“The Good Wife”: Secrets of how Josh Charles kept that shocking twist secret!

It was the one twist no one saw coming. Except for a hint I might have gotten from a tipsy Josh Charles at a party

Topics: TV, The Good Wife, josh charles, Julianna Margulies, CBS, Editor's Picks, Will Gardner,

"The Good Wife": Secrets of how Josh Charles kept that shocking twist secret!Josh Charles as Will Gardner in "The Good Wife" (Credit: CBS)
This story contains spoilers from last night's "The Good Wife." If you haven't seen yet, read ahead at your own risk

I met Josh Charles several months ago at a party. Tipsy, we talked about the then-current season of his show, “The Good Wife” – I was a fan of the way things were going; he mentioned he thought the pacing was a little hurried. We talked about the episodes he was directing and the challenges of editing. Newly married, he seemed quite satisfied to chop it up with me, another man, for half an hour as a reprieve from all the requests for photos he was getting from female admirers. But, when he asked me how I’d gained entry into this fairly exclusive soiree and I told him I was a guest of the DJ, an attractive brunette that I was sort of seeing at the time, he gave me a hearty pound and a drunken bear hug and said, “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”

I liked Josh Charles, too. I liked him not just because, for one night, he made me feel like a bona fide bro in the most superficial, Barney Stinson-like way possible, but for reasons that are definitely related. “The Good Wife” is, ostensibly, the story of an intelligent woman who steps from behind the shadow of a man – a powerful, rising politician – to become a relative master of the universe in her own fashion. Alicia Florrick is hardly alone in that mastery; the show is filled with similarly, if not more powerful female characters, most of whom gleefully flout any number of traditional gender roles on a weekly basis.

Charles and I obviously didn’t get as close as I’d thought that night, for he neglected to mention that he was planning to exit the show. Last night, in what is typically and tediously labeled a “shocking twist,” his character, Will Gardner, was rather dramatically killed off in a manner that had apparently been in the – pun intended – offing for months. In a timely interview with TV Line (sly Ausiello!), “Good Wife” co-creator Robert King was asked about the even more timely arrival of handsome actor Matthew Goode on the occasion of Charles’ departure.

TVLINE | Was Matthew brought in specifically to fill the Will void?

ROBERT: Yes. Josh created a great jolt of male energy in the show. We wanted an equivalent jolt once we knew Josh was leaving. So no matter what way Josh was leaving the show, we knew we needed to get more male energy.

Yes, Will Gardner had his sensitive moments. For the uninitiated viewer who only managed to tune in when Gardner was squandering billable hours pining over Alicia, it might have seemed that their doomed passion was the motivating force in his life. But Will Gardner was a shark, a bastard in the courtroom and out, a less monstrous, network Don Draper. His past was murky, his methods questionable. His ego and ambitions, if not boundless, certainly had no limits on the foreseeable horizon. And during those times when Alicia was out of reach, the ballsy lawyer was no stranger to ad hoc sexual conquest.

You Might Also Like

For five seasons, I’ve enjoyed watching Josh Charles as Lockhart/Gardner’s resident alpha male. He was alternately callous and charismatic, calculating and crusading. Not to say that the show’s women didn’t exhibit any of the same qualities. (Were one to tally up in-house investigator Kalinda Sharma’s ethical offenses – well intended or not – a jury might be convinced to bury her under the bar.) But there was something about Gardner’s m.o. that hollered young buck of the old boy’s network – right down to the friendly basketball game that almost got him disbarred episodes back.

I would love for this next paragraph to begin: “And for that reason, Will Gardner had to go. His kind, a throwback in principle, needed to die off in order to make way for the empowered, well-balanced, unstoppable women who make up the true beating heart of the show.” Indeed, it seems that Alicia Florrick has absorbed all that she can from Gardner and become a cunning, if not cutthroat operator in her own right, raising a family and running her own firm with a male partner who seems to defer to her in all but official rank. Gardner’s partner, Diane Lockhart, is easily the more judicious of Lockhart/Gardner’s chiefs and has steered the firm responsibly despite his recklessness and past indiscretions.

I’d like to say that Will Gardner’s bloody dispatching was an ideological inevitability, a narrative sacrifice symbolizing an era of gender equality. But as has been well reported, it was Charles’ decision to move on that forced the show runners’ collective hand into writing off such a beloved character. So, let’s just allow that, if he was going to go, he had to go like this: out in a legal blaze of glory, a proverbial gunfight to the literal death. Will Gardner didn’t just leave the firm for personal reasons or inexplicably decide to start practicing law from a bowling alley in Middle America. No, he died.

He died a warrior’s death defending a good-looking fellow bro with a bright future who – if he didn’t actually believe was innocent – he at least thought deserved a fair trial. It matters little that said defendant ended up actually murdering him. What matters is that Will Gardner died exploring every option no matter how implausible, using every diversionary tactic imaginable, duking it out with the prosecution on every front. Let’s say that Will Gardner died like a man … and then, hopefully, never have to say anything quite so boorish about this awesome show ever again.

Neil Drumming
Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...