Good Wife Bosses Robert and Michelle King on ‘Hitting the Fan’ Fallout

“Hitting the Fan” Photo: David M. Russell/CBS

Kaboom! Florrick Agos: 1. Lockhart Gardner: 0. By the end of Sunday’s highly anticipated episode of The Good Wife, Alicia, Cary and their fourth-year comrades had been evicted from the motherfirm (fire away, David Lee!) but won the battle for $35 million tech client ChumHum. But the dust has far from settled. In the aftermath of the acrimonious split, Will is declaring war on his new competition, Kalinda is burning bridges, and Peter is about to renege on his promise to make Diane a judge. In a conversation with Vulture, series showrunners Robert and Michelle King addressed everything that went down in “Hitting the Fan,” from Will’s allegation that Alicia is awful but doesn’t know it to the immediate problems facing the fledgling Florrick Agos. They also answered other nagging questions about what’s really going on between Peter and Marilyn (the very pretty head of the state ethics board) and the whereabouts of Jackie’s check-cashing caretaker Cristian.

Will tells Alicia she’s awful and she doesn’t know it. Do you agree? By the end of the episode, she accepts Peter’s “help” recruiting ChumHum, and she even suggests poaching Lemond Bishop.
Robert: We both have different opinions [laughs]. You first.
Michelle: I don’t think she’s awful in the slightest. I think she’s pragmatic and smart and strong and determined to make her firm a success.
Robert: I actually think she is a little more awful than she thinks she is. I mean, [Will] is right in a sense. Look, he’s emotionally hurt. He’s lashing out. But there is some truth to what he says. It’s similar to what Cary says about Alicia in the first season. She plays the innocent but she really does it to her benefit. She’s getting savvier, and unfortunately what comes with that sometimes is misbehaving.

I feel like she’s turning into Will.
Robert: Yes, definitely. Very much. She has a line in a future episode where after Diane says, “I don’t know if you’ve changed or if you were always this way,” Alicia turns and says, “I had the best teachers in the world.” She’s learned from Will. Will has hoisted on his own petard. He was the one who trained Alicia in many of these maneuvers. If it were about somebody else, he would laugh at what she was doing.
Michelle: But I would stress it’s not an awful petard. It’s a pragmatic petard.

You’ve both talked about about exhausting the Peter, Will, and Alicia love triangle. Was that the main motivation in having Alicia and Cary break away from Lockhart Gardner?
Robert: Yeah, I mean, look, we’re doing 22 episodes a year. You’re always wary of repeating yourself. I will paraphrase Tolstoy. He said all happy families are the same, unhappy ones are different. The problem is if you have too much of the love triangle, it won’t give you all the shading that people have. It won’t give you the angst, the anger, the passion. You kind of have to drive people in the opposite direction, and also you want to give the actors the ability to find different layers of who these characters are.
Michelle: And not only that, I would say if we have flaws it’s that we tend to be in love with our antagonists. Since we don’t like to see any of our characters as villainous, it becomes about how to put them against each other in ways where everybody is sort of right and sort of wrong.

Sex isn’t a problem for them, but I still can’t tell if Alicia really wants to rebuild her marriage with Peter. Is she just getting away from Will?
Robert: It’s a combination. She, for various reasons, wants to not betray Peter. In many way she betrayed him when she slept with Will. After she put that aside, she became worried again that when they kissed in the middle of “Red Team/Blue Team” that it opened this Pandora’s box of passion. It was very hard for her to close that again, so she really needed to flip the switch on the relationship from one of unrequited love to hate, or strong competitive dislike. It’s the only way she could protect herself from falling into a trap which would be having sex again with Will.
Michelle: I don’t think she separates those two things in her mind. I think they’re completely intertwined.

Kalinda winds up staying with Will. She’s close to Cary and Alicia, or has been, and yet she sells them out. How did she make that choice?
Robert: She really does feel guilty about betraying Will. She’s not used to playing these emotional games. She was asked by a friend, meaning Cary, to not reveal he was thinking of leaving. As soon as you keep that secret, you’re kind of betraying the person you’re keeping that secret from. So when the shit hits the fan Kalinda’s in this awkward position of “I need a job. I need to be living in the world I betrayed.” That’s when she turns completely over to Will’s side and gets the information they need by pretending to want to go over to Cary’s side. Kalinda’s psychology is relatively clear. She’s a pragmatist who’s struggling with the fact that she has emotions.

