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The Good Wife Season 5 Finale Recap: Graduation Day

"A Weird Year"--An open feed from a camera mistakenly left on after a teleconferenced deposition between the lawyers of Florrick/Agos and Lockhart/Gardner reveals a threat to the firm that Alicia and Cary never saw coming.  Meanwhile, the fate of Lockhart/Gardner hangs in the balance as Louis Canning vies for a larger role.  Also, Alicia entrusts Zach’s high school graduation party to Jackie and Veronica, on the fifth season finale of THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday, May 18 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.  Pictured L-R: Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, Ben Rappaport as Carey Zepps,  and Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos Photo: Jojo Whilden/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This fifth-season finale speaks volumes for the enduring quality of The Good Wife. In some ways, I can’t believe it’s been only five seasons, because so much has happened since the beginning. In other ways, I can’t believe it’s been only five seasons, because this show is still so good. It’s quite vital for the end of a fifth-season drama. I mean, in season five of Grey’s Anatomy, we were dealing with such innovations as Izzie having sex with the ghost of her dead patient lover while dealing with cancer and George dying on his way off to join the Army. The Good Wife, in contrast, is dealing in truly great, not cheap or soap-operatic, drama.

We begin with a firm-on-firm squabble about who handled an adoption case, which, as usual with this show’s openers, is a red herring for the most part. Yes, both Lockhart-Gardner and Florrick-Agos are being sued for mishandling the case, but whatever. The beauty of The Good Wife is that Zach’s graduation, and his impending summer job at Georgetown, is at least as important as this case. Same goes for the fact that Finn is dropping out of the State’s Attorney race.

In fact, we’re still not sure quite what to focus on as we learn that a managing-partner vote is imminent at Lockhart-Gardner. We’re really getting somewhere when we realize that Florrick-Agos can see everything happening in the conference room of Lockhart-Gardner, and that furthermore, Florrick-Agos is conflicted about whether it’s okay to watch the proceedings. They do, of course, because that’s way more interesting than not watching. L-G is talking about Diane, not about the case? No worries, we have a rationale for that. We’ve tried to tell the L-G folks that we can hear them, but they still don’t know. Furthermore, Louis Canning has now said that “Florrick-Agos is done.” David Lee has confirmed: “Done and gone in 48 hours.” As Alicia explains, “They just said they’re going to destroy us in 48 hours. That changes everything.” From this accidental live feed, we’ve gotten all kinds of great intrigue, plus two randoms making out. I approve.

I’m less excited by the fact that Finn seems to be dropping out of the State’s Attorney race apropos of almost nothing. I feel a little like the writers just figured out other options would work out better in the long run, which I generally salute, but … why tease us this way? (Finn, it turns out, bribed a prosecutor to drop drug charges against his sister, which I’m almost too bored by to even finish typing.) I’m into the alternatives as soon as Mr. Governor is considering Diane instead.

Howard, meanwhile, takes on his own late-blooming significance at L-G when Diane approaches him to get him on her side for the managing-partner vote. God bless his soul, he wants nothing more than to question a witness. Diane will give him that even as she takes a call from the governor and tells Kalinda she wants her to be her “posse” at her subsequent meeting with the governor. That handled, she refocuses: Howard will depose Alicia. “I have the utmost confidence in Howard,” Diane says. “You don’t, David?” The deposition doesn’t go so great, but it’s clear by now that everyone has bigger fish to fry than this adoption-gone-awry.

Because this show is really about red wine, right? I cannot think of an episode that does not include a loving shot of red liquid pouring into a wine glass. In this case, Jackie and Veronica, Alicia’s mom, are pouring said wine. “She’s a lot like me,” Veronica says of her daughter. “And Peter’s a lot like you.”

“Now, that sounded like an accusation,” Jackie says. And then: “I see where Alicia’s drinking comes from.”

“And Peter’s rudeness.” Veronica goes on to play her mom-power card, knowing more about their kids’ personal lives, revealing that Alicia and Peter are “doing the power couple thing … They’re getting along better than when they were sleeping together.” This, it turns out, is enough to get Jackie to pour a healthy portion of that red liquid. Nice.

One of The Good Wife’s best fake-outs is when it makes us think, as we drink our own red wine on a Sunday night when we can barely figure out what to make for dinner, that we should care about the details of its happenings: There’s something going on that has to do with Chum Hum, and it is surprisingly related to this adoption case. But the beauty of it is that almost none of this matters; it’s all about character development. Cary will have to, as Alicia advises him, “work your magic.” He replies, “God, I am the new Will … Sorry.” Next thing we know, Alicia is getting a call from Peter asking about a casserole dish as a result of a call from their moms. “They sounded like they had been drinking.” Jackie indicated she knew of their “arrangement” and wanted to talk with both of them.

Because we have so many interesting things going on at once, it’s worth just jumping to the next one: Diane wants L-G to merge with F-A, which is not what they call themselves, but it makes it easier on me. Or at least she’s pretending to on the live feed, and she’d like Kalinda to feel out the idea with Cary. “Kalinda has a way with Cary,” Diane says on the live feed. “We’ve exploited this before.” Ouch. Insult leads to injury as we watch Kalinda call Cary, on the feed, to confirm their date. Alicia and Cary know they need to escape their super-cool loft office to talk, but can’t figure out where: “Can I just say this was a stupid design choice?” Alicia says. “We need someplace with walls and doors.”

Once they get outside, things are very clear: Alicia wants to merge and Cary doesn’t. Cary insists that their struggles aren’t due to their independence: “You are not tired because of work.” Alicia thinks he’s resisting change for other reasons: “If you’re angry about what Kalinda said, take it out on her!” Loving the inter-office intrigue at both firms.

It seems like a lot of this could end up a nonissue if Diane takes the State’s Attorney offer. After all, she’s “pre-vetted,” as Eli says in their meeting. But they’ll need an answer within a day, and Diane is at least as tired as Alicia is: “I just might quit and go live in New Zealand.”

Meanwhile, Cary and Kalinda are having sex, thus reviving one of my least-favorite story lines; I will always believe that sex with Kalinda is, in general, good, but I will never believe in her and Cary as a couple, even a non-committed one. But the sex power-struggle between them in this scene is nice, and it sets up the next, more surprising scene. Agos is meeting with Canning now, telling Louis that Diane wants a merger.

Oh, look, though, because of that live feed, now Cary’s own colleagues know he met with Canning when Louis mentions it in the conference room. Nice twist, Good Wife. In any case, Finn really is dropping out of the race, thus disappointing mainly me, and mainly because I think he’s cute. But I can get behind the further intrigues this change enables, and also the fact that this requires us to see tons of scenes of Diane in that amazing red dress. She offers Canning whiskey. “My meds are just kicking in,” he says, so this should be interesting. Then he mentions a “nuclear option,” which involves various arcane partnership rules but turns out to mean, basically, that if Louis doesn’t get the managing partnership, he can dissolve the whole firm. Just go with it.

The bottom lines are these: Diane wants to work at F-A, which they’d be stupid to turn down, what with her $38 million per year in client billing. And Zach is leaving like seconds after his graduation for his summer job, and Alicia is feeling empty-nesty, and Eli wants her to run for State’s Attorney. So into all of that for season six.

Photo: Jojo Whilden/CBS