Series / The Good Wife

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CBS legal drama series, 2009 to 2016, executive-produced by Ridley Scott and starring Julianna Margulies, and both a Golden Globe and Emmy winner.

Alicia Florrick has a bit of a problem on her hands. Her husband was the former State’s Attorney of Cook County, Illinois, until he got caught being Eliot Spitzer/Clinton, and resigned. Then he got sent to prison for corruption.

A trained lawyer, she returns to practice at the law firm of Lockhart/Gardner, run by Diane Lockhart, her haughty mentor of sorts, and Will Gardner, her former law school classmate (and potentially more). Alicia begins running the pro bono cases, but of course, she’s a defence lawyer and all the prosecutors know her—including the new State’s Attorney, who may have shopped her husband to the authorities.

Meanwhile, her husband Peter is trying to clear his name and potentially return to politics. But he needs his ‘good wife’ by his side, and she’s not sure whether she wants to be with him anymore.

This show contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • The first season brought up revelations that Glenn Childs has tapped the Florricks’ phones and done other illegal things in a grab for power, and implied the feds were moving in to investigate. This was quickly forgotten as soon as the election arc started and Wendy Scott Carr taking over as the primary antagonist.
    • Kalinda’s husband was supposed to be around longer, but negative fan reaction led to it being (mostly) wrapped up sooner.
  • Abusive Parents: When Howard tells Jackie he loves her laughter on their date in ‘Cooked’, she shies away, then tells him her mother hated her laughter and would make her eat a clove of garlic whenever she did. She’s almost driven to tears when telling him.
  • Adult Fear: When Alicia can't find Grace? And realizes that her daughter called her twelve times? And her daughter isn't answering her phone? And one of the messages has a man telling her daughter to get in the car in the background? God, yes. Terrifying.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Louis Canning is a soft-spoken very likable guy who is played by Michael J. Fox of all people. Yet he’s also an attorney who primarily works in getting favorable deals for shady corporations and often uses quite unethical tactics to do so, along with playing on his disability to gain sympathy with the jury. He then leaves it at the office every night to go home to his loving family.
    • Neil Gross would also qualify, a casual, laid-back hoodie wearing software company executive who would qualify as a Cool Old Guy in most circumstances, but is also someone so concerned with profits he’s willing to assist authoritarian regimes such as China and Syria in arresting protesters and dissidents.
    • Lemond Bishop. He’s a brutal drug lord, but damn he is one well dressed, suave, charming guy, and he does his best to be a good father.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In ‘Driven’, Anthony Edward Dudewitz, the creator of a self-driving car, believes that A.I. could develop beyond humanity’s intelligence and overtake it (i.e. his version of The Singularity), and admits it might have happened with his own system when Alicia interrogates him.
  • All for Nothing: In ‘Iowa’, the massive undertakings and touch-and-go situations Peter’s team undergoes in Iowa end up as a complete failure as Peter wins only 4 counties.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Elsbeth Tascioni, who’s easily distracted by things surrounding her and led to flights of fancy by them.
  • Amoral Attorney: As the trope’s page says, the majority of all lawyers are amoral where their clients’ best interests are concerned. The closest people to the definition of the trope would be Glenn Childs and Patti Nyholm.
  • And Then What?: Invoked by Jason to Peter in ‘Unmanned’. It is probably part of the reason why Peter says he won't fight Alicia on a divorce at the end of the episode.
    Peter: I should kick your ass.
    Jason: You could try. And then what?
  • Anti-Hero: Will and Peter and Kalinda. Alicia occasionally strays into this area during darker moments.
  • Artistic License: In ‘Payback’, Marissa tells Eli that Eyal Naftali, Chief of Staff to Israel’s Communications Minister, wants to run for the Knesset, and later for Prime Minister, and wants him to manage his campaign. Aside from the fact that this position does not existnote , but you don’t run for Knesset—you run for party leadership in a party that has primary elections, and then the party runs for Knesset. Becoming Prime Minister means your party is big enough and you can manage to form a coalition with enough parties to get the majority of Knesset members on your side (i.e. a Westminster-style parliamentary system, sans ridings). Even more egregiously, she tells him it’s his chance to get rid of Netanyahu (who is all too chummy with the Republicans in Real Life), while a person at this position would almost certainly be in Netanyahu’s coalition. And, incidentally, as of the episode’s air date, the Israeli Minister of Communications name is... Benjamin Netanyahu. The episode seems to assume the Prime Minister of Israel is equivalent to US President, with similar elections. Israel does in fact have a President, but the office works very differently, and Presidents are also chosen by the Knesset.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In a rather awkward and contrived manner, with Zack’s (ex-)girlfriend Nisa. Initially it’s only her skin color that’s a topic of debate (because of the possible repercussions for Peter’s campaign), but later she is mentioned to be the daughter of a Hamas-sympathizing Muslim cleric, which rolls three separate unlikely scenarios into one. A Muslim girl not wearing a scarf? Progressively more unlikely the more conservative the family gets. A Muslim girl allowed to have a boyfriend before marriage? Progressively more unlikely the more conservative the family gets. A Muslim girl allowed to have a nonbeliever as a boyfriend? Unlikely even for moderately Muslim families. All of the above at once, with the father in question being the aforementioned Hamas-sympathizing cleric? You must be joking, even if the boyfriend is the son of the Cook County State’s Attorney (and later Illinois Governor), unless the support stems from seeing them as the Lesser of Two Evils in a Black and Gray Morality interpretation of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Later it strains credibility even further when we found out that Zack got Nisa pregnant.
  • As Themselves:
    • In ‘Dear God’, Gloria Steinem makes a guest appearance urging Alicia to run for State’s Attorney.
    • Peter Bogdanovich turned up in ‘Goliath and David’ as the Peter who actually fathered Marilyn’s baby.
    • Valerie Jarrett appears in ‘Trust Issues’ for a similar purpose to Steinem’s.
    • Narrowly averted with Fred Thompson, who plays a guy with a similar name and similar legal background and starred on a popular drama in a legal role. Possibly because one of his co-stars on Law & Order is Peter Florrick.
    • Chris Matthews in ‘Iowa’.
  • Attack of the Political Ad: Downplayed, and usually their use is either condemned (as in the SA race between Alicia and Frank Prady) or backfires (as in the SA race between Peter and Glenn Childs—Glenn’s campaign manager resigns after his ad backfires horribly).
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Elsbeth Tascioni, to the point where in ‘Shiny Objects’ Alicia and Dean render her useless as a lawyer by randomly taking magazines with pictures of steamships and penguins out of their folders during her cross-examination. Later we get an Imagine Spot from Elsbeth’s perspective featuring random images of a steamship and a clown. In spite of this she’s an extremely competent attorney when she can stay on track.
  • Audience Surrogate: Those two NSA guys who treat Alicia's life like their soap opera.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eli spends most of the last season working up a Batman Gambit to simultaneously vindicate Alicia of the election-rigging scandal and get back his old gig as Peter's campaign manager (after being set aside in favor of a new character with experience running national campaigns so Peter can run for president). He finally manages to get someone to go on record that the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party rigged the election without Alicia's knowledge, only for the person to mention to him it was Peter's idea at the last minute. This reduces Eli to a Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • Berserk Button
    • Say something to make Alicia know about Kalinda’s and Peter’s affair and Kalinda will go violent.
    • Don’t do anything to hurt Eli’s campaign if you don't want him to spit coffee and throw books or strangle you.
    • David Lee doesn’t love much in this world, but he does love his niece. Do not mess with her.
    • Alicia isn't too fond of situations that put her kids at risk or in the spotlight (something she’s repeatedly made clear to Eli).
    • Although Peter doesn't have the best track record as a faithful husband to Alicia, if someone tries to hurt her, then, as Will put it, ‘he goes tribal’.
  • Best Served Cold: Wendy Scott Carr seems to just want to do her job, until she reveals to Will who she’s really after in season 3.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Lemond Bishop, middle name ‘Do Not Fuck With’. His status as a Scary Black Man is only amplified by the fact that Mike Colter rarely raises his voice (one of the few times was when Kalinda threatened to have Child Services take away Dylan), and when he’s visibly angry he goes into Tranquil Fury. Bishop’s known for a fact to have had his own people killed on mere suspicion they might be informing on him.
  • Bi the Way: Kalinda. It’s hinted at, then confirmed. She claims to ‘not distinguish’, but sometimes ‘prefers women’.
    Kalinda: I’m not gay, I’m.... flexible.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Jackie Florrick, the mother in law/grandma nobody wants to have.
    • Wendy Scott Carr.
    • Maddie.
    • Patti Nyholm tries to put on this front, as she will often antagonize Alicia and Will with a smile, often after showing off one of her kids to judges/witnesses in order to gain sympathy points.
  • Bland-Name Product: Inverted when Will Gardner tries to make the firm more "hip" by re-branding Lockhart Gardner into LG. No one seems to mention that the Real Life LG Corporation might have something to say about that. This is promptly forgotten in later episodes, possibly due to the fact that the new name doesn't take off. Will tries to introduce himself to a prospective new lawyer as from "LG" only to get blank looks, forcing himself to go back to the old name.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Kalinda is trying to establish the trust of somebody she thinks is a hacker. He points to the two federal agents sulking un-subtly over her shoulder.
      Hacker: Are they with you?
      Kalinda: ...no.
    • In ‘Restraint’, when Grace tries to rope in new clients by tricking them into thinking her mother’s firm is bigger than it is, she takes three computers and puts on office background noise to make it sound like she’s calling from a busy office. When one of them starts playing an ad about horses, she tells the client one of their lawyers is working on a horse-related case.
  • Bookends:
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Eli, while reviewing the rules for Alicia’s suspected liaisons with Jason in ‘Discovery’.
    Eli: Rule no. 3: even if you go out in a bigger group, never, under any circumstances, let it be in a hotel, a bar... or a hotel bar.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: In ‘Payback’, Marissa asks Alicia to fire Eli as her chief of staff so he could go take a more lucrative job and stop fighting Ruth. Eli sees right through it, finds a way to gravely undermine Ruth, and informs Alicia he’s staying.
  • Brother-Sister Team
    • Alicia and Owen turn into this more and more.
    • Zach and Grace. They take such good care of their Mom.
  • Brick Joke: Grace negotiating for a commission on getting new clients and settling for 0.5% for each. By the end of the episode, she tells Alicia it totals at $35,800 throughout the year.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Unsurprisingly, a few.
    • Nancy Crozier (the disarmingly ditzy acting yet sharp and savvy blonde who returns in season 2), Stern, Ryan Alprin (from Unorthodox) and Elsbeth Tascioni are probably the best and most literal examples.
    • Andrew Wylie is a bunny-ears investigator; he’s rarely seen without his small children in tow.
    • And bunny-ears judges too. You’d be hard-pressed to find a judge without a quirk or three on this show. Just for starters there was the guest judge from a rural county down south who preferred a more informal atmosphere, and another who was doing day trading in the middle of a meeting with counsel. Another prohibited cell phones, and yet another insisted lawyers put ‘in my opinion’ somewhere in their statements.
  • But Not Too Bi: Kalinda is seen more often with male lovers, though the balance is being restored.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: In ‘Restraint’, Eli tells Paige he’s working on his overly-serious demeanor, and he even ‘told a joke yesterday’. He tries to tell it, forgets it, then gets back to it later:
    Eli: Oh, so, there are two fish in a tank. (Chuckles) And, um, one fish says to the other fish, ‘How do you drive this thing?’ That was the punch line, because, you know, we-we think they’re in a fish tank, but actually, they’re in a tank tank.
  • Cassandra Truth: In ‘Iowa’, Jackie thinks Howard’s story about the 2.2 million in his name is a symptom of his delusions. She learns the truth by the end of the episode though.
  • Celibate Hero: Frank Prady is rumored to be gay (and loses flaming homophobe Guy Redmayne’s financial support to Alicia because of it), but he tells Alicia privately that the reason he never remarried after the death of his first wife is because he’s a Jesuit and it would be against his vows.
  • Chekhov's Gun: ‘Hey Mom, pick up the phone...’
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Neil Howard Sloan-Jacob, who appeared as Peter’s embarrassingly enthusiastic supporter in ‘Real Deal’, returns in ‘Iowa’ to help drum up support for Peter. While it seems to work surprisingly well, Peter still fails miserably and wins only 4 counties.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Many of the quirky recurring characters, but Elsbeth Tascioni stands out.
    Do you hear that too?
    • So much so she eventually fails a psych exam, which probably goes against how psychology is structured.
  • Cool Old Guy: Judge Michael Marx. An elderly fellow with a hearing aid, he, to everyone’s surprise, turns out to be well-versed in computer algorithms and the tech world in general.
  • Counterpart Comparison: In-universe.
    • As a Democrat whose charismatic politician husband cheated on her, Alicia is often compared to Hilary Clinton.
    • Invoked by Ruth in ‘Lies’, who directs her staff to make Peter as similar as possible to Obama when he announces he’s running for president.
  • Covert Pervert: In ‘KSR’, Dr. Portnow, a charming person who performs life-saving operations on babies, harbours horrifying fantasies about kidnapping, sedating, and raping women he’s familiar with. The episode revolves around the issue of whether or not he actually intended to realise them. It’s very heavily indicated that he did not; it was his way of unwinding after he finishes his extremely stressful work.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Howard Lyman, the oldest and for most of the series, laziest partner in the firm. He's initially used mostly as a compliant political football in intra-firm power games. However, after Cary Agos attempts to retire him in "Cooked" because the younger associates are complaining about his laziness, he gets serious and begins using his connections to legitimately help out. He starts by bringing in the Food Service Union (worth $33 million annually), via Jackie, a friend of the chairman of the FSU and Howard’s new girlfriend, and later uses his friendship with a judge to get the team some more preparation time after several associates jump ship.
  • Cruel Mercy: In ‘The Last Call’, Kalinda, after finding out that it was the bullet from Jeffrey’s gun that killed Will, offers the accused the chance to kill himself with his (previously confiscated) belt while in prison. Jeffrey, guilty for his crime, reaches out to take the belt, only for Kalinda to pull it away, condemning him to live with what he did.
  • The Cynic: Many people and often, but David Lee most of all.
  • Deadly Prank: Near the end of ‘Driven’, it turns out Tim Brewster’s friends hacked the T-Portable system in his car as a prank, causing him to crash into Wendy Searle’s car.
  • Deadpan Snarker: So very many. Most of the lawyers and a lot of the judges, even the Indian shopkeeper in episode 6 of season 1, although special recognition should go to David Lee.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A variation happens in ‘Tracks’. After the defeat in ‘Iowa’, as Ruth is packing, Eli says he wished he had been better to her. Ruth says she wishes he had been, too.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Following a passionate kiss in the last seconds of one Season 6 episode, the following episode is deliberately unclear about whether or not Alicia and John slept together. A potentially leaked email two episodes later reveals they did.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: From ‘Tracks’:
    Eli: Good-bye, Ruth. I wish... I had been better to you.
    Ruth: I wish you had been, too.
  • Dirty Old Man: Guy Redmayne, a potential donor both Alicia and Frank try to sway. He touches Alicia’s hands and just above her knee, making her visibly uncomfortable, and tells her he’ll support her because he ‘doesn’t like fags’, which he assumes Frank is (and Alicia tries to deny). When he meets with Frank, he talks about Alicia in the most sexist language he can come up with, until Frank is outraged and calls him out on it.
    Frank: You’re disgusting.
    Guy: Right, but I’m rich, so it really doesn’t matter, does it?
  • Disappeared Dad: Lemond Bishop tells Kalinda in ‘Dark Money’ that his father left him when he was six, and he has been determined never to do the same to his own son.
  • Disregard That Statement: Used by many characters, though they usually withdraw their statement as soon as the other side objects.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In ‘Goliath and David’, Alicia wears a certain dress to court-the dress she (briefly) wore during her first time with Will. This causes Will, her opponent in the case, to have rather intense Flashbacks while a showrunner is talking about the Zeitgeist of art.
  • The Ditz: Reporter Ted Willoughby. Starting from ‘Loser Edit’, it’s become a Running Gag for Alicia’s PR team to invite him whenever a story has an unflattering angle he’s too stupid to notice, so he would happily accept any version they give him.
  • Downer Ending:
    • In ‘Taxed’, it turns out the first client, who insisted on pleading not guilty when charged with stealing a sweater she got as a gift from her mother, really was innocent, but her mother did steal it; this destroys any chance of getting a class action against Salvatori, the clothing store, for wrongful accusations of theft against black people, as the client decides to take the plea.
    • Later that season, in ‘Tracks’, Rowby loses the case and Alicia tells Marissa she can’t forgive Eli.
    • The series ends with Alicia admitting she’ll always love Will and losing Jason apparently for good, Peter losing his career, and an apparently irreparable rift between Alicia and Diane after Lucca ruined Kurt’s reputation by accusing him of throwing a case for the sake of the woman he was cheating on Diane with. She seems willing to pick herself up and dust herself off, but at any rate that’s a lot to pick up the pieces from.
  • Dramatic Irony: In the opening of ‘Hitting the Fan’, a potential new publicist for Lockhart Gardner is talking to Will, selling that she’ll play up the firm’s stability if she’s hired, comparing them favorably to other firms plagued with infighting. Given what happens in the rest of the episode, this ends up being unintentionally funny and wrong.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection
  • Elevator Going Down: At the end of ‘Closing Arguments’, Will and Alicia almost casually decide to resolve their WTWT and take a room at a hotel. Their elevator ride to the presidential suite starts off as an Uncomfortable Elevator Moment and gradually turns into this with every stop.
  • Enemy Mine: in ‘Lies’, Ruth tells Eli that Peter is likely to be the next president, and they need to stop fighting and trust each other.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: ‘Waiting for the Knock’ has one of the firm’s biggest clients, drug kingpin Lemond Bishop, under threat of arrest by the FBI, but he’s more worried about what happens to his son if he goes to prison than prison itself. This continues to be true in other dealings: Bishop genuinely loves his son Dylan and wants to be a good father because his own wasn’t, but he is not a good man, up to and including having his own men gunned down on the mere suspicion of having turned on him (‘The Line’). Attempting to use Dylan against Lemond backfires horribly in ‘The Trial’.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Kalinda, according to Cary.
  • Everybody Did It: Mr. BitCoin is actually all three people the firm suspects working in concert.
  • Exact Words:
    • In ‘The Trial’, Kalinda wants Lemond Bishop to get one of his subordinates, Dante, to appear at a trial. Specifically, Cary’s trial. Kalinda does this by threatening to show photos of known drug dealers at Lemond’s house, which would get child services to take Dylan away. Lemond is furious, but gets Dante to appear at Cary’s trial as requested... who then testifies Cary did tell drug dealers how to avoid arrest as revenge for threatening Lemond's family.
    • In ‘Restraint’, Grace tries to hook clients by overstating by implying the size of her mother’s firm, among other things by saying she’s calling from ‘the Midwest offices’ (i.e. the only office).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: From ‘Iowa’:
    Ruth: We stop for 15 minutes, Peter eats some local delicacy, like a loose meat sandwich.
    Zach: What’s a loose meat sandwich?
    Josh: A sandwich with loose meat.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Cary accepts a job from Glenn Childs. Granted, this is after Lockhart/Gardner has to lay him off. He’s still a stand-up guy.
    • Cary and Alicia do this at the end of Season 4 when they decide to leave Lockhart/Gardner and form a new firm with the other fourth-year lawyers.
  • False Flag Operation: In ‘Iowa’, ‘Florrick Fanatic’ Neil Howard Sloan-Jacob’s antics become so outlandish Eli starts thinking he’s working for another candidate.
  • Favouritism Flip Flop: In ‘Iowa’, David Lee flagrantly ignores the fact that Cary and Diane are in the middle of a meeting and tries to get them to talk about his emergency. When he learns the person in front of him is Ms. Creech from the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Agency, he greets her with overt politeness, although he still calls her ‘Ms. Screech’.
  • Flame Bait: In-Universe, a video of Hallie Fisher, a doctor caught talking about selling aborted fetuses’ organs, becomes this in ‘Restraint’. A hearing on whether the video should be posted online or not attracts fervent crowds of supporters and detractors arguing vehemently before the hearing even starts. It even winds up costing Diane some clients who are appalled at her defending it, despite her insisting that it’s a First Amendment case about prior restraint.
  • A Fool for a Client: Stern tries to defend himself ‘through Alicia’ from a DUI charge until she decides to take matters into her own hands.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The e-mail in ‘Loser Edit’ from the report revealing Alicia’s private e-mails. It’s apparently a cross between her e-mail and someone else’s, as it reads ‘From: Alicia Florrick’ and mentions having to put two kids through college, but also says, ‘Alicia is a perfect example of someone sleeping their way to the top!’ It looks like a Blooper, but then whoever wrote the e-mail says (in the first person) that her husband is the SA and will probably be governor and is probably already taking enough bribes to pay for their tuition. Then there’s the final line:
    If you’ve read this far you aren’t paying any attention to our show. So, bite me.’
  • Freudian Excuse: Jackie reveals in ‘Cooked’ that her mother hated her laughter and made her eat a clove of garlic whenever she laughed. Suddenly, so much of her behaviour makes so much more sense.
  • Friendship Moment: Often and between many characters, but specifically Kalinda/Alicia and Diane/Will. Sometimes also Kalinda/Will and more recently Alicia/Cary .
    • ‘Je Ne Sais What?’ was one big friendship moment between Elsbeth and the people of Lockhart/Gardner.
  • Funny Background Event: One scene alternates between Will dealing with a blowhard political pundit in the conference room and Alicia dealing with a divorce case across the hall. When the focus is on Alicia, you can still hear the pundit railing and carrying on in the background.
  • Get Out: At the end of ‘KSR’, Alicia, after hearing Eli confessing to erasing Will’s voice message with his Anguished Declaration of Love six years beforehand, says this to him in chilling Tranquil Fury.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • The episode title, ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’. The episode involved the military, who use those words to spell out initials over the radio. WTF, or...
    • The show also frequently uses a trick where they present the punchline to a dirty joke first, so the innuendo only becomes clear later in the episode - like in ‘Anatomy of a Joke’, where Alicia gets a prank call from someone asking her if she likes Brazilian food. Turns out there’s a rumor going around that her husband has a Brazil-shaped birthmark on his penis.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Peter cheats on Alicia as one part of the scandal that starts up the series, and then with other women in later years. This is always portrayed as bad, even when their marriage is really just for show. On the other hand, Alicia is involved with multiple other men as well in the course of the series, but is portrayed well because a) Peter did it first and b) she unlike them, is either in love or at close to it.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Discussed and averted. Diana is a supporter of abortion rights, while her client R. D. opposes it, and they have an informal debate about it, but later respectfully agree to disagree. On the other hand Nisa, Zack's girlfriend, is the only character mentioned to have had an abortion. This is treated neutrally, with no comment either way. Alicia is only upset that she didn't know Zack was having sex, and if the reveal could be bad for Peter's political career given the controversial issue.
  • Good Parents:
    • Alicia does a formidable job at being a mother, despite all the challenges she has to face in her marriage and her career.
    • As horrific as Lemond Bishop’s business might be, he does his very best to be a good father to his son, after his own father left him when he was six.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Frequently. Alicia generally is depicted most favorably, because she’s the main character, but she’s a classic Anti-Hero, not above lying or being underhanded to get what she wants. A great example is episode five, Season 5 ‘Hitting the Fan’. when Will finds out Alicia and Cary are leaving the firm and taking clients with them. Things get rough, but its hard to say that anyone is clearly in the wrong.
  • Has a Type: Recurring character Colin Sweeney seems to prefer attractive, dark-haired, self-possessed women who are interested in unconventional sex/relationships. While most of those apply to Alicia, who he may be interested in, he also likes her as a lawyer and, he says, as a person. She’s also, apparently, the closest thing he has to an actual friend.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Cary rejoins the firm at the end of Season 3.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Eli gets one in ‘Bond’ after Peter fires him when Alicia lets him run for president, but soon enough...
  • He's Back: Eli snaps out of it and claws his way back into the campaign to become Alicia’s new chief of staff.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Guy Redmayne, the donor both Alicia and Frank try to sway. Aside from being a disgusting sexist, he chooses to support Alicia because he doesn’t like ‘fags’. When he talks to Frank, he talks about Alicia in horribly sexist language to test if he is indeed a ‘fag’. Ironically, despite this being a common assumption, he’s not; he is a Jesuit, which is why he never remarried.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • In ‘Undisclosed Recipients’, Eli teaches Alicia to give evasive responses to all the people who try to influence her one way or another (Guy Redmayne wants her to hire his friend, Lemond Bishop wants her to stop the investigation against him...). By the end of the episode, when Eli asks her to appoint someone he wants, she gives him the exact same response.
