Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) stole the show on "The Good Wife" episode "Alienation of Affection," proving once again that the writers have done a stunning job creating interesting and appealing female characters on the successful drama series. Recent reports from a "Good Wife" panel of actors and writers reveals, however, that Diane was actually intended to be a completely different character than the one she's evolved to. Turns out we're very lucky to have the sharp, cool, admirable queen bee of Lockhart Gardner that we've grown to love.
If you think back on the Season 1 episodes of "The Good Wife," it wasn't clear what Diane's intentions were when it came to Alicia (Julianna Margulies). Certainly she seemed to be someone our lead character should be wary of. In fact, that January Times Talks panel revealed that Diane was originally to be "the mentor who tries to sabotage the mentee." Fortunately for us, the show creators fell in love with Diane and Baranski's portrayal, and decided to go another way.
Novelist Jason Andrew Bond recently wrote a compelling piece on creating female characters, and the problems with how strong women are usually portrayed: "These women are either delicate, high-heeled fashion foils, serving as a mark of success for the leading man, or are stark bitches, taking on the worst aspects of the male ego and masquerading that as real strength." The beauty of "The Good Wife" is that there is a whole range of personality types, and a range of strengths. While Alicia has "power in silence," Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) has power in action, sometimes less-than-ethical action.
Diane's strength is in her convictions, her intelligence, and political savvy. It was fantastic to watch her, in "Alienation of Affection," immediately take control of the battle brewing between Eli (Alan Cumming) and David Lee (Zach Grenier). As she calmly but firmly called their bluffs and sent them slinking back to their offices, she even earned a bit of a grudgingly respectful smile from Eli. This is another enjoyable aspect of "The Good Wife," the way that it's so rarely about man vs. woman -- it's all about who can wield their power more bravely and wisely.
Baranski herself addresses the usual stereotypes when she says of the character: "She's a woman over 50 who doesn't go home and drink herself into a stupor. And she's not a bitch." We can't help wondering if this is perhaps a subtle dig at the original "Prime Suspect," which perhaps did not do as much justice to its female character as she deserved. Hopefully Diane will have a better fate.
The Future of Diane
As do all of the characters on "The Good Wife," Diane has many layers. Just when we think we know her, she turns and does something a little unexpected. Definitely she's driven by her success with the firm, and isn't afraid to push the limits of legality, friendship, and more to keep the business going. Though Diane has often stood by her partners and underlings, we can't forget the recent issue with Alicia's accused terrorist client in Episode 3, "Executive Order 13224." Our favorite Florrick got into a sticky situation with the Treasury Department, and felt that Diane and Will might have been more interested in the firm's interests ahead of hers. Enter the delightfully quirky and brilliant lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston), who's now been hired by Will in "Alienation of Affection."
So, while Diane may no longer be the saboteur to Alicia, we can't be certain they'll always be on the same side of things. That's the beauty of "The Good Wife" -- the realistic unpredictability of human nature. Another treat will be seeing if Diane's romance with the process server Jack Copeland (Bryan Brown) continues, and if he'll have any further inside info that might help the firm. Whatever the story lines, we hope that Diane continues to avoid stereotyping. Baranski hopes she might even be a role model: "Television doesn't just reflect culture -- it can move culture forward."
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