A Tribute To Diane Lockhart
Photo Courtesy of CBS
BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL
The confidence. The professionalism. The statement necklaces. Diane Lockhart had it all.
The Good Wife may have centered around Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), but Diane (Christine Baranski) was who I wanted to be. Her well-drawn character was a role model for women in general, though especially for those of us outside the coveted 18-49 demographic. She represented the 50-plus female as someone oozing intelligence, leadership, sophistication – and she was sexy. (FYI: There are fashion blogs dedicated to the fictional lawyer’s oversized jewelry and form-fitting clothing.)
Diane is one of the founding partners of Chicago’s Lockhart/Gardiner, the firm where Alicia rejoined the workforce after her politician husband was convicted for using state funds to pay for call girls.
Right off the bat, we knew who she was: driven, composed, and a good administrator; ethical, yet realistic; and a serious person, but hardly humorless, in fact, her wry remarks reminded me of Bette Davis as “Margo Channing” in All About Eve. In one of the episodes, Diane even got to deliver a variation on, “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
When asked who she looked to for inspiration in bringing Diane to life, Baranski, 62, immediately answered, “Hillary Clinton,’’ who showed a combo of the high-mindedness and personal ambition that the actress wanted to make clear that Diane had.
Although I always appreciated that she held herself to a very high standard, what I really admired most was the way she kept her emotions in check. As someone who has always been ruled by hers, I would watch Diane and think: How is she not freaking out at these people? Alicia in particular.
Even though Diane had become a de facto mentor to the younger, less savvy attorney, she found a way to take it in stride aka not personally, when Alicia and Cary left the firm to start their own. When she lost the judgeship, Diane accepted that she was a victim of bureaucracy and backdoor politics, and moved on. And when Will Gardner was fatally shot in court by a deranged client, and she had to identify his body she cried with quiet dignity. When she returned to her firm, Diane, albeit fragile, remained refined and firm as she fired a weeping intern who’d barely known her law partner, as well as an important client, who had the insensitivity to expect her to get down to business as usual.
According to Baranski, Diane’s saving grace was that: “She goes home to her cowboy husband Kurt, (played by Gary Cole), they cook and have great sex.”
Which brings us to the last scene of the last episode. In order to save Peter, Alicia throws Kurt under the bus, having his lawyer, Luca, reveal that Kurt has been cheating on Diane. (Without getting into the whole scenario, this information makes questionable Kurt’s testimony against Peter.)
Diane sits at the defendant’s table and suffers in silence as long as humanly possible, then gets up, and walks out of the courtroom head held high.
When we see her again, she confronts Alicia and delivers wordlessly a smack heard ‘round the world, leaving the politician’s soon-to-be ex-wife holding the side of her red, hand-printed cheek.
Then Diane walks away. Knowing her as I do after seven seasons, she will keep going, moving forward, once again a strong single woman, and head of the newly formed all-female law firm.
I will miss The Good Wife being part of my Sunday nights, but I will mostly feel the loss of Diane Lockhart showing me how it’s done. Perhaps if I put on a statement necklace, I’ll be able to channel her when I need to deliver a smart comeback line, remember that mature is enviable, as well as to keep calm and carry on.