Dramatics, Your Honor…

If you’re not watching The Good Wife, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning.

the good wife

I have my own personal Best of TV List.

West Wing’17 People.  Sherlock’s A Study in Pink. And His Last Vow. (I tried to pick just one. I really did.)  Homeland‘s Q & A.  Lost‘s The Constant.  The Heroes pilot.  Breaking Bad‘s 4 Days Out. Doctor Who’s The Doctor’s Wife.  Quantum Leap’s M.I.A..  Gilmore Girls’ I Can’t Get Started.  Star Trek: TNG’s The Inner Light.  Fringe‘s Making Angels (or Bloodline strictly for Seth Gabel’s amazing performance.)  The Alias pilot. And many more for a million different reasons. (I’ll be talking about more general tv awesomeness in future blog posts…)

They’re fresh. Inventive. They’re a pilot episode where you just know that the stories to come are going to be something spectacular. Stories where pieces of a character’s heart get revealed. Stories where The. Thing. You’ve. Been. Waiting. For. finally happens. They’re a twist in the backstory that now makes so much sense, and it’s all in the tiniest of details.  Or — the writers take risks and send the story off in some wildly new direction that we didn’t see coming…

Enter The Good Wife’s Dramatics, Your Honor.

It was an early, quiet morning. And I can now add ‘emotionally traumatizing’to my list of things that make an amazing episode of television.  (Seriously, how many showrunners actually release a letter to their fans?) Last night’s episode was far and away the gutsiest story move I’ve ever seen. (Yes, I’m keeping it as close to spoiler-free as I can while still making this coherent… or maybe I’m just trying to get you so intrigued that you have no choice but to join me in Sunday nights of The Good Wife.) Everything feels destroyed and up for review. It was ugly and shocking and unpretty. It was real. There was no dramatic and-now-we-have-a-speech scene.  No wrap-up. Just a missing shoe and no one else who really, truly, viscerally cared about this moment outside of our own few characters.

I’ve written so many projects, and I have a hundred more swirling around in my head.  There are always risks you take as a writer, story risks that can either be fantastic or lose your audience in a single word. Finding that razor’s edge of balance is 95% of our job.

I don’t know how Alicia is going to survive, but maybe that’s the beauty of the show.

It wasn’t perfect or scrubbed-up for television. The world of The Good Wife has always felt real — the love, the hate, the jobs, the circling back of judges and other lawyers, the awkward moments, the small talk before big meetings. We’re into Season 5 now, and I’ve completely believed/hoped/wished that the show would eventually end up in one story space.  And the show would have earned that space — it wouldn’ t have been just a fan-fiction wish fulfillment ending.  But I don’t think any show has so perfectly captured the horror of an unexpected death.  (For all the times Downton Abbey  and even The Walking Dead have swung for the fences, you were kind of ready for it.)  But this story captured the mundanely horrible realness of it all.  This is what good story is made to do. This is what I’m aiming for as a writer — what we’re all aiming for: to reflect life, to elevate it, to live in the emotions (good, bad, brilliant, terrifying) that we all experience on a daily basis.

And this is a note-perfect example of TV writing – a master class in being unafraid. 

Because this time, the tv death of ‘Dramatics, Your Honor’ feels pointless. A freak wrong-place-wrong-time moment gone horrifically off the rails.  And yet it feels so right — like the show and the character arcs were always going to end up here, and we’re only just catching on. The rug has been pulled out from under us, and we’ve been staring at the person holding the edges for five seasons now.  Surely you won’t pull that rug, right? 

Oh, surely they will…

Watch it. And discuss…

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