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On-screen death: How it can shape a show

On the 10th anniversary of the death of one of the stars of the ‘The Good Wife,’ its creators are still reeling from the unexpected response

Will Gardner (Josh Charles) y Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski)
Will Gardner (Josh Charles) and Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) consider how to destroy the prosecution’s witness in 'The Good Wife.'
Paloma Rando

Good Friday seems an auspicious day to write about death and an appropriate moment for a nod to the 10th anniversary of the episode Dramatics, Your Honor in season five of The Good Wife in which one of the show’s stars, Will Gardner, is murdered mid-trial.

Josh Charles, the actor who played Gardner, wanted to jump ship and Robert and Michelle King, who co-created the series and wrote the episode, felt that the only logical way to take him out of the equation was to kill him — fiction being the only place where a screenwriter can commit murder without criminal liability. Now those involved have recounted the turn of events in an article for Vulture, where they cite Pedro Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as a reference for the state of mind of his co-star and romantic interest, Alicia Florrick after her loss.

Naturally, it was a dramatic moment in the series which picked up more viewers and, according to some, was injected with fresh life. But I felt it marked the beginning of the derailment of its horizontal plots, which only made sense again with the slap Diane Lockhart gave Alicia in the last episode. In any case, the Kings continued to demonstrate their mastery to the end in the cases that featured in each episode, the key to any procedural. And where will Will go at this point, after six seasons of The Good Fight and about to attend the premiere of Elsbeth — also written by the Kings?

Adriana’s death in The Sopranos, Omar’s in The Wire, Charlie’s in Lost, Rita’s in Dexter, Billy’s in Ally McBeal, Mark Greene’s in ER, Derek’s — and so many others — in Grey’s Anatomy, Nate Fisher’s in Six Feet Under, Tara’s in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Red Wedding episode in Game of Thrones were all turning points. In fiction, as in The Passion, creators can also play God, but unlike in life, atheists can always hope for a resurrection.

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