While The Good Wife's phenomenal fourth season ended in slight ambiguity, there is no doubt when season five opens that Alicia Florrick plans to defect from Lockhart/Gardner and launch a new firm with Cary Agos. The only question remains as to when -- and how -- she can take that leave. But once she does, the fun is just getting started, according to creators Robert and Michelle King.
And I'm thrilled to report The Kings are not lying about the sheer amount of fun lying in wait if my premiere episode screening is any indication!
To find out what else to expect from the upcoming fifth season, I sat down with Robert and Michelle King to discuss the fallout from Alicia's abdication, if Diane will be next, how they plan to eliminate Will's "puppy dog eyes" and what they're most excited for fans to experience this year!
ETonline: What would you say is the overarching theme of season five?
Robert King: Now that Alicia has been given a clean slate to create what she wants, we want to see if she make the same mistakes as her husband. Up until this point she has not had the ability to practice law the way she wants, take the cases she wants and hasn't had to manage a firm. It's kind of the showrunner aspect of it. This is not just about managing lawyers, it's about the toilets overflowing and keeping the lights on. That is what Alicia is facing. So now that Alicia has the ability to create anew, will she hold to an ethical line she believes?
Michelle King: The second theme is how close emotions are. Love and hate really are related to one another.
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ETonline: How much of Alicia's impetus to leave Lockhart/Gardner is to get Will out of her periphery?
R. King: Alicia and Will kissed in episode 14 and the problem is, it came out of nowhere. And once you open that Pandora's Box, it's tough to close it again. Meanwhile, Alicia was seeing a version of Peter who was so intent on renewing their relationship, so Alicia realized she wouldn't be able to close the door with Will unless she slammed it closed. Access creates desire, and if you don't have access, desire tends to wilt. And that is her guiding principal -- but I do know audiences have taken another version of it, which is that if she was not working with Will she would have the ability to renew their relationship. I don't want to discount that, it's not wrong to think that.
ETonline: With them on opposing sides, how much more exciting does it make scripting courtroom scenes where they face off?
M. King: It is absolutely fantastic. In Red Team, Blue Team, we got to see how passionately they engaged with fighting one another. The ability to play that for a little longer is exciting for us.
R. King: And it's fun to see people who love each other start to turn on one another. But they also know how the other one works, so it's fun to see an opponent change their plan because their opponent knows how they fight.
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ETonline: It strikes me that Alicia's decision to defect from Lockhart/Gardner after becoming a partner is basically an irrevocable choice. She can't ever go back ... right?
R. King: One thing we've always been cautious of with the show is Schmuck Bait, which are false dilemmas the show then walks back from. Cary was fired in season one and that meant he had to wander in the wilderness for two years. I think our show lives in a certain number of characters, and that certain number of characters are either on the same page and love one another, or not on the same page and hate one another. I think it's exciting to explore Alicia and Will in antipathy.
ETonline: You both said this season refocuses on the core characters, yet you're bringing in some seemingly big new characters (played by Ben Rappaport and Melissa George). Did you need them to tell your core stories?
R. King: That's exactly right. There was no way around it. In many ways the show has always worked in triumvirates, so what had to happen is we needed two people who could side against one in the new firm. That's Ben Rappaport's character. With Melissa George, it was about wanting to show Peter's difficulties in the governorship and how Alicia plays into it. The real important thing is to not have characters take over the show. The other thing is, if our core characters are on opposite sides of the case, you don't have to bring in other characters to fulfill the functions of prosecutor or plaintiff or defendant. If it's a deposition, that room can now be filled with nothing but our main characters now.
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ETonline: By adding a second core firm and The Governor's Office, you're requiring the show split its focus in order to validate those new settings. How tough has the balancing act been?
R. King: Tough. The only way we could take the story here is if we had a plan. Shows often paint themselves into deeper and deeper corners, and there were a few shows this year where I thought, "What a brave creative decision," but then realized they didn't have a way out of that corner. We planned this out, but we also clearly planned out the cases that would bring them under the same roof.
ETonline: How aggressive does the fight for Kalinda get?
R. King: [laughs] One of the reasons we brought Robin (played by Jess Weixler) in was to give everyone a second option. Kalinda gets difficult because she's taking offense at being left behind. There will be an intense battle.
ETonline: Over the last four years, The Good Wife has introduced recurring characters that could easily carry their own spinoffs. I'm thinking of Elsbeth Tascioni, Nancy Crozier, Caitlin D'arcy among others. Does splitting up these firms mean you might tap into that guest actor pool to fill out their ranks?
M. King: Yes. absolutely. One is a little bit stuck in terms of actors schedules. If you're giving guest stars a permanent hired position but don't control their acting schedule it becomes difficult.
R. King: We also step carefully because, Carrie Preston is our spice. Michael J. Fox is another spice. You can't have those characters in every day otherwise the spice begins to lose its flavor. The plan is to have Carrie more involved and Nathan Lane more involved, but, yeah, there does need to be a filling out. One of the things we explored a lot before this season began is what happens when firms are pulled apart. One of the reasons we made Zach Grenier (who plays David Lee) a regular is we didn't want Lockhart/Gardner to feel like a hollow shell once Alicia and Cary leave. These two firms are like an Ouroboros. There's an element of these two firms being tied together in more ways than one -- often times in a very absurd way. It's the kind of messy you get from an Altman movie, like Short Cuts.
ETonline: You'll also be bringing America Ferrera back this season. How does Eli fit into this larger picture?
R. King: America comes back when she goes to Alicia's firm and bumps into Eli. That wakes up so many feelings for him. It's an unresolved romantic relationship and he realizes the door was never closed. The problem is, Eli has a lot of power this season and it's difficult for him to figure out what is stemming from real feelings and what's coming up because of this power.
ETonline: With Alicia out of his life in many ways, will we see Will start dating again?
R. King: Yeah! We're exploring that a lot this season. We're trying to take his puppy dog eyes out of the equation. There was a certain sense of him being sidelined because of Alicia's romantic rekindling with Peter. Will is a strong character we want to explore to the fullest -- and hate sex is sometimes the best sex.
ETonline: Diane has often toyed with leaving the firm to take on a greater legal role. Will her interest in a judgeship come up again this year?
M. King: We're very much playing with a renewed interest in the judgeship for Diane. And it has a lot to do with Kurt [McVeigh, played by Gary Cole].
R. King: The thing she runs into with Kurt is that he's so wrong for her on so many levels except romance, and she's not someone who is used to being ruled by passion. So what we're seeing is a woman who has passion re-ignited in her life.
ETonline: What are you excited for The Good Wife fans to see this season?
M. King: I'm excited that Alicia will be facing completely different challenges this year. Professionally and personally her life is going to feel really new to her. The fans will get to walk along that path with her, and see her unsettled again, which is fun.
R. King: Fans think they love when characters are happy, but they don't realize they actually desire for them to be in turmoil. There is real entertainment value in dysfunction and that family dysfunction is fun this year. They're being pulled apart at the seams and it's entertaining. You want to see them get back together but you also get a great thrill out of them being thrown by these challenges.
The Good Wife premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS.