“The Good Wife” ended its fourth season with a game-changing cliffhanger: The series protagonist Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) is leaving Lockhart-Gardner, the law firm where she has worked since the series began, to start a new firm with another Lockhart-Gardner lawyer, Cary (Matt Czuchry). As if that were not enough, Alicia’s husband Peter (Chris Noth) was just elected governor, making Alicia the First Lady of Illinois. The show that began as a story about a woman forced to stand by her husband’s side after he was caught having sex with a prostitute is once again timely.
“At times, it basically feels like we’re the old kid on the block and we’re looking at all these new, relevant shows coming up, then Anthony Weiner sends a text and Eliot Spitzer’s madam runs against him for comptroller and then the old vigor comes back to tell new stories,” said showrunner Robert King during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles.
Margulies empathized with Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin, who, like Alicia, has to publicly support her husband at press conferences about his sex scandal. “My initial thoughts were she had the exact look that I tried to capture in the pilot when you first meet Alicia and she’s standing behind her disgraced man. It’s a soulless look. She was looking down. Her body was empty, her soul was somewhere else and she was just going through the motions. “There was this article with the headline tips for Huma from Alicia Florrick… I felt proud for a minute that maybe we were part of a solution for someone going through something difficult, and then I felt slightly guilty because it really is the gift that keeps on giving.”
The sexual proclivities of politicians will be a major part of this season. “We have a theme this year with Chris Noth’s character, with him being the governor elect at the beginning of the year and then the governor. There’s a question that comes to mind whether in fact sexual dalliances tend to increase with power,” said King. “Will Peter, now that he’s governor, find himself tempted by the women who are [circling] around him? Melissa George plays a woman who works in his office. That puts Eli (Alan Cumming) in a difficult position because he knows that Peter’s ability to keep moving further in office means having Alicia on board, and yet in the end, Eli cares about Alicia too, so he’s trying to curve a man’s taste.”
However, the main focus of the season will be the battle between Lockhart-Gardner and the upstart firm. “The stories this season are very explosive. It’s more about our team then all the guest stars coming in. We really want to see how they all face each other. Basically, we’re about civil war,” said King. Alicia has not thought through the consequences of her decision to start a new firm, in part to avoid interacting with boss and former lover Will (Josh Charles).
Margulies teased, “I think she isn’t quite aware of the eruption that’s about to happen because of the war that she’s causing at Lockhart-Gardner, because she’s running away from something that she’s physically and emotionally attracted to. She’s created mayhem, which will be interesting, because I don’t know how well she does in an emotional situation.”
Alicia will face her own temptations in her new role as First Lady. “What I love about it is it really challenges her moral compass as somebody who always tries to do good,” said Margulies. “But it is incredibly provocative to be in a powerful situation. I think she knows very clearly that she changed her status in her professional life by being the governor elect’s wife and then the governor’s wife. She is very aware that she’s choosing a slippery slope that might not be natural to her.”
Several former characters will return in Season 5. Gary Cole is coming back for an arc as Diane’s love interest. “McVeigh and Diane are still on the brink of getting married so we’re going see if Diane will sacrifice that for the judgeship or go with him,” revealed King.
America Ferrara (“Ugly Betty”) also appears in several episodes. “She brings a case to Alicia’s law firm that involves immigration and the person who crosses paths with them is Eli. If you remember, they had a relationship in the second year. So all these feelings are brought up again and we see a re-sparked relationship.
New cast members include Ben Rappaport, “who is one of these rebel attorneys who break off with Alica and Cary.” Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) gets a new love interest played by Juliet Rylance. Said King, “What we really imagine is someone who is this wild party girl who out-wilds Kalinda and also feels Kalinda’s closeted, that you should be a little more up front than you are. We love this idea of someone who tries to pull Kalinda out of herself.” Jeffrey Tambor will also appear as a judge.
Though the show is focusing on professional intrigue this season, Alicia’s relationships with Will and her best friend Kalinda, who will both remain with Lockhart-Gardner, will still be important elements of the story. “Kalinda feels a little betrayed that she didn’t know Alicia was leaving,” said King. “She knew Cary was leaving because Alicia didn’t decide until very late. So there’s a real tension there about the fact that Kalinda feels a little bit abandoned. But then beyond that, the fact that they’re going to be on opposite sides.” Alicia still is attracted to Will. “The difficult thing they run into is that in another more perfect world where she hadn’t got married and had two kids, she would probably be with Will. She wonders that too because Will is a little bit of a player. She’s never sure whether or not he will stay committed. Beyond that, she’s in a relationship she thinks that she can’t abandon, she has kids. She also rebels against what her mom did, Veronica, who divorced three times. She has a sexual side where she’s drawn to him, but the other side is where she wants to be committed to Peter.”
“The Good Wife” airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.