A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Tonight marked the exit of Kalinda Sharma from The Good Wife. For the first three seasons, Kalinda was an absolute enigma on television. She was an Indian, bisexual woman who was never defined by any of those traits. She was cunning, savvy, sharp, and absolutely unafraid to get the damn job done. Her friendship with Alicia was an integral part of the show’s experience, engrained from the pilot episode and then splintered apart to never recover. She was an enigma that had the instant capability to build chemistry with even the most inanimate of objects. There was an inherent mystery about her and the less she revealed, the more you were drawn towards her. That is precisely why the revelation of Peter and Kalinda having slept together at the end of season two hit as hard as it did. It came out of nowhere yet it came out of everywhere simultaneously. We knew so little about Kalinda but we knew there was something there related to Peter somehow and that twist of the knife was thusly able to do exactly what it needed to. It was a meticulous study of using proper characterization and plot movement, revealing just a little before the larger fulcrums came into play. And even after that revelation, we were miraculously still largely left in the dark about who Kalinda really was.
The show never figured it out and the abominable treatment that Kalinda Sharma received after season three is one of the darkest marks on this show’s history. It wasn’t just that Kalinda was one of the strongest characters on The Good Wife, it was that she was one of the strongest characters around on television, period. Sexually liberated female characters are hard enough to find. Sexually liberated minority female characters are even harder to find. A sexually liberated female character who is of an ethnic minority and is bisexual to boot was essentially unheard of. Kalinda’s importance in the pantheon of television characters in this Golden Age of Drama couldn’t be understated. Archie Panjabi securing the show’s first ever acting Emmy was proof of that. Yet the show succeeded in understating her itself, turning her into a mere cipher who would on occasion exhibit some semblance of plot and character developments. But those instances felt more like cheats than actual achievements. The husband debacle of season four was scarring, instantly proving the danger of trying to reveal too much of the past behind the story’s most secretive, mysterious character. As the veils were drawn away, the character began to crumble. Her relationship with Will was given extra weight in season five and that helped certainly, but with Will’s death, even that went away.
Then Kalinda effectively became a nanny for Lamond Bishop in what had to be the least exciting narrative move ever. Pairing the dangerous Kalinda with Bishop on the onset seemed to be a good idea initially, but as the season went on, this particular storyline just kept on stretching in an exceedingly uncomfortable manner like relatives who need to go back home as quickly as possible. Tonight Kalinda’s exit was a relatively quiet one and for that at least I’m glad. Having Bishop kill her would be thoroughly expected and thusly completely devoid of any dramatic tension. It made sense for Kalinda to begin her exit from the show through a routine procedural case where she is able to once again display the essential sharpness that gave our protagonists so many victories in the courtroom. Her plan to turn in Bishop sales to save everyone involved was at its onset a pretty solid one, but it was marred by Cary’s overprotectiveness. This tragedy would honestly have hit quite a bit harder if there had been as much effort put into establishing the strength of the Kalinda-Cary relationship, but they were largely absent after Cary was saved from his seemingly inevitable prison sentence. The romance was far too cold for it to spark effectively tonight, rendering that emotional complex more unfortunate than tragic.
Kalinda’s final interaction being with Grace was an unusual choice, one that apparently has been decisive in the audience response. I don’t know why Alicia wasn’t there. I’m not bothered by that creative choice necessarily. It just leaves me a bit disquieted. I don’t know why Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi haven’t shared a scene together in so long, but that has been an incredible loss for The Good Wife that has never been more obvious and prescient than tonight. As with Cary, we simply haven’t seen enough of Kalinda and Alicia bonding over their past differences and otherwise to grasp the emotional wallop the showrunners are clearly gunning for here. Her walking around Alicia’s apartment, gazing at each of Alicia’s photographs was a sweet moment, encapsulated in her tearful reminiscence of the moment when the name “Florrick” was added to the Lockhart Gardner name and Kalinda had taken her photograph. Perhaps wanting to avoid any scene as Kalinda is wont to do, she simply leaves a letter with Grace, walking towards the door. She turns towards the camera and simply says “Good-bye” before closing the door. In more ways than one, Kalinda has been gone for quite a while but I can’t say that I am glad she is gone.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
*Other stuff happened, too:
+Archie Panjabi’s performance as always was absolutely perfect
+The opening with Alicia and Peter walking hand in hand towards the cameras was a beautiful, evocative shot
+The shot of Alicia slightly left alone in the corridor
+The show’s attack on the stupidity and irresponsible inhumanity of mandatory minimum sentencing is one of its stronger tackling of a social subject
+Alicia to become Atticus Finch?
+“In the name of God… do your duty.”
+“I’m officially a scandal.”
+“Bishop goes… you’re number one.”
+“Only in America…”
+“Republicans starving a democracy of funds…”
+“I got an A in Algebra.” I really feel for Dylan. He never asked for any of this.
+“Life’s too short to be mad.”
+“Are you sure you’re all right?”
+“I’m damaged goods.”
+“It’s okay. Be tired. You can do it, Alicia. You can come back from this. I know it.”
+Margulies kills it with Alicia’s reaction to the letter
Title: The Deconstruction
Written By: Ted Humphrey
Directed By: Ted Humphrey
Image Courtesy: TV Media Insights, Vanity Fair