What does that mean for the friendship she’s rebuilt with Alicia?
Robert: That gets complicated. Kalinda followed the money. But with most things, I think Kalinda is this mercenary in the middle of a battlefield. Her alliances aren’t as strongly held as some other people who are doing things out of pure love or spite.

When Will is fuming and telling her he’s going to destroy the competition, Kalinda tells him Alicia isn’t the enemy.
Michelle: That’s exactly right. There is a soft spot there. But she is one who always follows her head first rather than her heart.

One card Will has in his pocket is the ballot stuffing from last season, right?
Robert: Yes, definitely.
Michelle: It is out there.
Robert: Problems that come up in the show like that are never really forgotten.

What will Cary be dealing with now that he and Alicia are in charge?
Robert: One of the problems they run into is the same problem Will and Diane had, which is Cary and Alicia have two different instincts for how to run a firm. I would put Alicia down in the pragmatic realm because she was the mentee of Will, while Cary was the mentee of Diane. So Cary oddly has more idealism in his heart than Alicia. The other thing they’re struggling with is what we’re calling The Seven Dwarves Problem. The partners they’ve brought along with them are sometimes not the mental or legal giants they’d hoped for. Donald Rumsfeld says you fight with the army you have. Alicia and Cary are coming to realize they rebelled with these guys who are not always the best.
Michelle: Perhaps they should have instituted a draft.
Robert: The other angle of it is Alicia’s signed on to a rebellion that was already pretty ripe. She didn’t get to guide it. And what rebels always use against you is democratic. You have to wait to see how everybody votes. So Alicia is in this awkward spot of not running the revolution. The dwarves are screwing up left and right, and that’s one of her worries, that they won’t ever live up to Lockhart Gardner because they don’t really have the talent.

In terms of the structure going forward, are we going to see both firms working on different cases at the same time? Will they rotate?
Robert: Sometimes you’re going to see them handling different cases within the same episode, but often there are various reasons where the firms are battling each other. What’s great about that is they know each other’s strategy. Your worst enemy sometimes is someone who knows how you tick.

It looks like Eli might reach a breaking point with Peter soon. Peter used his position to get ChumHum to move to Alicia’s new firm, and it looks like he’s changed his mind about making Diane a judge.
Robert: Eli’s trying to cut it off at the source, which is Peter, and at the receptor, which is Alicia. As Marilyn comes to realize, and Eli already realizes, Peter is more willing to cross the ethical line if it’s in the defense or protection of his family. It is, as one of the characters says in the next episode, a weird psychology. He can hurt his wife all he wants, but if you hurt his wife he turns absolutely tribal. I think that’s been the case from the first year in the way that he handled the prostitute when she tried to trouble his family. That’s where Eli’s problem is. He sees that’s where Peter gets in ethical trouble these days. We don’t always do bad things to do bad things. We defend our bad deeds by saying they’re coming from love.

Just like Walter White.
Robert: Yeah, exactly! Gosh, was that a great finale to a series.

When Melissa George was cast as the head of the state ethics board, Marilyn Garbanza, she was described as “a love interest” for Peter. Is that really the end game for them?  
Robert: That’s not all that’s going on either between them or with Alicia. You’ll find in episode six, those relationships get deepened. In many ways, we kind of wanted to start in the place of the pretty, juicy piece of flesh that might seem too tempting, but it seems like such a thin way to handle Peter these days. It gets more complex and has a little more to do with the politics. Most of the sex in the show ends up in the lap of politics.

In a happier development, Diane and Kurt got married! Hopefully that’s not the last we’re going to see of Kurt?
Robert: It’s always coming down to Gary Cole’s schedule but he’s in the very next episode. We’ll see a little bit of the complications that come from being with whom your politics aren’t aligned. And we’ll hopefully get him back more in the future.

What happened to Jackie’s nurse, Cristian? He took all that money from Eli at the end of last season and said he was sticking around.
Michelle: Cristian, we love him so much, but with Peter in the governorship, Jackie’s health has rallied. Power does everything for her. For the moment, she does not need his assistance. But she will call him at a moment’s notice.
Robert: And there’s a pragmatic reason. Mad Men ran some of the same plots [in the storyline involving Pete Campbell’s mother and her nurse Manolo]. With two shows following that plot, we’d probably have problems going back to it again.

Good Wife Bosses Talk ‘Hitting the Fan’ Fallout