Perhaps it goes without saying that the roles for women on CBS's The Good Wife are laudably complex, eschewing, for the most part, those tired female stereotypes still so prevalent in much of television and film: desperate housewives, shrewish ballbusters, silly girls and scheming vixens. The protagonist, Alicia Florrick, her boss, Diane Lockhart, and the in-house investigator for their firm, Kalinda Sharma, are all compelling not because they are women but because they embody robust and fully-realized characterizations (as do the central male characters).
However, it’s hard to ignore the show’s growing ambivalence towards its own gender politics; while the characters have stayed their unique selves, the situations into which they’ve been thrown have become more and more familiar. In the final episodes of last season, Alicia discovers that Kalinda slept with her husband years before. The fallout from this discovery leads to a domino-like cascade of events: Alicia and Kalinda fight; Alicia separates from her husband Peter, newly-reelected State’s Attorney; Alicia gives into the long drawn-out sexual tension between herself and her boss, Will Gardner; and, finally, Diane tells Will of her plans to fire Alicia if her split from her husband turns out poorly for the firm (this last plot point is just beginning to unfold this season). Suddenly, a show in which women’s roles had not been bound to stereotypical narrative arcs turns that equation on its head: all of its female characters pitted against each other under the auspices of one man’s indiscretions. (The accompanying clip includes Alicia and Diane's first meeting in season one, her fallout with Kalinda in season two and Diane's concerns about Alicia's viability at the firm from the beginning of season three.)
From the beginning of the show, Alicia’s role as Peter Florrick’s wife has been a salable and essential part of her identity as a lawyer, whether she liked it or not. If Alicia is no longer the “good wife,” does that preclude her ability to be a good lawyer? At what point does the political become personal? And, on a deeper level, does the recent scheming and disquietude between Alicia, Kalinda and Diane necessarily evince a “bad” gender politics on the part of the show or can we chalk it all up to episodic television’s compulsive need to disrupt and/or destabilize relationships regardless of gender?