When a dramatic series reaches its fifth season, there are often moratoriums on whether the show might want to consider packing it in. Actors come to the end of their contracts, writers start running out of original things to say about their characters, and the media generally moves on to newer, flashier things. Classic series like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law had problems at this period in their run, ER, The West Wing and Grey's Anatomy began to fall victim to problems around this time (though they lasted many years longer), and while The X-Files offered some very brilliant episodes, it is generally conceded that the mythology and the move from Vancouver to Hollywood after season 5 creatively killed the series.
Then there are the wonderful exceptions to this rule. Homicide and 24 generally did some of their best work in the shows fifth season. And now it seems that CBS' The Good Wife seems to have become, if anything, stronger, after a well above-average fourth season. It has made many critics top ten lists, and earlier this month, was nominated for Best Drama by the Golden Globes.
How did they do it? By doing something that few series have been willing to do at any time--- tear apart their foundation. Alicia Florrick, after enduring an emotional roller coaster throughout the latter part of season 4, waited until her husband was elected governor before planning to quit Lockhart-Gardener to form her own law firm with friendly-rival Cary. Knowing how dangerous this would be, they spent three episodes secretly trying to maneuver an exit--- all of which was blown to hell in the episode appropriately titled 'Hitting The Fan'.In one of the best episodes of 2013, Will, already moved toward righteous anger when Diane torpedoed him in order to negotiate her own exit from the firm, exploded when he learned his former lover was leaving the firm. Trying to figure out who he can trust, he and the rogue lawyers spent an hour playing chess, trying to grab the biggest clients--- including computer giant ChumHum. Not to be outdone, Peter, never Will's biggest ally, detonated two depth charges, one that caused Chumhum to go with Alicia's firm, the other destroying Diane's chance to serve on the State Supreme Court. Will has yet to recover from either of these maneuvers, and now seems determined to become bigger and stronger than any firm in the country, and if that means saying good-bye to being a nice guy, so be it.
For all that, it seems he still can not let go of Alicia's betrayal. In the last episode of 2013, Will took a case to manipulate Alicia out of benefiting from a former client's bequest, as an opportunity to emotionally destroy her, doing so completely in his mind. But when it actually played out, it was clear that she was completely ahead of him, and managed to dodge every attack he threw at her.
Watching Alicia's firm struggle for survival has been fascinating, particularly considering that in the last episodes, she seems to be having severe doubts about how Cary seems to be making big decisions without her.. She seems to have chosen her husband over Will, but now she seems to wonder if there was a better way to get there. And everyone connected to the firm seems to be forced to choose sides on every decision.
Furthermore, the ramifications have been felt elsewhere. Will's most recent unilateral hire was a criminal attorney with a very decided unethical approach (Jason O'Mara) He has also been extremely reluctant, even determined to make sure that no one find out anything for doing a background check, which has already led to fun scenes involving Kalinda and a cop who's clearly been a notch on his bedpost, and now Kalinda's.
Earlier this years, CBS network head Les Moonves protested how unfair it was for the Emmys to ignore network programs in favor of ones on cable where the restrictions on violence and sex are far looser. Considering how great the series has been the last few months (and its never really been anything lower than great), this year will come as a huge challenge to Emmy voters to not nominated it for Best Drama, along with acting nods for just about everyone else. The Good Wife has picked up the gauntlet that Breaking Bad lay down when it aired its final episode, daring any other show to rival it.