    • In ‘Bond’, Eli pushing Peter to run for president backfires when Peter fires him and hires Ruth Eastman, who has more of a ‘national appeal’.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The show’s got a pretty good track record for averting this and portraying atheists as no more or less sympathetic than theists.
    • Alicia is an open atheist but isn’t shown to be a worse person for it. In fact, although her daughter Grace is a born-again Christian, these different beliefs never affect their relationship. ‘Dear God’ has Alicia needing help dealing with a venue change to a Christian arbitrator rather than civil court, and she goes to Grace for advice on how to use the Bible as a legal document. Overall, it’s refreshing to see it treated in this manner instead of being a damaging character flaw.
    • This was first revealed when Eli planned to use a video of Maddie Hayward refusing to take part in a public prayer against her gubernatorial campaign (she’s one of Peter’s opponents and Eli’s just doing his job as campaign manager), but she short-circuits him by telling a reporter who catches all four of them at a dinner that she felt it would be hypocritical of her to go through the motions as an atheist. Peter tells the reporter he respects that, though he doesn’t agree with her. The reporter then queries Alicia, who states that she’s an atheist as well.
    • Alicia herself invokes this when she’s involved with a custody case against a philosophy professor. She uses the fact that he doesn't believe in an afterlife, free will or anything immaterial as evidence that he would be a worse parent to his son than the child’s mother. However, the professor defends himself against her accusations ably (which seem to partly stem from the recent loss of Will—the professor’s opinion that existence ends at death upsets her).
    • It comes back to bite Alicia when she’s running for State’s Attorney, as many people in the US believe this trope to be true. She’s advised that open atheists are unelectable. Thus, she’s forced to backtrack on her admission of being one into calling herself ‘questioning’ after Will's death and her daughter’s influence. She’s obviously very uncomfortable with this, as is Grace when her prayer group leader gives thanks for her supposedly getting through to Alicia, highlighting the very real prejudice many American atheists encounter (especially in doing things such as running for public office).
  • Hollywood Law: Peter’s first day back in the State’s Attorney’s office comes with this insane declaration: no plea bargains. Something better than 95% of all cases are pled out before a trial these days, independent of jurisdiction. This is in part because it’s much less work to not have to fight a case out in front of a jury. The show itself is consistent in showing how much work is cut off for both sides when a plea is taken. So, while saying on one hand that the amount of hours the staff can work is being cut, he enforces a new policy that would exponentially increase the amount of work needed.
    • In ‘Dark Money’, the firm has some evidence excluded because it was obtained from illegally hacking into a computer. However, the exclusionary rule applies only to illegally obtained evidence the government (or someone working on their behalf) collected and attempts to submit for a criminal case. They are not government employees, and this was a civil law suit. The judge could therefore not exclude this, though he would likely inform the police and they might face charges.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Two in ‘Iowa’:
      • Ruth’s elaboration on her belief that You Can't Fight Fate seems to make Alicia warm up to Eli again, but it ultimately doesn’t.
      • The miraculous turnovers on Peter’s journey through Iowa in ‘Iowa’ mean nothing: he only wins 4 counties in total.
    • Later that season, in ‘Tracks’, Rowby is certain he was going to win, as Judge Page was humming his song on the way to the bench, but she rules against him.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Diane is an advocate for women. One case involves a politician who is known for helping third-world women, who a masseuse accused of sexually assaulting her when she wouldn’t give him a ‘happy ending’. Diane is skeptical of the masseuse’s accusations, and Will points out she’s using the same criticisms she called out when he used them about a rape victim, because she’s a fan of the accused and his work. Diane then proceeds to struggle with the issue for the rest of the episode.
    • In season 5 Diane is asked by R.D.’s group to step in against Louis Canning on a wrongful death lawsuit against two doctors who had been involved in a physician-assisted suicide. Diane does so even though she’s actually in favor of the practice, and Canning lampshades the hypocrisy. (Diane made her participation conditional on it being about this case, which had genuine misconduct by the doctors, not every case.)
    • In ‘Tracks’, Alicia’s neighbours want to get her evicted for running a business against the homeowner’s association’s regulation. Grace comes to their meeting and points out their own violations.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: In ‘Restraint’, Eli feels this way about Courtney Paige. Ultimately, she goes back to California and breaks it off.
    Eli: You’re beautiful. And I’m... well, I have my moments, but my office is the size of your bathroom. And I don’t have the money you have.
    Courtney: (Sighs) Come here.
    (He comes over hesitantly, and they kiss.)
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The first four seasons of the series have titles with as many words as the number of the season (as in, season 1 has one-word titles, season 2 two-word ones, and seasons 3 and 4 three and four-word titles), but season 5, instead of using five words, used three, which many took as a sort of countdown to series' end, since the Kings (the series creators and showrunners) always said that they wanted the show to last seven seasons. As it turned out, it was, since the show will end with the finale of season 7, which will be titled 'End'.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Kalinda turns everyone’s head.
    Cary: I know a lot of people who weren‘t anything until they met Kalinda.
  • Imagine Spot: After Will dies, Alicia can’t stop picturing how his final call to her would have gone. She pictures him reconciling, attacking, and declaring love for her.
    • ‘Mind’s Eye’ is full of imagine spots from beginning to end. Various people in Alicia’s life talk about various topics.
    • The series finale has Alicia imagining coming home to, first, Jason, and then Peter. She then has imaginary conversations with the late Will Gardner, eventually admitting that she will always love him.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • From ‘Lies’:
      (Alicia opens the door to Eli)
      Eli: Peter wants to be president.
      Alicia: ...Excuse me?
      Eli: Peter thinks he can be president.
      Alicia: I need a drink.
    • In ‘Iowa’, Ruth says the same after they pull off the Full Grassley. At the end of the episode, she makes herself that drink after it turns out Peter lost Iowa.
  • Informed Ability: Eli Gold is supposedly ‘the best’ political manager in the business, but in early season 2 he misses huge problems or plays into a lot of serious screw-ups.
  • Informed Flaw: In his first appearance, Eli Gold is said to have a preference for Cluster F Bombs. He visibly restrains himself from uttering a Gosh Dang It to Heck! swear, and then this ‘flaw’ is quickly forgotten. He never utters a single swear (even one acceptable for TV), even when one would be appropriate.
  • The Ingenue: Invoked by Nancy Crozier, who specializes in pretending to be just an inexperienced, attractive, innocent blonde lawyer new to the big city, batting her big blue eyes at the jury and judge. In one episode, Alicia counters her by having David Lee’s niece (who is younger, prettier, and less experienced, except her naivete is genuine) as second-chair. She promptly begins out-charming the judge, leading to Death Glares from Crozier.
    ‘I’m just a Michigan girl, fresh off the boat.’
  • Innocently Insensitive: Jackie’s behaviour around Courtney Paige in ‘Driven’ in a nutshell, from telling her she likes ‘Peter’s African-American friends’ to telling her she’s ‘an inspiration to all urban children’ (Courtney is one of the most powerful CEOs in America).
  • Insufferable Genius: Anthony Edward Dudewitz in ‘Driven’, who belittles the intelligence of everyone around him (and of humanity in general, giving much credence to the future intelligence of A.I) while referring to himself as a ‘genius’.
  • In the Back: There’s a lot of this. Not least in Lockhart and Gardner.
  • In Vino Veritas: Implied to be the reason Eli confesses to Alicia that he deleted Will’s Anguished Declaration of Love from her voicemail box six years beforehand.
  • I Warned You: David Lee plays this up a bit in episode five, season five when Cary and Alicia leaving the firm and taking clients is revealed.
  • Jerkass: The series has numerous obnoxious characters, but Anthony Edward Dudewitz, who appears in ‘Driven’, takes the cake. His overall attitude seems to be contempt for everyone else, referring to his programmers as ‘monkeys’ and disdaining human intelligence generally, while hoping to create an AI that will overcome us.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Peter, for all his adultery, his sleaziness, and unethical campaigning, whenever needed always does the right thing. Perhaps the best example being in ‘Closing Arguments’ where it’s revealed that he was the anonymous leak of the evidence to Lockhart & Gardner that allowed them to exonerate the accused judge killer.
