From Day One, The Good Wife pulled no punches. So it’s no surprise that the show’s creators have named the last episode simply “End.” Yes, it’s the end of a groundbreaking series. But it’s also our last chance to learn where Alicia Florrick’s journey has taken her — and one of the tour guides might surprise you.

A lot rides on a series finale. A great one seals a show’s reputation for posterity. A bad or weak one tarnishes it. So after all the hype, has The Good Wife pulled off a winner? Let’s find out.

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What’s the Verdict?

In many ways, “End” starts out like any Good Wife episode. The jury’s come back to the courtroom, so Alicia, Eli, Peter and Lucca ride together in a limo, each on separate phone conversations. The big worry: if the jury’s delivered a verdict with a harsh sentence, does AUSA Fox’s offer of a shorter jail term still stand?

Fox knows he has Peter over a barrel, but Alicia stills argues for her client to receive three years. Meanwhile, the governor’s comforting both his daughter and Eli. Yes, Gold has a heart! Peter even apologizes for taking Eli off his presidential campaign. 

The judge considers the plea deal; before he can approve it, though, the jury returns. But instead of delivering a verdict, they have questions about the original murder case, not Peters’s corruption charges. This looks promising to Team Florrick.

A Blast from the Past

The question revolves around the murder victim’s 911 call. There’s an unidentified noise in the background. With some prompting from Lucca, Jason figures out the source — a ringtone from a different cell phone. Now two tasks lie ahead. They must convince a judge to admit new evidence for an old case. And they have to find the owner of the cell phone. Lucca, Diane and Alicia settle in for a long night of searching legal precedents. Alicia remembers a similar case back in 2010, when she was a second-year associate.

Lucca also prompts Alicia to thank Jason for helping them. “Jason thinks if Peter goes to prison, you’ll never divorce him,” Lucca chides. “You tend to confuse responsibility with love. Just think about it. Who do you want to come home to? Every night — who do you want to see when you open your door?” 

Something for Alicia to mull over. As she sits in her apartment doing research, she daydreams. First, she imagines coming home to Jason. Then, to Peter. Finally, to … Will. This startles her, though she’s soon imagining kissing him again and again.

To break out of her daze, she returns to the now-empty offices of Lockhart, Florrick and Associates. We get a newly filmed flashback of her and Will, presumably back in 2010. He helps her find the precedent she needs — a case called US v. Nunez. 

The scene shifts. No longer a flashback — she’s now speaking to him in the present-tense. Alicia wants advice from Spirit Will, but he won’t offer any. “What is it you always say? ‘It was romantic because it didn’t happen’? So you got a little of both — life, us together and now romance.” 

She’s left (literally) in the dark to figure out her own path forward.

Cary to the Rescue?

The next day, Diane’s pleased that Alicia suggests using US v. Nunez. And to justify its use, Diane’s bringing in David Boies (look him up — he’s a really important real-life lawyer) because he’ll impress the judge, which annoys AUSA Fox no end.

While Diane’s questioning Boies, Jason and Alicia go off in search of the cell phone owner and Cary. One way or another, they’ll find something to exonerate Peter. 

When they find Cary (teaching a law class), they quiz him about the missing bullets — they must be somewhere in the evidence room. Cary still thinks his old boss is guilty, but when he slips into the courtroom later, he begins to have doubts. Agos visits Matan Brody, who agrees (grumpily) to search the entire evidence room once again.

Speaking of the governor — he learns his biggest donors want to switch their allegiance to Alicia. So even if he goes free, his political career looks kaput. Worse, Eli’s the one behind it. He tells Peter it’s the smart play, even though Alicia doesn’t know anything about it yet. 

A Bullet to the Heart

As Diane wraps up with Boies, the news comes in: they’ve found the missing bullets. If they show that the suspect, Locke, didn’t fire them, then why would Peter have hidden them? The corruption charge would become pretty weak. 

Diane gives the bullets to hubby Kurt, hoping for the best. Alicia says she’s not even sure if she cares what Kurt finds, but Diane reminds her that she has to care because Peter’s their client and they have to mount the best defense. She’s going to regret those words.

She also regrets giving the case back to Kurt. His full examination of the bullets confirms that they came from Locke’s gun. Now the women have to argue to keep the evidence out of the courtroom. Diane begs Alicia to keep Kurt off the stand. If he has to spin his testimony to save Peter, she knows it will crush him because he’s so honest. 

