Attorney Will Gardner wasn’t exactly the star of The Good Wife–that would be Alicia Florick (Julianna Margulies), she of the unforgettable eyebrows, exceptional tailoring and preternaturally forgiving nature. That’s right: the good wife herself. No, Will Gardner–who was murdered in Sunday evening’s riotous season finale–was not the star: the show, after all, isn’t called The Snarling Egotist, which is what a show about Will Gardner would be titled. But attorney Gardner, as played by veteran TV actor Josh Charles, was the sort of nasty practitioner of cutthroat pragmatism that makes hourly dramas cook. Women–including the titular wife, various blondes shown primarily in underwear, his law partner (Christine Baranski), and chief investigator (the outstanding Archie Panjabi) and on and on–found him irresistible and even paradoxically cuddly, no matter how egregious his assault on the notions of charm and decency. (He was known to bribe judges, among other questionable ethical tactics.)
Why the murder? Producers say Mr. Charles wanted out after four seasons–and that to merely move him to Seattle wouldn’t be satisfying enough. There are viewers who, despite the character’s specious claims on cuddliness, won’t miss him. The Good Wife has carved out a unique place in current show business landscape: it often seems like a place where Broadway stars–and other luminaries–drop in to supplement their stage earnings. Nathan Lane, Alan Cumming, Baranski of course, Eric Bogosian, Stockard Channing, Zach Grenier are all regulars. (It’s like a stop on the way to Lillian Booth.) Michael J. Fox touches down on occasion. Mr. Big himself, Chris Noth, moves in and out of episodes (and Alicia’s life) much the way he moved in and out of Carrie Bradshaw’s. The Zelig-like Peter Bogdanovich pops in to father a child–it’s a kind of famous actor roulette wheel. Mr. Charles, who often had to issue (there’s no other word) his share of dialogue that seemed far less nuanced and cared-for than that of the other actors, probably grew tired of talking his wooden words with a perfectly rounded Nathan Lane character. In killing off Will Gardner, the producers removed the worst and laziest part of this excellent show. It must have felt pretty good.