The friendship between Alicia Florrick and Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife TV series shouldn’t work. It doesn’t tick any of the boxes commonly associated with fictional depictions of female friends.
For a start, they are an evenly matched pair — different, but equal presence, authority and appeal. No stunning or at least quirkily attractive dominant figure with overweight but feisty best friend here, thank you very much.
Interestingly, in the beginning Kalinda underestimates Alicia, dismissing her as a lightweight housewife-turned-lawyer, but soon adjusts her assessment. Alicia’s role is not that of weak and humiliated wife, just as Kalinda is far more than the title ‘in-house investigator’ suggests.
The similarities between Alicia and Kalinda are strong and make for more interesting, complex drama than the familiar pairings of stay-at-home mom versus ambitious careerist, or smug/troubled married versus liberated/desperate singleton.
They are both whip-smart professionals with complicated, multi-layered personal lives. Each surrounds herself with a protective carapace.
Kalinda’s cool, hard-boiled demeanour may be cultivated to conceal her moral and sexual ambiguity and her fluid way with allegiances.
Alicia is fiercely protective of her home life and her children, and manages the painful exposure of her marriage with great poise.
They hang out together at the bar after work, knocking back tequilas. Their friendship is punctuated by drinking opportunities — boy, can those two hold their liquor. Shots, red wine, dark beer, dodgy cocktails, they down the lot and stay on their feet.
And what’s the chat which accompanies these sessions? They discuss cases and work business. They celebrate their legal victories. They don’t have girly chats, moaning about their romantic involvements or their weight. But they get giggly, and they open up a little to each other, exchanging tentative confidences, although ‘You can’t ask me and I can’t tell you but don’t conclude from what I’m saying it’s what you think’ represents the closest Kalinda gets to transparency.
These two know the meaning of loyalty. They like and trust each other. Their body language shows how much in tune they are. A nod and a smile from Kalinda in court, and Alicia is fired up to win.
Kalinda, she of the shady connections and flexible approach to matters ethical, has Alicia’s back, solidly. She encourages Alicia and gives her sound advice.
Alicia knows that ‘Kalinda, I need your help’ will get a response. So even in the period of their estrangement, Kalinda finds Alicia’s missing daughter for her. And Kalinda encourages the Alicia-Will romance.
The damage done
But more than this life-and-death stuff, look at what their phone use tells us. They take each other’s calls, no matter what else is going on. Proof indeed, your honour, as Alicia might say.
So why does it end so sadly? And when does it end? Of course, their friendship hits a brick wall when Alicia discovers that Kalinda once slept with her husband Peter.
In time, they begin to recover from the damage caused by this and recover some of their former warmth and emotional closeness. But it’s never the same.
When Kalinda turns up with fresh clothes and a bottle of red wine for Alicia, who has been forced to stay out of town, the connection is rekindled, for a moment. Kalinda’s ‘I miss this’, which could be the signal for a renaissance of their closeness, is like an epitaph.
Perhaps it was just the ebb and flow of professional life which brought them together and moved them on.
The long goodbye
In the last few series before her departure, Kalinda becomes less evident. Her final acts are characteristically brave — she puts her life at the mercy of drug baron Lemond Bishop in order to save Cary and Diane from jail. But there’s only one way for her to go — out.
She has an oddly anticlimactic final scene with Alicia, in the bar. Kalinda tells Alicia that her time as her friend was the best she ever had, and Alicia says she wishes she had the chance to do it over again. The regret is there, on both sides, but the scene is strangely unaffecting.
Kalinda has already gone, and her series of farewells, the kiss for Carey, the note for Alicia, the telephone conversation with Diane, have prepared us for her exit.
Her strongest farewell, the one which will linger, is when she visits Alicia’s house and says goodbye to Alicia’s daughter. Kalinda faces the camera directly and says just ‘Goodbye’.
So it’s farewell to one of TV’s finest portrayals of friendship between real, flawed, grown-up women.
There’s a spare seat beside Alicia at the bar — one which will not be easily filled. And somewhere there is a spare seat beside Kalinda, possibly in a European city, Paris, maybe, or Berlin. Or an island in the South Seas. Of course, she won’t be called Kalinda any more, but you’ll recognise her. And if you slip into that spare seat at the bar, be careful. Be very careful.