But it doesn’t matter. Kurt’s former student, Holly Westfall, testifies to the same thing. The only way to save Peter is to call Kurt’s opinion into question. Alicia takes Diane’s advice about defending her client. At Alicia’s request, Lucca’s ruthless with Kurt. We learn something we suspected (well, I did, anyway) — Kurt conferred with Holly because they were lovers (in the past? Now?). Suddenly, Kurt’s motives are suspect, so the ballistics evidence won’t be part of the trial. 

A stone-faced Diane stands up and walks out, as Alicia sits by with a guilty expression. 

Alicia looks for help from Spirit Will again. He reminds her that the point is to zealously represent their clients. “Diane knows that better than anyone,” he says. “Ethics change — we’re all adults here.” Alicia says she liked it when things were simpler, but Will says they were never simple. And she’s probably thinking it’s not too reassuring to hear him talk about flexible ethics.

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A Deal They Can Live With

With all the confusion, Fox knows his case isn’t quite the slam-dunk he thought it was. He offers Alicia another deal. One year probation, no jail time. 

Peter agrees to take the deal, but he wants Alicia to know he’s innocent. Since he’ll have to resign the governorship, he also wants one last favor: stand with me during my resignation. Alicia agrees.

As he leaves, she mutters to herself, “What do I do now?” For the last time, she turns to Spirit Will for guidance. 

“Go to him,” he tells Alicia. “You’re done with Peter. Like a fever, it’s over.” She notes that “He’s not you. He’s a boy. He likes boy things.”

“You like boy things,” Spirit Will says. You have so little self-awareness.”

When she worries she’ll be unhappy, he offers to take the blame. “Look at this place. You want to live here alone? It will drive you crazy. Go to him. It’s not too late.”

“I’ll love you forever,” she says. “I’m okay with that,” he responds, giving her one last look. Goodbye, Will Gardner! And thanks, Josh Charles, for being a classy guy and returning for the #GoodWifeFarewell.

What Now, Alicia Florrick?

Back in the office, things are hopping. Lucca doesn’t know where Jason is. Alicia calls his cell and leaves a message. “It’s over. Peter’s taking the plea. My daughter’s going to school. And I need to see you. Call me back.”

The next day, Peter and Alicia clasp hands as he takes the podium to resign. Alicia stands by his side, looking somber. As Peter says his own goodbyes, he thanks a beaming Eli and a stone-faced Diane. Suddenly, Alicia thinks she sees Jason and steps away from the press conference.

She runs after Jason (or was it?) into a hallway, but if he was there, he’s gone now. Diane approaches her and slaps her. Hard. Shades of the opening, but this time Alicia’s on the receiving end. 

Alicia Florrick pulls herself together and walks back into the press conference.

What’s Your Verdict?

I can already hear the shrieks of agony across The Good Wife fan base. That’s it? A slap on the face? 

Well, don’t say you weren’t warned. Creators Robert and Michelle King have been saying all along that the show began with a slap (Alicia to Peter) and would end with one. The surprise was who did the slapping. I never would have guessed it would be Diane Lockhart against her (former?) friend — two women who share the same humiliation about their husbands’ affairs.

For good and ill, that’s Alicia’s journey. The law changed her. Life changed her. Ethics were flexible, especially on behalf of clients. She’s been hurt, and she’s hurt other people. This is reality TV, Good Wife-style. 

But she’s also developed a spine of steel. Her children are making their own lives. Heck, even Peter won’t see jail time. 

More important, she’s willing to make a go of it with Jason, even if it means risking unhappiness. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think he’ll hear her message and return to her. For now. Which might be enough. Then she might run for governor. Or start her own firm again, perhaps with Lucca. (I’m thinking Diane’s already back at the office, scraping “Florrick” off the walls and letterhead.) The journey may be over for us at home, but I think she’s just getting started. 

Would I have liked to see everything wrapped up in a shiny bow? Or, thinking of Jason, a shiny beau? Of course. After seven years as your faithful recapper (never missed an episode, I’m proud to say), I would have liked our gal to have a straight-out happy ending. And Julianna Margulies’ smile makes the world a brighter place. But I’m not sure that would have been quite the way life works. 

So I’ll take my ambivalent but honest ending. Then I’ll pair it with seven seasons of amazing writing, creative direction, beautiful costumes and sets, a realistic portrayal of today’s legal issues, large dollops of politics and acting that sets the bar for all other shows for years to come. 

I will miss you, Good Wife. Network television may never see your likes again. Thanks for going on the journey with me!

The Good Wife no longer airs on CBS but will live on forever in the pantheon of great television.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV