Tonight, The Good Wife returns for its fifth season (9 p.m. ET on CBS), and we pick up right where we left off — Alicia (Julianna Margulies) telling Cary (Matt Czuchry) she’ll leave Lockhart/Gardner with him to start their own firm with the other fourth year associates. Margulies was happy it was Cary and not Will (Josh Charles) at Alicia’s door in the final moment of the finale. “I wanted it to be an element of surprise, and that’s what [the show’s creators, Robert and Michelle King] are so good at. I think I actually got more than I bargained for,” Margulies says with a laugh. Here, she and the Kings tease what’s to come.
• Alicia and Cary won’t leave immediately. Because what fun would that be? The Kings interviewed lawyers about starting their own firms and learned the period between deciding to leave and pulling the trigger is ripe with drama. “You’re trying to quietly solicit clients for the new firm as you get your ducks in order and you feel like a betrayer,” Robert says. The reason for the delay: “Alicia starts to realize that the associates she’s leaving with are thinking idealistically and not like mature partners would. She keeps trying to get them out faster and they want to wait for bonuses,” Margulies says. “Alicia knows that that’s just not going to play out well, and sure enough, it ends up blowing up in her face.”
When we spoke with her, she hadn’t yet filmed the scene in which Will finds out she’s leaving. Alicia will keep it a secret from Will and Diane (Christine Baranski) for as long as she can. (“For as long as we can,” Michelle says.) Margulies told us she was bracing herself, and having now seen the promo below, we understand why. Plus, she’d already seen a preview of Will’s wrath: “I saw this scene yesterday,” she said. “Literally, Alicia stands there while Diane and Will go at each other, and it was just devastating to watch.”
And let’s not forget Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) will be stuck in the middle of Alicia and Will: “In many ways, she reaches a fork in the road of which way to throw her commitment, and that is going to be a dilemma for her in the first part of the year — who does she stand beside?” Robert says.
• Diane’s pursuit of the judgeship is a source of serious tension. It will create a recurring issue for her and Will: “Is Diane doing something to work toward her confirmation or doing something for the firm?” Robert explains. “It’s really like if someone had an affair in a marriage, because in many ways, the business is a marriage. Obviously, Diane’s eye is wandering.” As Margulies explains, “You have to understand, the balance is being not just tipped on my end, but also tipped on her end, and so the whole firm ends up exploding basically.”
Adding to the fun, we’ll be seeing more of David Lee (Zach Grenier, who has become a series regular). “David Lee is everybody’s id, in that he’s always the one who suggests the most violent and unsentimental suggestions,” Robert says. “It allows our characters to sometimes rise above their corrupt id and sometimes not. David Lee is a really good spice for the law firm because he’s basically their W.C. Fields.”
• Alicia and Peter’s relationship is still undefined. “That’s the question: Is it a marriage of political convenience or is it marriage?” Robert says. Either way, being the governor’s wife puts new pressures on Alicia. Peter (Chris Noth), of course, has them too. Like in real life, the governor of Illinois will have an ethics commission, led by Marilyn (Melissa George), to advise him. “Obviously we’ve seen how well that’s gone. Four of the last eight Illinois governors have ended up in prison,” Robert says. “Melissa George’s character is truly an ethical person, and for her, ethics are supreme over everything — expediency, pragmatism, results. She almost doesn’t care whether there are good results that come out of politics as much as that they be handled clean. We want to see the debate going on between ethics devoid of logic and then ol’ Machiavellian politics that works for effect no matter what.” Will the voter fraud issue from last season’s gubernatorial election resurface? “It may not come at the beginning of the year, but all these plot points happen in the way they hopefully would in reality, which is, sometimes things come back to bite you later on,” Robert says.
• Eli (Alan Cumming) will have to learn diplomacy. He’ll find there’s a difference between being Peter’s campaign manager and being Peter’s chief of staff. “You have to put on a different hat, and the thing you could get away with when you were campaigning — hard-knuckles politics, for example — won’t necessarily work,” Robert says. Also look for America Ferrera’s character to resurface. “It’s an unresolved relationship in his life, and it comes back at a very inopportune time for Eli,” Robert says. “Sparks fly.” And then, of course, he’ll be dealing with Peter’s mother, Jackie (Mary Beth Peil). “The battle with Eli gets more intense because it’s really a battle over who has veto power over Peter: The family side or the chief of staff side?” Robert says. Adds Michelle, “Let’s just say that Jackie was born to have a son in the governor’s mansion.”
• The guest list is as impressive as ever. In addition to Emmy winner Carrie Preston reprising her role as Elsbeth Tascioni (hopefully in an episode with Kyle MacLachlan’s Josh Perotti), Jeffrey Tambor appears in at least two episodes as a “very sarcastic federal judge who’s now becoming slightly attracted to Alicia,” Robert says. Gary Cole is back for multiple episodes as Diane’s Republican fiancé Kurt McVeigh: “We’ll find out whether they do, in fact, get married this year,” Robert promises. And Fringe‘s John Noble, who guested last season as a client who sued a lot to spend time with Alicia — and was killed — will return in the 100th episode.