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On Set of The Good Wife Finale: Raising the Stakes With Yet Another "Game Changer" After a Traumatic Season

The Good Wife CBS

It's been a year of change for The Good Wife. At the start of season five, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) started on her march toward independence by leaving her law firm home and striking out on her own with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry). In doing so, she made an enemy out of former lover Will Gardner (Josh Charles). But everything changed again 10 episodes later when [giant spoiler alert if you are not caught up] Will was shot and killed at the courthouse.

As Alicia grappled with the death of a man she loved, she made another change: No longer was she going to be Peter's (Chris Noth) wife. She'd be a political tool for him just as he would be for her. They'd be married in name only. No more pretend relationship. Alicia Florrick has been changed…for the better?

READ: Will The Good Wife give Carrie Preston a spinoff?

"I guess I'm most pleased with her no-bulls--t tolerance, that she's come to a place in her life where the idea that anyone thinking poorly of her would stop her from doing what she wants to do," Margulies told E! News.

"She has just this level of tolerance now that is such a fine line between choosing the right thing and not caring, and I think it's given her tremendous strength…She finally realizes it's sink or swim, which is sort of coming full circle from the pilot where she was hit with a different dilemma and a different tragedy, and she is a survivor. She only has one choice. She doesn't have the luxury of staying in bed for the rest of her life. She has two children and responsibilities, so I love the way that she's now going to attack her life coming from a different point of view, and it really has nothing to do with men this time. It has to do with her own survival and what she wants."

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The Good Wife CBS

Just like that, The Good Wife ended the Team Will and Team Peter war. The love triangle is gone. In a way, Margulies said she's happy to be free of it—save for Josh Charles being off the show. "The show's monkey on its back for a long time was the love triangle, which was really great and fun, but at a certain point it seemed to steer the show in a direction that was a little more Grey's Anatomy," series co-creator Robert King said. "It always felt like what we wanted was have it be about Alicia's development as a person onto herself."

And Alicia will continue to grow. The finale sets the stage for a whole new Good Wife. Sound familiar?

We were on set as The Good Wife capped off its banner year with the appropriately titled episode "A Weird Year." A past case rears its head again, putting Alicia and Lockhart/Gardner on edge. Howard Lyman (Jerry Adler) was brought in to depose Alicia in the Lockhart/Gardner boardroom. And in typical fashion when it comes to Howard, not everything went according to plan. A takeout menu is involved.

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"Oh my god, that was truly one of my favorite scenes of the entire season, only because Jerry Adler is just one of my favorite people on the planet, and he was so funny," Margulies said. "I was biting the inside of my cheeks because I didn't want to throw him off, and it was so funny."

Alicia and Lockhart/Gardner are involved with a $6 million lawsuit and things get "pretty ugly." "What I love about the show is you never know who's on the right side, and I love that ambiguity," Margulies said. "I love that we don't patronize the audience by giving them complete answers, that they get to say, 'Well, wait a minute, what would I do? Was that right or wrong? Was that lowballing?'"

Everything gets more complicated thanks to a common real-life occurrence: Florrick/Agos gets a window into Lockhart/Gardner when the people on the LG side turn off their teleconferencing monitor, not the whole system. It's something that happens to many—including Robert and Michele King. "[It's a] great ethical question that lawyers deal with called unintended disclosure, which is the idea, ‘Are you ethically bound to tell the other side that they have left the window open? Or left a file in a bar?' So that's kind of the springboard for an episode that really focuses on our main cast," Robert said.

READ: How Josh Charles calmed Parks and Rec's Retta down after his Good Wife exit

The Good Wife CBS

That's just the tip of it. "In a few words, I would say it's game-changing for Alicia," Margulies told us.

Alicia's been grappling with what to do with her life since Will's death. She's having an existential crisis of sorts. She's no longer Saint Alicia, especially after kicking Peter to the curb. "It's a slippery slope where she's going," Margulies said. "And I think the season finale—I don't want to ruin anything—but Eli poses a very interesting question and it gives us a great springboard for next season that will bring politics back in the foreground, and it puts Alicia in a very different place and I think now she's looking for power."

"For me, the finale is about tapping into a different side of Alicia and her being left with this question of, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I can do that.' That's all I can say."

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And it's not just Alicia who will be facing life-changing decisions as The Good Wife says goodbye to a dramatic—and traumatic—year.

"[F]or me, the final episode was actually very moving. I mean, my journey in that final episode when I walk out of the firm and meet Kalinda on the street—I was very moved by that. It's not as shocking in the way it was shocking to walk in the emergency room and see Will's body. It's not that kind of shocking, but shocking in terms of the life change," Christine Baranski, Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife, told us. "It's one of the top three. The first one was the dissolution of the firm, throwing Alicia out of the firm with Cary, the second was Will's death, and I think the third big one will be the finale."

Brace yourselves for a cliffhanger, but not a life-threatening one. Think more along the lines of season four where Alicia opened her door to Cary, not Will, and decided to leave Lockhart/Gardner. "There's a similar thing—actually two—at the end of season five that sets the table for season six," Robert said. "We kind of like those cliffhangers that aren't as binary either/or, they kind of in theory get you excited about what's coming and wondering ‘What will that be like?'"

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The Good Wife, Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski CBS

After such a headline-grabbing season, Baranski said it's time for everybody to relax.

"I think everybody should kind of breathe a collective sigh of deep release that it was over because it was such a traumatic season, and you have to hold on to that tension, that grief, that sense of trauma that happened this season," she said. "You have to bring it into the work take after take and week after week, and Juliana and Josh and I, we all had burgers when we met at a tavern the day after our finale work, and it was well-deserved, let me put it that way. It was a well-deserved martini."

As for next year? A challenge awaits The Good Wife. "It's the same challenge that Alicia faces, which is how does she move her life forward now that Will Gardner is no longer there to anchor it—even though he wasn't really anchoring it?" Michelle King said. "It's how she figures out how to move forward successfully and contend with what is a real lose and not allow it to upend her life."

The Good Wife airs Sundays, 9 p.m. on CBS.

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