    • In ‘The Last Call’, he also admonishes Eli, who was attempting to get someone prosecuting Peter to stand down following Will’s death (the prosecutor needed Will to solidify his case). Peter points out the insensitivity of such an immediate action, showing that, for all of his dislike of Will, he still regarded him as a human being.
    • Will often shows traits of this as well.
    • David Lee’s Jerk Ass facade cracks after Will’s death (he almost breaks down in private). He even supports Diane telling a valuable client, who mishandles the situation, to go to hell.
  • The Judge:
    • An unusual judge appears Once an Episode.
    • Will himself ends up presiding as a judge in a mock trial... of Hansel and Gretel note .
  • Justice by Other Legal Means
    • Inverted in the second episode, where a stripper files a civil action against her rapist after the State’s Attorney decides not to prosecute. Alicia loses the case after the DNA evidence is found to be cross-contaminated. However, just as the rapist leaves the court, he’s arrested for her rape, as non-contaminated DNA evidence has been found.
    • In season two, a murderer is found to have been insane while committing the act, and sane now, meaning he’s free to go. However, the trial reveals that he committed another murder, which he’s promptly arrested for.
    • In the season five episode ‘Everything Is Ending’ Alicia and company are trying to stop the execution of a man they believe innocent. While they do show evidence that he might be innocent, the judge orders the execution to continue. The warden of the prison, needing to get the execution done quickly, has the drugs for the lethal injection shipped in by the US mail. Will calls the DEA on this as the drugs were transported over state lines without proper documentation. They show up in time to stop the execution. The state decides not to try to kill him a third time (the first attempt was stopped because it was taking over 2 hours to prepare him because his veins were badly damaged by drug use).
    • In the season six episode ‘Hail Mary’, upon the discovery that the DA had Cary charged with conspiring to import drugs with criminals who were actually planning to export drugs, all of his colleagues search frantically for a Brady violationnote  to nullify his guilty plea. In her despair, Kalinda forges evidence to ‘prove’ it. By the end of the episode, Kalinda has found the violation they needed, but Diane has already argued successfully using the forged evidence she’d taken from Kalinda’s computer, unaware of the forgery.
    • At the end of ‘KSR’, Judge Don Schakowsky overturns the jury’s guilty verdict against Dr. Portnow and acquits him as he clearly had no intention to go through with the detailed kidnapping, sedating, and raping fantasy he wrote about.
  • Karma Houdini: Happens with a couple case of the week antagonists.
    • Joe Kent, a character who’s never seen on screen that the second season episode ‘V.I.P. Treatment’ revolves around. Kent is a well known and lauded philanthropist who has founded multiple charities and raised millions of dollars to advance the cause of women’s rights around the world, but the firm is contacted by a young massage therapist interested in filing a suit against him after reporting that he sexually harassed her in a hotel. The firm is at first reluctant to take the case and believes she may just be gold digging, but after some investigation and evidence of other women who have reported similar instances but never pressed charges or filed lawsuits, they become willing to pursue the case, despite aggressive threats from Kent’s legal team and an impassioned plea from Kent’s own wife stating that even if Kent is guilty, the damage to his reputation would harm his charitable work and do more harm to the cause of women. In the end, the massage therapist opts not to file suit, deciding that she wouldn't be able to emotionally and mentally handle going through the case, and it’s implied Kent successfully buries the allegations completely and gets away with his reputation fully intact.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Minor cases all over the place when an Amoral Attorney gets put in their place, but Alicia taking down Wendy Scott-Carr during the grand jury is a classic case.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Actually subverted with Lemond Bishop. In one episode he has Kalinda chauffeur his son Dylan home from school, but when Kalinda finds out another kid is bullying Dylan she tries to keep it from Bishop, thinking he’ll react like a drug dealer. Once Bishop finds out, he’s clearly angry, but instead of doing something drastic he calls the other kid’s parent like a typical, non-drug dealer father, and very calmly informs him of the bullying. He then has a drink with Kalinda and tells her he is determined to be a good father, and that it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done.
  • Law Procedural
  • Literally Laughable Question: One episode has Eli Gold trying to figure out if an intern on Peter Florrick’s gubernatorial campaign slept with him (she claims on TV that he has a birthmark shaped like Brazil on his penis). When he asks Alicia, Peter’s estranged wife, about it, she bursts out laughing at the birthmark part, putting the lie to it.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: A mild case. The third season premiere checks in with Alicia and seven other regular characters (Diane, Eli, Grace, Zach, Cary, Peter, Kalinda) before the opening titles, making Will noticeable by his absencehe shows up right after the titles, before the credits. Those are all regulars, never mind recurring characters and the primaries in cases of the week.
  • Loophole Abuse: In ‘Cooked’, Alicia and Lucca use a loophole that says that intentionally creating a controlled substance or intentionally creating an analogue thereof are crimes, but unintentionally creating an analogue when trying to create a controlled substance isn’t.
    ASA: This is semantics.
    Judge Schakowski: No, it’s the law. You know the difference? I get a gavel.
  • Love at First Sight: Rowby Canton is amazed by Lucca as soon as he sees her.
    Rowby: I have to tell you something. I think I love you.
    (Lucca laughs)
    Rowby: No, I’m not kidding. Like, I’m serious. Like, I... it’s crazy.
    Lucca: Do you always decide things this fast?
    Rowby: Uh... yeah. Hey, can... can I play some music for you? ‘Cause I think that’s the only chance I got.
  • Love Triangle: Peter/Alicia/Will. The Cliffhanger ending of the first season has Alicia deciding between them—Does she join her husband on stage where he’s announcing his attempt to get his elected position back or take a call from Will.
    • And during the second season finale, she and Will have sex in a hotel room.
    • Resolved by Alicia and Cary starting their own firm, stealing some of Lockhart/Gardner clients, making Will mad at her and then sealed by Will’s death.
  • Malicious Misnaming: In ‘Iowa’, David Lee calls Ms. Creech from the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Agency ‘Ms. Screech’.
  • Mama Bear: Messing with Alicia’s children is one guaranteed way to get her after you with the full brunt of her legal skills, as the cop and DA in ‘I Fought the Law’ learned.
    • Also Jackie, who is incredibly protective of Peter.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Averted with Stern’s. Diane, Will and Alicia just go to try and take his clients.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • Frank Prady, who is actually a Jesuit, which is why he never remarried.
    • The new associate at Lockhart & Agos mistakes Cary’s benevolent attitude towards the associates as coming onto him.
  • Mistaken for Racist: One judge sentences Alicia’s black, juvenile client to a stricter sentence than necessary (time in juvie) despite an agreement. The firm figures he’s racist, and reconsiders after Alicia walks into his office and sees photos of him with people like Barack Obama. Turns out he has gambling debts, and his friend runs the detention center and is giving him kickbacks from the state’s stipend. That last part is Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
  • Mood Whiplash / Bathos: The show is fond of breaking up serious moments with random things, such as when Alicia and Cary are having a serious discussion, and she’s forced to talk louder when a truck starts backing up nearby, or when Alicia is having a directional crisis and sits on a bench in a park and stares blankly at a street performer in a shiny gold unitard dancing terribly to terrible music. Who she knows, and she comes over and asks how she’s doing.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kalinda, who wears knee-high boots and low-cut tops.
  • Newscaster Cameo: The show occasionally has clips of fictional NPR News stories, voiced by the actual NPR anchors.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Peter Florrick is a personally-charming lawyer turned Democratic politician who was involved in an adultery scandal, managed to get away with it, and he becomes a State’s Attorney, followed by a term as Governor, and now he’s set his sights on a certain big, white house in DC. He has a lot of parallels to Bill Clinton, though he also has similarities to Elliot Spitzer and John Edwards.
    • The role of Hillary Rodham Clinton is split between Alicia (ostensibly loyal lawyer wife of the philandering husband with, eventually, her own political ambitions) and Diana Lockhart (blonde, crusading, leftist lawyer with feminist leanings). She’s also been compared to Elizabeth Edwards, also a lawyer.
  • No Party Given: Averted, as every major character is stated to be a Democrat and the Democratic National Committee is often shown getting involved. Getting elected in Cook County as anything other than a Democrat is virtually impossible, so it’s justified.
