staff, Craig Turk, who is friends with people in his office. We wanted a renowned real lawyer and use him in comicly thrown-off way, almost like a running gag, so he called, and there was interest. It is funny because it is a silly little part and David Boies did a great job, partnering with David Paymer.
DEADLINE: Was Josh Charles always gong to be in the finale?
ROBERT KING: No, we didn’t know until two months ago.
MICHELLE KING: It was such a gift to the show that Josh made himself available. For Alicia’s story to end, she really did need to have Will Gardner in her head.
ROBERT KING: We called his agent and asked if he would consider it. Not only was he considering it he was really excited and jazzed, and that worked out perfectly.