Symmetry on The Good Wife and What That Means for The Results of the SA Race and the Future of the Show
It’s clear from the way episodes of The Good Wife are titled that each season (aside from season 4*) has a “sister season”. Seasons 3 and 5 each have three word titles, 2 and 6 have two word titles, and it’s safe to assume that season 7 (presumably the last season of the series) will have one word titles like season 1. The Kings love symmetry – we have matching press conferences, Alicia fussing over domestic tasks, and multiple conversations about bad timing.
Many of these symmetrical moments are used to highlight how the characters have changed, or how certain situations are in fact not at all like the ones they appear to mirror. In the case of Finn and Alicia in Sticky Content, the parallel to Will and Alicia in Heart is drawn to show that Finn doesn’t handle things like Will at all. Rather than a dismissive “we’re good”, Finn and Alicia discuss their awkward moment and take steps to prevent similar moments in the future. Other symmetrical moments – Alicia fixating on the thread on Peter’s jacket in the pilot/Alicia picking at the tape during The Debate – reminds the viewers of what HASN’T changed, despite different circumstances.
So it makes sense that the episode titles are symmetrical. Viewers are prompted to reflect – where have we seen this moment/phrase/angle of shot before? The idea of the “sister season” gives us a lot to think about. What do these sister seasons have in common, aside from the number of words in each title? Some of the commonalities are obvious: Peter runs for SA in season 2, while Alicia runs for SA in season 6. In both SA races, one uses the other to sell their public personae. Seasons 3 and 5 are the two seasons that are most focused on the Will and Alicia relationship (Alicia begins s3 by allowing herself to be selfish, but Parenting Made Easy has her reconsidering her choices…Alicia begins s5 prepared to make what she believes to be the best career move for her, but Will’s death has her reconsidering EVERYTHING including her career choice and her life with Peter). In season 3, Alicia is battling Peter in court. In season 5, she’s battling Will and Diane. (Alicia battles Cary in season 2 of course, but it doesn’t hold the same weight as having Peter and Will on the opposite side). Season 5 frequently revisits early season 3 through mentions and flashbacks (though Death of a Client does the same).
The relationship between Peter and Alicia is VERY similar at the beginning of season 3 and the end of season 5. At the beginning of season 3, Peter and Alicia are separated, barely speaking, and Alicia is reeling from the Kalinda/Peter betrayal. The beginning of season 5 shows Peter and Alicia in a really good place, but Alicia dismantles this after The Last Call. By the end of season 5, their marriage is purely political, they’re barely speaking, and Alicia is reeling from Will’s death. SYMMETRY.
I think you could tease out thematic and plot-based similarities all day. To be fair, you could also choose two seasons at random and point to a bunch of different parallels. But I think there is enough in 2&6 and 3&5 to talk about them as fascinating symmetrical/asymmetrical seasons.
I desperately want season 7 to be thematically symmetrical to season 1 in a way that links s7 more strongly to s1 than any other season. The premise and the key themes of the show are laid out from the first scene of the pilot: public perception, what it means to be the wife of a politician, Alicia’s search for stability, her search for a balance between home and work life. The show is in a very different place now, and so is Alicia, but the original themes are as relevant as ever. In season 1, Eli tells Alicia that Peter is worried about “the seductive allure of power” (presumably pastor Isaiah’s words). And now we have Alicia dealing with the same thing. Peter begins s1 as a disgraced politician. He spends half of the first season in jail, and it’s kind of remarkable the way he ends the season in such a favourable light (with the public AND with his wife, really). I want asymmetry through symmetry – I want to see Alicia in her own version of jail at the onset of s7. And for Alicia, her “jail” is loss. Because losing the election means that she’s going to feel like she’s not in control of her fate. Peter gets what he wants in season 1. I want to see Alicia denied her wish, and I want to see her realize that all she has been equating with SA’s office – stability, security, control – can be obtained in a different way. Season 1 Alicia is not in control of her life, more so than Alicia in any other season. I want season 7 Alicia to be the same, in a very different scenario – forced to examine her life and her actions after being denied what she (thinks she) wants. Season 1 begins with Peter at his weakest, and it ends with him in relative power. I want the same for Alicia at the onset of season 7 (weaker in a different sense than Alicia post-Dramatics): feeling weak and powerless, and ending the season if not with power, than with stability and control (with the assumption that this will one day lead to happiness). Pilot Alicia has to go back to work in a place where people are judging her constantly. She’s welcomed by Will, but that’s about it. Imagine if Alicia were to lose, and she once again has to face this work environment that isn’t welcoming.
If Alicia wins, there are certainly other themes to explore. What happens when Alicia is more powerful than she’s ever been? What happens when she gets what she thinks that she wants (I’m seriously not purposely quoting Sondheim) and it turns out the SA’s office isn’t going to bring her happiness? I don’t think these are NEARLY as fascinating as the questions she’ll have to ask herself if she loses.
I have a lot of hope that Alicia will lose. BECAUSE THE KINGS LOVE SYMMETRY.
*I don’t like that I’ve omitted season 4 completely from this post, but I’m not exactly sure how to incorporate it. I suppose the first half of season four should be symmetrical to the second half of season four.
Afterthought: Where do I want Alicia to be in a year? I don’t necessarily need Alicia to be happy at the end of the series; I just want her to understand what will bring her happiness. I do want Alicia to refocus on what she really cares about in life. I want to see her have a great relationship with both of her kids, and I want some sort of resolution to her political marriage. Most of all, I want her to be self-aware. I think she’ll gain more self-awareness from losing and examining why she lost, than if she wins and finds herself thrown into another life change. I don’t need a “happily ever after” for Alicia… just an “I know what’s important in life and I know I’m focusing on the right things” Alicia (which will lead to happiness one day).