  • Nothing Personal: Peter tries to explain to Eli in ‘Bond’ that he’s firing him and hiring Ruth Eastman instead because running for President means he needs someone with a ‘national appeal’. Eli is still displeased.
  • Not Quite Dead: Kozko.
  • Not So Different: Alicia’s neighbours want to evict her for running a business from her home, in violation of her homeowner’s association agreement. Grace comes to her meeting and points out a few things.
    Grace: Well, then why isn’t Mr. Tipton being questioned?
    Mr. Tipton: I don’t follow.
    Grace: Mr. Graham Tipton. He runs a business out of his apartment on the sixth floor. Why isn’t he...?
    Mr. Tipton: I do not.
    Grace: Well, you’re a day trader, aren’t you? You work out of your apartment?
    Mr. Tipton: I work from home. That’s different than running a business out of my apartment.
    Grace: But your loan-out company, Graham Is Awesome, Inc., lists this building as its address, and your business receives its mail here. Are you always available to sign for it?
    Mr. Tipton: No, but...
    Mrs. Dosek: Okay, look, we are not on trial here.
    Grace: The regulations also prohibit subletting, but Mrs. Dosek rents a spare bedroom in her apartment to her mother-in-law.
    Mrs. Dosek: Well, that’s my mother-in-law. There’s an exemption for family.
    Grace: Actually, there isn’t. Then there’s Mr. Loring on the eighth floor, who frequently hosts high-priced call girls.
    Mr. Loring: Okay, okay, maybe we should just table this discussion for the moment.
    Grace: I think that’d be good. My mother’s a great lawyer. She usually stands up well for herself.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Though he is legitimately disabled, Louis Canning (played by Michael J. Fox) habitually plays up his disability to gain sympathy with the judges and juries he faces in court, much to Alicia’s annoyance.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Nancy Krozier seems like The Ditz, but it’s clearly at least partly an act as she’s quite a ruthless and well-prepared lawyer when she has to be.
  • Odd Friendship: Almost all friendships in this series fall in this category.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: The main cast at Lockhart/Gardner and eventually Florrick/Agos does everything from capital crime defense to immigration law to copyright law. Recurring characters tend to be specialists, however: Lockhart/Gardner’s David Lee specializes in family law (e.g. divorces and paternity suits), while recurring antagonist Louis Canning mainly defends corporations from class-actions.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted by Cary Agos and ‘The Other Carey’ Zepps.
  • Opposites Attract: Very liberal lawyer Diane Lockhart dates ultra-conservative weapons expert Kurt McVeigh (no relation). They even end up getting married in season 5.
  • Parental Favoritism: Sloan’s mother clearly prefers her other daughter to her.
  • Pass the Popcorn:
    • The NSA phone surveillance guys are pretty blatantly just listening in on Alicia’s phone calls for their own entertainment rather than for national security reasons.
    • Louis Canning’s reaction to Alicia and Lucca grilling Charles Ephraham in his deposition in ‘Driven’ is gleeful amusement.
  • Pet the Dog: David Lee, who usually plays the part of a slimy Smug Snake (Diane: ‘You hate people!’), gets very pissed when Eli Gold involves Caitlin, his niece, in their rivalry. Something along the lines of ‘She is everything that is bright and good in this world, and you do not get to take that away!’
  • Pie in the Face: ‘The One Percent’ episode begins with a cream pie being prepared and then thrown in the face of a CEO by a protestor who pretended to be one of the catering staff at a board meeting.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Diane and Will embody this trope. For reference, the following exchanges during platonic slow dancing.
    Diane: We are the perfect couple ...
    Will: ... except for the sex.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Charles Lester. When Kalinda tells him she has incriminating evidence against him she can give the DA:
  • Previously On: For a show with season+ long storylines and such an expansive universe, these are surprisngly rare. The show prefers letting the audience catch up on their own, and its favorite start-of-episode-recap device is replaying the previous week’s cliffhanger (sometimes from a different perspective).
  • Punch Clock Villain:
    • Louis Canning makes his money defending large corporations from clearly deserved lawsuits, and makes quite morally dubious use of his neurological disorder to sway the jury’s sympathy, or even distract them from damaging testimony. But outside the courtroom, he’s a perfectly nice guy and a devoted family man. He even justifies his defense of these companies by pointing out that the lawsuits that firms like Lockhart/Gardner pursue against them is a contributor in the price increases of all their products, including those he uses to help treat his chronic illness.
    • In Season 3, Episode 10 ‘Parenting Made Easy’, Louis Canning genuinely helps Alicia search for her missing daughter, but the moment she is found safe, returns to his underhanded ways by looking in Alicia’s handbag for case information.
    • In Season 7, he tries to capitalize on Alicia’s pariah state by offering her a partnership in his firm. Naturally, she refuses, but he keeps trying to get his foot in the door by sending her cases. Partly he does this to please his wife, who thinks of Alicia as a friend, but he himself sees her as his Friendly Enemy and knows that she would be a good addition to his team.
  • Racist Grandpa: The elderly partner Howard Lyman isn't exactly actively racist, but he does do things like ask if a black job applicant is from Nigeria and assume a man is gay during a job interview just because he didn't name any women when asked "Who would you bring with you to a desert island?"
  • "Rashomon"-Style: ‘A Few Words’ shows flashbacks to how Alicia joined the firm before the first episode, from both her perspective and Will’s. The flashbacks also include how Alicia met Cary while they were both waiting to be interviewed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Will gives Alicia a particularly furious one after he finds out she and Cary are leaving with the other 4th years.
  • Recurring Character: Chris Noth as Peter Florrick. He isn't in every episode, but his character has a fairly large presence on the show.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • One episode features an internet billionaire who has had a film made about him which he thinks is defamatory, making him look like a jerk and implying he made his website in order to Get The Girl. Blowing this paper-thin No Celebrities Were Harmed right out of the water, he’s described on introduction as a ‘Mark Zuckerberg wannabe’.
    • The case in ‘Goliath And David’ is the Jonathan Coulton vs. Glee conflict about Coulton’s ‘Baby Got Back’ arrangement if it ever went to court. The show is not on Ryan Murphy’s side.
    • In ‘Whack-a-Mole’, after a bombing in Milwaukee an Internet witch-hunt starts up on a website that is not Reddit. The witch is an Arab-American anthropology professor who kinda looks like a blurry photograph not-Reddit thinks is the bomber. This was clearly lifted from what happened on the real Reddit after the Boston Marathon bombings, with the following caveats:
      • In the real incident the FBI shut down the witch-hunt by announcing who the actual suspects were, whereas in the show they were using not-Reddit to gather intel.
      • The real Reddit didn't end up getting sued for defamation by the target of the witch-hunt.
    • Peter discusses Ferguson, MI and The Rise of the Warrior Cop at the start of the episode ‘Message Discipline’.
    • ‘The Debate’ starts with two disclaimers so the audience knows which headlines are being ripped. ‘This episode was written and filmed prior to the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island’ and ‘All mentions of ‘Ferguson’ are in reference to the events in August, 2014 after the shooting death of Michael Brown.’
    • In ‘Undisclosed Recipients’, the firm’s emails get hacked. Alicia’s aren’t, because she’s been using her campaign email for the past four months. This episode premiered the same mouth a scandal erupted about Hilary Clinton using her personal email for Secretary of State business. Except that given the lack of time (the show’s production time is supposedly two and a half months), there’s no chance it was deliberate, making it accidentally Hilarious in Hindsight for something that hadn’t actually happened yet.
    • ‘Loser Edit’ has a subplot involving Diane and a hypothetical situation where a bakery refuses to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. There had been similar controversies for years, but the latest big one was less than a month old.
    • The main plot of ‘Discovery’ was about ChumHum, which is already a thinly disguised Google/Facebook hybrid, getting in trouble for some of the same reasons Google did. Such as a photo-recognition algorithm identifying black people as animals. Which is explicitly compared to Google’s controversy over same.
  • Rule Number One: In ‘Discovery’, Eli relates the rules of conduct for Alicia on her suspected liaisons with Jason.
    Eli: Rule number one... no touching in public. Ever. If Jason is on fire, let him burn. Touching in private... No such thing. Nowhere is private anymore.
    Alicia: Clearly.
    Eli: Rule number two... if you have to go out together, make sure there’s always a third party present, preferably female. Rule number three... even if you go out in a bigger group, never, under any circumstances, let it be in a hotel, a bar... or a hotel bar.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Elevators are used as a continual motif for Will and Alicia’s relationship. Their most important conversations and romantic moments tend to take place in elevators, even in flashbacks or Imagine Spots after Will dies. One can easily read an elevator as symbolizing the up-and-down nature of their ongoing relationship.
  • Rule 34: In ‘Getting Off’, Alicia is informed by a client that there’s porn of her, as well as other Loyal Wives. It’s a trilogy, actually, ‘like Lord of the Rings’.
  • Running Gag: Starting from ‘Loser Edit’, Alicia’s PR team bringing Ted Willoughby to cover any story with an unflattering angle because he is too stupid to notice it and cover it in a way they don’t approve of.
  • Script Swap: A variation. The teleprompter script remained the same, but the speaker changed from Alicia to Eli, leading to some hilarity (like him changing Peter’s kids’ diapers). Unfortunately, this is a sharp contrast to Alicia just finding out about Will’s death.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: When Peter leaves the apartment, triggering the electronic monitoring, the whole family gets their story straight fast.
  • Self-Serving Memory: This is invoked in flashbacks in ‘A Few Words’ about how Alicia got her job at Will’s firm, while Alicia is working on a speech about how she returned to practicing law. Alicia is a bit ashamed how her memory is making her look good.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Implied by Faux Affably Evil mob lawyer Charles Lester. After he introduces himself, he starts to make smalltalk about your kids. Not his kids—your kids.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Alicia’s daughter Grace is starting to run into this trope in season 5. An attractive young woman, she starts dressing a little differently, and getting visible attention from men-often olden men. Alicia’s Mama Bear traits cause her to pick up on things that are maybe innocent, maybe not. Grace gets looks from Cary in one episode and then is talking to Carey Zepps, another attractive young man (but still much older than her), at the house, and Alicia is clearly disapproving.
  • Shown Their Work: When members of Anonymous interfere in a case about a rape accusation, they’re actually portrayed fairly accurately, including someone pointing out that it’s not actually a single organization with a definite membership. The only missing element is their signature V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks, but that would involve paying copyright fees to Warner Bros. for their use. The show just uses blank white masks with moustaches on the front.note 
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • In ‘Foreign Affairs’, Kalinda encourages Will to confess his feelings for Alicia. May overlap with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy given Kalinda’s own feelings for Alicia.
    • In season 5, one NSA guy says he thinks Will and Diane will get together. The other says their relationship isn’t sexual.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: Kalinda’s ex-husband Nick. He returns to... Canada after ordering his attorney to be beaten up and engages in a long series of nonsensical overly dramatic actions to the ire of the viewership.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The fourth episode of season four is titled ‘Don’t Haze Me Bro’.
    • In the 18th episode of season two Grace and Zach quote Llamas with Hats while playing air hockey. Alicia complains about them making references she doesn't understand.
    • There’s occasional references to websites like Funny Or Die and College Humor when parody videos of candidates are made.
    • At one point, Kalinda discovers that Diane’s home computer and e-mail were used to upload The Vampire Diaries fanfiction.
    • in ‘All Tapped Out’, the NSA guys discuss lyrics from Charlie’s musical, and Jeff wears a It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia T-shirt.
    • The Show Within a Show Darkness at Noon that Alicia watches has the main protagonist kill a man, followed by him and an elk looking at each other in the final scene of the series. The scene is featured on a talk show, ‘Talking at Noon’ and one of the guests says it symbolizes his soul rising from the dead and reincarnating. This is a shout-out to Hannibal, in which the (Raven)stag symbolizes the connection between Will and Hannibal, and is lying dead on Hannibal’s kitchen floor by the end of the second season.
    • At the start of ‘Message Discipline’, Peter mentions Radley Balko’s book Rise of the Warrior Cop.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Downplayed when Louis Canning tries his playing-up-his-tardive-diskinesia-for-sympathy act on a paraplegic judge. The judge is not amused (his reaction amounted to ‘yeah, I’m disabled too, so what?’) and tells him to knock it off and present his case.
  • The Singularity: Discussed in ‘Driven’, as the creator of the A.I. questioned in the episode believes it’s likely that artificial intelligence could evolve beyond humanity’s and overtake it, and that his own A.I. might have been able to grow too intelligent to control.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Glenn Childs.
    • Colin Sweeney (played by Dylan Baker) zigzags between this and Magnificent Bastard, who appears in a couple of episodes.
    • Wendy Scott Carr. And how.
  • The Smurfette Principle: According to Diane, before she was hired by Jonas Stern, the firm was mostly an all-boys club. Even Stern admitted to her that the main reason why he hired her was because it would be cool to have a woman on the team. Despite this, she accepted because she knew that, one day, she would be seen as a good lawyer, not just a woman. She explains this to Alicia, when the latter thinks she is being rewarded because she is a woman.
  • The Sociopath: The judge that Jason Crouse (prior to his disbarment) beat up claims that the lawyer-turned-PI is a dangerous sociopath, who will be charming and calm until the moment he snaps and goes ballistic. Alicia isn’t sure if she should believe the judge.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: The wedding planner whose appeal R. D. wants to support in ‘Loser Edit’ claims in the mock trial that she’s not prejudiced against anyone, and mentions with a smile that her ‘very favorite florist’ is gay. R. D. himself tells Diane he has no problem with gay people, including his beloved gay nephew, but it’s same-sex marriage specifically that he disagrees with.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: In ‘Anatomy of a Joke’, car horn sounds blare over the profanity used by Alicia and Cary’s client of the week. The judge keeps asking the warden to close a stuck window.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A love scene between Peter and Alicia, with Peter going down on her to the sound of... NPR’s All Things Considered playing on Alicia’s radio? In Real Life, that weekend’s episode of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! found this hilarious.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Ruth Eastman is a brilliant campaign manager with a noticeable southern accent.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Anthony Edward Dudewitz, the creator of the T-Portable in ‘Driven’, seems to hold the intelligence of everyone around him, and of humanity in general, in very low regard.
  • Spit Take: Eli in the last second of ‘The Decision Tree’.
  • Spousal Privilege: Comes up in ‘Bang’, as the only person who can break the murderer’s alibi is his wife.
  • Start My Own: In season 4, all the fourth year associates are denied a previously promised partnership. They fake poaching clients for a while, hoping to scare the partners enough to get their promotion, but only manage to get Alicia promoted.Ultimately, Cary, Alicia, and the fourth year associates successfully found Florrick, Agos, and Associates.
  • Strange Bedfellows: Alicia and Crozier working together. It quickly turns sour.
  • Straw Feminist: Oddly enough, inverted. There are several people on the show who are feminists in all but name note , and are generally reasonable people, but are never actually called such, such as Diane Lockhart. Presumably, this is to prevent people assuming they’re like stereotypical feminists.
    • Finally used explicitly to refer to Alicia in ‘Party’. It’s not clear whether she actually thinks of herself as one.
  • Strawman Political: Surprisingly averted: the show does a good job of presenting both left- and right-wingers as people instead of political platforms, and Democrats (who comprise most of the elected officials in Chicago) can be just as corrupt or as honest as Republicans and vice versa.
    • Recurring firearms expert Kurt McVeigh is an unabashed conservative who is an open admirer of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, something in stark contrast to the rest of the cast, all implied or outright stated to be liberal Democrats. The show keeps sympathy on his side by making him still a rather open-minded guy who can get along with Diane, and very principled to the point where he won’t give testimony in support of a client he believes to be guilty no matter how much he’s paid. Diane and Kurt later develop a romantic relationship featuring what seems to be a private joke where she randomly name-drops Democratic topics like Obamacare just to annoy him. Eventually the two get married.
    • Later the show introduces R.D., a wealthy conservative activist who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. Diane respects him enough to take R.D. as a client, even though they disagree (although she refuses to launch any anti-abortion lawsuits). In one instance they collaborate on a constitutional case on mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, and R.D. explicitly states that liberals (Diane) hate them because they’re inhumane and ineffective, while fiscal conservatives (R.D.) hate them because they're wasteful and ineffective.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Given the law setting, frequently invoked.
