By Caryn James | James on Screens May 18, 2011 at 5:33AM
They didn’t have to spell it out, but they did. WCBS, the local New York station, went from the end of The Good Wife to its lead late news story, which it called, “The real-life good wife,” a Shriver-Schwarzenegger report. The station had teased the report during last night's Good Wife with “Next – Maria Shriver’s heartbreak,” referring to her statement that this is “a painful and heartbreaking time” after Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that he’d fathered a child with the family’s housekeeper ten years ago.
Exploitative? A little, but also true. The Good Wife season finale came through with all the elements that make the series so powerfully real, including prescient parallels to the news.
The murder case at the story’s center was a strong one, involving a bloody glove, a crucial piece of evidence that mysteriously landed on Alicia’s desk. But even at their best the weekly cases are backdrop to the characters’ complicated lives.
And in the center of last night’s episode, one scene leapt out to reinforce the parallels between the fictional Alicia Florick (Julianna Margulies) and - most recently but not uniquely - Maria Shriver. In that scene, now that Alicia has stood by her cheating husband, Peter, and he has been elected state’s attorney, Democratic party officials are prodding political adviser Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), to start a consulting company as a way of gearing up for Peter’s run for higher office. They want him to house the new company at Alicia’s law firm, and when Eli says he doesn’t think she'll will want to be so public anymore, the party official says: “I don’t think that’s her choice. Without her Peter is a john who overpaid for a prostitute, with her he’s Kennedy.”
Where to start? The Kennedy reference? If the official had said “a Kennedy” it would have been literally true - with his wife, Schwarzenegger is a member of that family - but the echo was enough. The sexism and arrogance of the party official, who assumes Alicia will simply play along? That kind of savvy - especially about the balancing act of private vs. public lives for political wives - is one of the reasons The Good Wife is so sophisticated and satisfying (as I said in my earlier pre-finale piece about how the show anticipated the Shriver Schwarzenegger news; if you missed it, you can read it here.)
Later, Alicia resists Eli’s plan without giving him a good reason; next season she’s going to have to start telling people she’s kicked her husband out of the house. Eli insists, which he had to do because Cumming, who recently signed a new contract with the show, has become one of its most dynamic characters.
But ultimately, what fans of the show were waiting for, was the next move in the long-simmering romance between Alicia and Will (Josh Charles). There was a great moment in the series pilot that just made you yell, “Yay!” It happened when, after standing by her husband’s side Silda Spitzer-like as he resigned, Alicia walked off stage and slapped his face. Last night she rode up a hotel elevator with Will, and as the doors opened and closed on several floors we saw them kiss, finally. Then they entered a hotel room. Yay!
And in one of those weird coincidences no one can plan, just as The Good Wife ended its season in the East, Maria Shriver was on stage with Oprah Winfrey as Oprah taped her final shows in Chicago. Yay for Shriver’s future too.