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Series: The Good Wife

CBS legal drama series, 2009 to present, exec produced by Ridley Scott and starring Julianna Margulies, currently in its sixth season 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: Will and Peter waver between Type II and Type III, with Kalinda being a clear Type III. Alicia occasionally enters Type II territory.
  • 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 basically 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 Herself: 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.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Elsbeth Tascioni, to the point where in "Shiny Objects" Alicia and Dean pretty much 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and Wendy Scott Carr.
    • Maddie.
    • Patti Nyholm basically 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.
  • 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.
  • Brother-Sister Team
    • Alicia and Owen turn into this more and more.
    • Zach and Grace of course. They take such good care of their Mom.
  • 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.
  • But Not Too Bi: Kalinda is seen more often with male lovers, though the balance is being restored.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun: "Hey Mom, pick up the phone..."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 in-fighitng. 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 the season 2 finale, 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.
  • 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, 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 says Cary is guilty of telling drug dealers how to avoid arrest.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fox News Liberal: Surprisingly averted. 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, and they eventually marry.
  • Friendship Moment: often and between many characters, but specifically Kalinda/Alicia and Diane/Will. Sometimes also Kalinda/Will and more recently Alicia/Cary.
    • Episode 12 of the fourth season 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Cary rejoins the firm at the end of Season 3.
  • 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 a courtroom, 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 she's an atheist as well.
    • Alicia herself invokes this when she's involved with a custody case against a philosophy professor. She uses that 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 her friend-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 to 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 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: You can tell which season an episode is from by how many words are in the title (all season one episodes have one-word titles, those from season two have two-word titles and so on).
    • Season 5 episodes have 3 words titles, as the creators of the show are hoping it to last a total of 7 seasons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Back: There's a lot of this. Not least in Lockhart and Gardner.
  • 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Peter, for all his adultery, not to mention 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).
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Minor cases all over the place when an Amoral Attorney gets put in their place, but Alica taking down Wendy Scott-Carr during the grand jury is a classic case.
  • Law Procedural
  • 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.
  • Love Triangle: Peter/Alicia/Will. The Cliff Hanger ending of the first season basically 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kalinda, who wears knee-high boots and low-cut tops.
  • No Party Given: Averted, just about every major character is stated to be a Democrat and the Democratic National Committee is even shown getting involved. Of course getting elected in Cook County as anything other than a Democrat is virtually impossible.
  • Not Quite Dead: Kozko.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Josh Charles decided to leave the show, so the writers killed off Will in a sudden courthouse shooting.
    • Though unlike most cases of this trope, the decision was made a year in advance, so the Kings constructed Season 5 to set up for it.
  • "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. Needless to say, 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 totally 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:
      1. 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.
      2. 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."
  • 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 another attractive young man (but still much older than her) at the house, and Alicia is clearly disapproving.
  • Shipper on Deck: In season 5, one NSA guy says he thinks Will and Diane will get together. The other says their relationship isn't sexual.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Smug Snake: Glenn Childs.
    • Also Colin Sweeney (played by Dylan Baker) zigzags between this and Magnificent Bastard, who appears in a couple of episodes.
      • Wendy Scott Carr. And how.
  • 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 Dont Tell Me found this hilarious.
  • Spit Take: Eli in the last second of "The Decision Key."
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.”
  • Title Drop: Well, not quite, but Eli does say to Alicia in 2x16 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Villain Decay: Glenn Childs went from rather cunning and vicious in season one to fairly incompetent and even 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 but deliberately 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).
  • 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's decision to leave resulted in Will Gardner's death seemingly at random and out of nowhere.
  • 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.
  • Word of Paul: Mike Colter, who plays Lemond Bishop, said on the A Fterbuzz videocast that Bishop got his MBA before going into the drug dealing business. He simply saw the drug game as the best place to use his skills.
  • Written-In Infirmity: Michael J. Fox plays a lawyer with a neurological disorder (not Fox's own Parkinson's, but close enough) which he plays up to gain sympathy from jurors he argues in front of.
    • Except for one time when it's an utter No Sell against a judge who himself suffers from a disability.
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alternative title(s): The Good Wife
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