    Peter: I’m not sleeping with her now.
  • Take That:
    • One episode had a micro-expressions/lie detection expert get everything wrong.
    • There was also the episode with the glee club director tries to help a political campaign only to harm it.
    • In one episode, Zach and Grace have gone off to Peter’s house for the weekend, and Alicia is so bored she ends up watching a show about the ‘true story of Joan of Arc’ which we only hear (thank God for that), and which later has a sex scene between Joan of Arc and some guy (again, only heard), a clear Take That to Showtime historical dramas such as The Tudors or The Borgias.
    • Towards the end of ‘Live From Damascus’, Will, about to serve a six month suspension from the bar, comments that he might use the time to write a Rock Opera, as ‘There hasn’t been a good one since The Wall’.
    • The Running Gag introduced in Season 5 of ‘Darkness At Noon’, a spoof of dark and brooding cable prestige cop shows such as Low Winter Sun (The title is a clear reference to that, and AMC is even namechecked) or True Detective (with the apparent lead monologuing about morality and the emptiness of life).
    • During one political dinner, Alicia and others are subjected to scenes from a play about a cow forced into war. It could be about Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, which was name-checked, but nobody there took it as such.
  • Taking the Heat: At the end of ‘Taxed’, Alicia’s first client, who was charged with stealing a gift sweater she wanted to return for money, agrees to take a plea to protect her mother, who did steal it.
  • That Was Objectionable: Lawyers yelling objection when a question hasn’t even been asked yet. Used intentionally by Alicia to aggravate Stern’s dementia and make him lose focus.
  • There Are No Therapists: Robert and Michelle King said in a recent New York Times article that Alicia seeing a therapist wouldn’t be good dramatically.
    Robert King: We knew that sending Alicia into therapy and making everyone psychologically healthy would be deadly for the show, because it’s better when they can’t move on from the relationship.
  • This Is Reality: From ‘Tracks’:
    Rowby: Can I say something? Because that is r... really offensive.
    Judge Louisa Page: No. Unfortunately not, Mr. Canton.
    Rowby: Point of personal privilege.
    Judge Page: Yes. I’m guessing that you saw that in a movie, sir. That doesn’t work here.
  • This Means War!: In ‘Bond’, Eli is furious about Peter firing him and hiring someone else when Alicia lets him run for president.
    Eli: You just lost your greatest asset and made your worst enemy.
  • Those Two Guys: The two young men who monitor Alicia’s conversations for the NSA.
  • Title Drop: Well, not quite, but Eli does say to Alicia in ‘Great Firewall’ that she’s ‘the good mother’.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • Will Gardner, briefly, in the beginning of episode 5, season 5 after he finds out Cary and Alicia are leaving the firm and taking clients. He walks in to her office, and they speak, with barely contained rage in Will’s words until he lets it loose and throws everything off her desk, and their exchange gets more heated.
    • Alicia at the end of ‘KSR’, after Eli confesses he deleted Will’s voice message with his Anguished Declaration of Love six years beforehand.
    Alicia: Get Out.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Played for laughs in-universe, when Cary is asked to name the other associates he’s leaving with. He immediately names the associates who fall under as many minority headings as possible, just to make it impossible to fire them.
  • Two First Names: Eyal Naftali, the Chief of Staff of Israel’s Communications Minister Marissa mentions in ‘Payback’.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Alicia and Will. To the point where he says that they have ‘always had bad timing’. Resolved as the closer of season two.
    • And as of mid-Season 3, their breakup returns the underlying tension to their friendly relationship.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The audience is left in the dark of Julius only pretending to turn on Diane and deliver his vote to Derrick Bond, allowing them to turn the vote around and kick Bond out.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: In 'Parallel Construction, Bitches' Alicia is the target of a Secret Test carried out by Lemond Bishop, and he suspects her briefly before they discover it was in fact the NSA tapping the phones. As opposed to her being against Lemond.
  • Villain Decay: Glenn Childs went from rather cunning and vicious in season one to fairly incompetent and approaching Jerkass Woobie status in season two.
  • Viral Marketing: An In-Universe example in ‘Red Team, Blue Team’. An energy drink company got sued in the death of a teen, and it turned out she’d started buying the drink to lose weight after finding viral marketing posts on a web forum for anorexics.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: ‘I’m worried this will keep people from purchasing cheese.’ ‘You think?’
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Averted. The fact that much of the blackmail material used by Childs against the Florricks is in fact shopped is a minor plot point. The only problem is that not all of it is fake.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jerry Breslow. While his intentions (overturning the Defense of Marriage Act) are noble, his methods are anything butdeliberately tanking a case to send an innocent gay man to prison, so he can appeal the case to the US Supreme Court (this was only months before they actually did).
    • Also the immigration agents in ‘Mock’. They have a very just cause in trying to shut down an identity theft ring, but their tactic (arresting an innocent woman who has resided in the US for decades and threatening her with deportation in order to secure the cooperation of her son and daughter) is quite morally dubious.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Season 5 is full of them.
      • ‘Hitting the Fan’ Cary and Alicia’s plan to poach clients to create their own firm is discovered. Hijinks ensue.
      • Josh Charles’ decision to leave resulted in Will Gardner’s death seemingly at random and out of nowhere.
    • In ‘KSR’, Courtney buys Jason off of Alicia and leaves Eli for California, and Eli confesses to Alicia that he erased Will’s Anguished Declaration of Love from her voicemail box.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: While many relatively minor characters on the show recur, it is also not uncommon for them to disappear without a trace. The most obvious example is probably Julius Cain, the head of Litigation at Lockheart Gardner. Often taking the role of David Lee’s nemesis, Julius is (with Lee) presented as the most important partner other than Will and Diane for the first three seasons, and is a frequent participant in the many games of office politics. However, after the end of the third season he is never heard from, or mentioned, again.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: In ‘Driven’, Jackie tells Courtney Paige, the CEO of HRT industries and one of the most powerful CEOs in America, and a black woman, that she is ‘an inspiration to all urban children’. Courtney responds with a courteous ‘thank you’ and obviously concealed Tranquil Fury.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: From ‘Iowa’, when Ruth is talking to Alicia:
    Alicia: You think you could ever be happy? If you had taken a left instead of a right or went up instead of down, you would’ve been happy?
    Ruth: No.
    Alicia: Really?
    Ruth: You can’t control fate. It’s in your genes. Can’t change that.
    Alicia: So whatever I do, whatever I did I’d end up right back here?
    Ruth: Well, maybe not here, but someplace like here. At the end of every fork, there’s a cliff. Go ahead, take ‘the road less traveled’. You’ll still find that cliff.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Peter fires Eli in ‘Bond’ when Alicia finally lets him run for president, hiring Ruth Eastman to replace him.
  • You Keep Using That Word: In ‘Iowa’, Ted Willoughby keeps calling the ‘Full Grassley’ the ‘Full Monty’. Eli ‘corrects’ him, making the mistake common among Americans that it means stripping naked rather than going all the way.
  • You Know Who Said That: In ‘Restraint’, Ethan Carver argues with Diane about defending a pro-life case by proxy, by taking up a First Amendment case.
    Ethan: ‘Anyone can defend a sympathetic client with popular beliefs. The real test of the First Amendment is whether we are willing to stand up for people and ideas we hate.’
    Diane: Well, that’s more persuasive and plain-spoken than you normally are.
    Ethan: I was quoting you. You said that in a speech to Emily’s List. You may not agree with our tapes or how they were made, but prior restraint is just wrong. And you know it.
    Diane: (Sighs heavily) Why do I have to be so damn convincing?
  • You Remind Me of X: Eli on Jason in ‘Discovery’.
    Eli: He reminds me of... (Beat) Actually, he doesn’t remind me of anyone.note 
  • Your Cheating Heart: The original premise of the show is Peter cheating on Alicia with multiple women during his time as State's Attorney. Every time they seem to reconcile their relationship, this keeps coming back to drive them apart. In contrast, Alicia ends up having affairs with several men over the course of the show, although it's clearly portrayed as more romantic than Peter's mostly sexual affairs. At one point, though, even Peter is shown to be having a steady extramarital relationship with a woman on his staff (his marriage with Alicia is just for show at that point), but he's forced to break it off for political reasons. In the series finale, Diana's husband Kurt is revealed to have been having an affair with a former colleague of his.

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