And here, in the final scene of the show, was the karmic consequence of that: It was Alicia who was doing the betraying. Here was Diane—the woman who idolizes Hillary Clinton, the lawyer whose longtime professional goal has been to found an “all-female law firm”—sold out by her friend. Here was the self-avowed feminist who paid so much lip service to raising women up, brought low by another woman.
The problem in this case started, as so many things have on The Good Wife, with Peter Florrick: His corruption trial came to hinge on the testimony of Kurt McVeigh, the ballistics expert who also happened, via The Good Wife’s insistent entwining of its characters’ fates, to be Diane’s husband. (Via those same mechanics, the outcome of Peter’s trial would also affect whether Grace, Alicia’s daughter with Peter, would go to college or defer for a year.) Diane refused, however, to put her husband on the stand: That had already backfired. But testify he did—and, to discredit McVeigh, Alicia instructed Lucca Quinn, the second chair of Peter’s defense team, to use his time under oath to ask him about the affair he’d had with a colleague. The questioning was public and cruel, and its result was that Diane became, in the last moments of the show, the one thing The Good Wife had suggested she never could be: humiliated.
Thus, in short order, The Slap.
It was on the one hand a brief instance of violence between characters who, on account of their gender, are traditionally expected to handle their differences in a more “civilized” manner. But it was also a suggestion that The Good Wife—which seemed to dedicate so much of its emotional energy to the romantic love triangle that emerged among Alicia and Peter, and Alicia and Jason, and Alicia and Will—has been just as concerned with the fate of the friendship between Alicia and Diane. The show’s final episode reveled in its own circularity: It repeated the initial, iconic scene from the show’s pilot—Alicia standing by Peter’s side as he gave a press conference resigning his office—nearly frame for frame. It brought Will back, as a specter. And yet the show dedicated its all-important final scene—the stuff of Holsten’s ice cream parlor and Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and spiritually ambiguous Coke ads—to the women who have supported each other and sparred with each other over seven seasons’ worth of television.
“I want you to think of me as a mentor, Alicia,” Diane had told her firm’s newest associate in the pilot episode of The Good Wife. “It’s the closest thing we have to an old boys’ network in this town: women helping women. Okay?”
It was okay, until it wasn’t. Here, in the series’s final episode, was that offer, full-circled in the most cynical way possible—via a slap in the face that was also, to viewers, a slap in the face. It was a distillation of the fact that The Good Wife’s conclusion brought a happy ending to, pretty much, nobody. Alicia, freed of Peter, is now subject to Eli Gold and his plans for her political future. Peter is permanently disgraced. Will remains … dead. Diane has been betrayed first by her husband and then by the combination of Alicia and Lucca, the fellow founders of her all-female firm. The women with whom Diane had, just a couple of episodes earlier, clinked champagne glasses and made plans to expand their office teamed up to sell her out. “Diane, you have a client: my husband,” Alicia informed Peter’s attorney, icily, as she and Diane debated whether to put Kurt on the stand. “You have a duty to zealously represent that client.” (Later, the spectral Will would ask Alicia: “What is the point? What is the point of all this?” and she would answer, instantly: “To zealously represent your client.”)