The Good Wife's Troublesome Wills
The show's hundredth episode manages the seemingly impossible: making Will kind of sympathetic!
If you had asked me a month ago to identify which character on The Good Wife was The Pierce (the extraneous character whose departure wouldn't materially damage the show), I would have said it was Will. Before the Florrick Agos defection plan was announced and Will and Alicia had officially cooled down to cordial, only slightly awkward colleagues, Will was in a distinctly uninspiring position relative to Lockhart Gardner's two other primary partners — not nearly as badass as Diane; far less love-to-hate-y than David Lee. (That said, this new girlfriend of Will's is making hating him a lot easier.) Post-Florrick Agos crisis, Will's aggression toward his former associates made him look worse and worse, particularly since Florrick Agos was in such a precarious position that extraordinary measures taken to sabotage it seem kind of unnecessary. But in the latest episode, it happened: I remembered that Will could be compelling!
What makes Will's breakout non-shittiness so remarkable is that it happens in the middle of an exceptionally, satisfyingly Good Wife-y episode. People are trying to use Alicia to get closer to the governor, while Eli has fits about Peter getting photographed with undesirables (NOT TO MENTION WE END ON MARILYN CASUALLY ANNOUNCING THAT SHE'S GOING TO NAME HER UNBORN SON PETER!!!!!), and Alicia's and Peter's mothers are spitting nails at each other. Kalinda, in pursuit of Damian — a quarry almost as slippery as herself, who is making no effort to help her vet him despite their supposedly being on the same side — attempts to get the better of him by sexually dominating the cute lady cop he's put in her way. And the episode's central legal matter revolves around a now-deceased Lockhart Gardner client who was, not to speak ill of the fictional dead, a wacko.
After stalling as long as possible, apparently, Lockhart Gardner has managed to cough up the refund of Alicia's capital contribution, and send Damian to her office with it, and with the exit contract she's supposed to sign along with it. The contract specifically mentions the late Matthew Ashbaugh, and Alicia doesn't know why, but soon finds out through Clarke Hayden that one of his wills is currently being contested, and that it leaves the bulk of his fortune to Alicia (and also to Smile Train, which is a nice timely shout-out to the Pardcast-a-Thon: you can still give!). Even though it seems all along like Alicia's pretty sure nothing's going to come of this (and: spoiler, nothing does; Ashbaugh had a habit of writing wills that left his fortune to various ladies he thought were pretty, so all these outliers are invalidated), she's not about to sign a potential $12 million inheritance over to Lockhart Gardner, and the matter ends up in court, where counsel debate which of the (initially) two wills should be honoured.
Here's where things get interesting, because when Ashbaugh put together his official will, he did it with both Alicia and Will; since the matter was in progress when the two of them were still getting it on, the business trip to deal with Ashbaugh in his home in New York doubled as a business trip. In the sense that that's what Will and Alicia were giving each other. HI-YO!
So as Alicia and Will separately recall what Ashbaugh was like then — that is, whether he was legitimately crazy or faking it —they also flash back to what they were like with each other then. And, look, I'm on the record with my views on whether Alicia is still pining after him or whatever, but I feel like this is the first time we've seen how the end of their relationship is still a sore point for Will. Because one of the questions in the current case is whether Alicia knew that Ashbaugh had a crush on her and used his feelings to exercise improper influence on him to induce him to write a new will naming her as his beneficiary, Will has a somewhat legitimate reason to Take It Personally: if he raises the question in court of whether Alicia would cynically exploit Ashbaugh's feelings for her by pretending she returns them, is that what she was doing with Will, too?
The scene that gives the episode its title finds Will preparing to question Alicia in court by making a decision tree — essentially a flow chart of questions he could ask, and which subsequent questions would arise from her various possible answers. And in the fantasy, Will finally gets the chance to interrogate her about her standards of sexual morality, and whether she behaved wrongly with him. Imagination Will accuses Imagination Alicia of having lied when she told him how happy he made her, just so she could advance her own ambitions. Since he would never ask her that question in his actual cross-examination, at least a part of him must actually feel that way. I mean, I knew he wasn't thrilled that he and Alicia couldn't make it work (and, obviously, that she went back to Peter...and then kind of screwed Will over by starting her own firm — two betrayals), but I never thought he suspected that she hadn't been sincere in her expressions of affection for him. This new insight into the exact nature of Will's broken heart gives a different cast to his decisions this season, from the aggression with which he's gone after her as a rival to the 180 he's done from Alicia to Isabel — from someone substantial but dangerously smart, to someone disposable but safe.
What really makes the decision tree scene pay off, though, is that when it comes time for Actual Will to question Actual Alicia in court, she only follows his script for the first few exchanges, and then zags away in another direction he didn't anticipate — implicating David Lee by describing the shenanigans he had her pull to influence what Ashbaugh put in the official will. Alicia's smartypants used to sit at Will's table, which he clearly still misses, and while he doesn't love getting outmatched in court, it's a display of the kind of acuity he's always been attracted to in her. (Shorter: it's hot.) I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm back on the Willicia train, but this episode at least made me entertain the possibility that, someday, I could be.