Behind the Scenes of The Good Wife Shocker

Death comes to us all, and even lawyers can’t escape

If TV’s liveliest time slot weren’t already somewhat paradoxically a-crawl with death, last night’s episode of The Good Wife raised the ante on all things terminal. (Fair warning: Spoilers abound from here on in.)

In a truly shocking development—and one that was kept under wraps for months—the creators of CBS’ Emmy Award-winning drama elected to kill off Will Gardner (Josh Charles), a character whose significance is matched only by that of Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick. 

Mortally wounded by a stray bullet, Gardner’s death effectively frees Charles to leave the series after 105 episodes, while, in the words of Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King, “propel[ling] Alicia into her newest incarnation.”

In a note to fans, the Kings said that the specter of death “created a new dramatic ‘hub’ for the season,” adding that the impact of Gardner’s murder will “keep the show from slipping into a numbing sameness.”

There is another, more implacable reason for killing off Will Gardner, which boils down to all human stories close with an indelible period at the end of the last sentence. “Television, in our opinion, doesn’t deal with this enough: the irredeemability of death. Your last time with the loved one will always remain your last time,” the Kings said. “The Good Wife is a show about human behavior and emotion, and death, as sad and unfair as it can be, is a part of the human experience that we want to share.”

For his part, Charles said it was simply time for him to move on. “However much I enjoyed the experience … I was ready for the next chapter of my life, both creatively and personally,” he said. For all that, the actor won’t disappear completely from The Good Wife set, as he’s committed to direct one of the season’s seven remaining episodes.

The Good Wife airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m., a DVR-frying time slot that also plays host to two hit shows about ambulatory corpses (AMC’s The Walking Dead and ABC’s Resurrection), the latest J.J. Abrams fantasia (NBC’s Believe) and Fox’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the scientific rigor of which places it at the antipodes of the aforementioned scripted programs. Oh, and in two weeks, after The Walking Dead has staggered off to its annual summer hiatus, HBO returns with Season 4 of Game of Thrones, which bears the stark tagline, “All Men Must Die.”

As a result of a late-running NCAA March Madness matchup, CBS’ prime-time slate was delayed by 41 minutes. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, The Good Wife last night averaged 9.12 million viewers and a 1.4 in the adults 18-49 demo, up 8 percent from a week ago.

Despite falling 19 percent to a 2.5 in the dollar demo, Resurrection still managed to win the 9 p.m. time slot for the third consecutive week. Since debuting to a 3.8 rating on March 9, ratings for ABC’s supernatural drama have dropped 34 percent—still within the standard deviation.

Meanwhile, Cosmos dipped 15 percent to a 1.7 rating, while Believe continues to crater, falling to a 1.2 in the demo, down 20 percent versus last week. At 10 p.m., NBC’s Crisis dropped 19 percent to a 1.3.

On the cable front, ratings for The Walking Dead’s penultimate episode were up 5 percent to a 6.7. As it so happens, that matches the average deliveries for the first 15 episodes of Season 3.

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