The opening of the Good Wife sets the stage for the main conflict in Alicia Florrick’s life, her husband’s dalliances with his money and sex life. While her husband stands addressing the media about these indiscretions, Alicia stands by his side absorbed in the lint stuck on his jacket. This minuscule object remains unseen by the journalists and cameras, but Alicia’s proximity to it allows her to see this pest in a magnified way. She reaches to pick it off, like a good wife, wanting her husband to be seen at his best. However, Peter Florrick just grabs her outstretched hand and carries her off into the back corridor. Finally, he has the decency to ask her if she is okay, to which she replies with a tumultuous slap to his face. The tension within their relationship is made clear within the first few minutes of this initial scene.
This initial scene, while illustrating Alicia’s loss and stakes in the series, also establishes the character arc of Peter Florrick who announces he has decided to run for re-election in the final scene of the season.
The next major character we meet is Will Gardner, an old friend of Alicia’s, possibly more. Alicia formally thanks him for this opportunity, and their conversation is interrupted by an irritating ringtone. Alicia explains that this is the ringtone her daughter has programmed into her phone for her mother-in-law. This scene not only gives a sense of Will and Alicia’s sentiments towards each other, but also provides information about two off-screen characters. The daughter is now associated with the mood of the ringtone- we get the sense that she does not like her grandmother much either by herself or along with Alicia. In addition, we get a sense of the grandmother as the new busy body caretaker type who has become the pesky housewife type who calls the main breadwinner at the most inopportune times. Furthermore, this scene establishes that Will would like to have dinner with Alicia to catch up, which while glazed over still hints at the underlying desire of Will towards Alicia, after all bosses do not usually have one on one dinners with their new employees to “catch up”.
Needless to say, his desires eventually culminate to a point of climax at the end of the season with a well-timed phone call to Alicia while she waits in the wings as her husband gives his announcement. To which she gives a great reply- “I need a plan.” This is what makes her a good wife- not her fidelity, but her outward appearance of order, her financial and emotional stability. When her husband fails, she picks up the pieces, cleans the lint of his suit, and finds her own emotional and financial stability to provide for their children.
However, the series with all its rich overlaying conflicts and characters remains empty without at least one or two rivals. Of course, over the series a few more are established, and each episode has its own obvious opposition on each case. However, in the first episode, the primary rival for a position at the company is established as Cary, a young cocky lawyer with great credentials, but not much experience in court. Naturally, he shows his admiration to a mother who has returned to work, then conveniently lets slip that they are in competition of which Alicia was not aware. This adds stakes to every case she is on, as well as in the future episode where the partners make a decision. Cary then works for a rival firm and is established as a renewed rival from outside of the company.
Now, how does this series relate to Fear Or Favour?
All of these elements- the character arcs, the conflicts, the parallels, and the order can be used within the narratives of our own show. The initial conflict remains as an overarching serial theme in the series while each episode remains episodic within its own cases. This dynamic of serial and episodic allows each episode to have a clear conclusion and yet continue along a trajectory which is established within a pilot. Therefore, within Fear Or Favour, while the pilot establishes a large subject which is close to the character’s home (literally), they also have to continue with their everyday work lives and schedules. We have established the high stakes as the life of the characters and the firm is now in peril with this scandal. We have also established a great rival within the law enforcement which can be a continual force of opposition in reference to the unfeeling and uncompromising laws.
Now to create the parallels and order…
As described above, a great way to end a season would be to have a parallel of the first scene of the pilot. This form of cyclical imagery allows for a more satisfying conclusion even when things are still tense or unclear, as seen in The Good Wife. While Alicia has overcome the rival for her position in the company, she may have helped establish Cary as an even bigger threat outside of it. In addition, the scandal around her husband still has not fully resolved- in fact, if anything its threat has increased with him running for office again. This hook is a simple yet effective tool to maintain viewership over the consecutive seasons, and will surely be a help if we employ it in our web series. So while The Good Wife may not be a web series, its structure, both serial and episodic, and seamless introduction of characters is a great starting point for our own creative endeavour.