This post contains spoilers for CBS’s legal drama, “The Good Wife”, up to Season 4 Episode 5 – Waiting for the Knock.
In a show peppered with ruthless lawyers, questionable clients, quirky judges and scheming politicians, it is unexpected that the most intriguing character could arguably be the enigmatic investigator extraordinaire, Kalinda Sharma.
Three years go by before we learn the first salient detail of her past. Enter Nick Saverese, an ex-convict who hires Lockhart-Gardner to handle a government bid for his tow truck enterprise.
Though their scenes were bound to raise some eyebrows, I was honestly surprised at the outrage that fans have shown towards Nick and his encounters with Kalinda.
Personally, I felt that Nick and their interactions shed a lot of light on Kalinda’s personality. I can totally see her as a gangster moll, the quintessential femme fatale.
This glimpse into her past explains her casual disregard for bending the law, as well as her unflappable composure in awkward or dangerous situations.
For all his bluster and use of violence, Nick was not half as alarming as Lemond Bishop’s quiet menace. What was even more evident, was that Kalinda was clearly not afraid of him or his wrath.
This just begged the question, “Why then was Kalinda so desperate to run away from Nick?”
I finally got my answer in the latest episode, “Waiting for the Knock”.
During their last scene together, when Kalinda quietly told him not to disrupt her life, Nick burst out furiously, “You made me love you! I can’t love anyone else, alright. I’ve tried. You are in my head.”
Kalinda sat beside him on the bed and almost tenderly said, “I’m not the same. You can see that. You want me to be what I was.”
As Nick looked at her in pained silence, I finally understood their relationship and their rather bizarre behaviour towards each other.
The rough handling, the sexual manipulation, the power plays, the mind games, these were all things that used to thrill Kalinda. Nick was not really trying to intimidate Kalinda, but rather to seduce her back into their old life together.
And Kalinda was not afraid of Nick, but rather that his presence would rekindle old desires. She was trying to run away from him because she was afraid he would draw her back into a lifestyle she wanted to leave behind.
Unlike everyone else in her current life, Nick knew what buttons to push and dared to do so. Since the start of season four, Kalinda has been off-balance and preoccupied by this practiced assault on her defenses.
However, in this last scene with Nick, Kalinda was clearly more bothered by his revelation of Lana’s surveillance than by his attempts to manipulate her.
When she pulled out of his grasp and left the apartment, it was without the usual undercurrent of suppressed desire. Nick is losing his hold on her.
We have seen how callous Kalinda can be with other people’s feelings, but this backstory with Nick really brought home this fact.
Nick is obviously someone who was very important to her in the past. However, when he was arrested and thrown into jail, Kalinda (aka Leela) apparently stole his money, burnt down their house and ran away to start a new life without him, with nary a backward glance. Wow, that is cold.
This really highlighted one thing for me – how much Kalinda values her friendship with Alicia, and to a lesser extent, her friendship with Cary.
Kalinda dissembles or refuses to answer, but she never really outright lies, not when it matters. Except for that one time early in the first season when Alicia found out that Kalinda visited Peter in prison to get information on a case they were trying.
When Alicia demanded to know how many times Kalinda visited Peter in prison, Kalinda rushed to deny any past involvement with Peter other than a working one. “Don’t go there. It’s not pertinent. And, it’s not true.” she said.
Of course, one year later, we find out that she slept with Peter in return for him covering up all tracks of her old identity. In the ensuing fallout, we see Kalinda, for quite possibly the first time, try to explain herself.
“I slept with him once. Yah, I do that, it means nothing to me but I do that. I didn’t know you, I’ve never even seen a picture of you. To me, you were just the housewife. Then I met you and I liked you. I liked working with you, I liked talking with you. I felt bad.”
Seriously, this was the same Kalinda who thought nothing of asking people, whose hearts she broke, for favours. The same Kalinda who gets close to people, who harbour feelings for her, in order to extract information. The same Kalinda who misleads and double-crosses (admittedly shady) people on a regular basis, with little or no guilt.
Why would someone as morally and ethically ambiguous as Kalinda actually feel bad about a one-night stand several years ago, which happened before she even knew Alicia?
Alicia seems to have that effect on people. Where Kalinda is most comfortable keeping her inner-self hidden, Alicia is an open book. Her affair with Will was like the worst kept secret ever. So many people found out or guessed just shortly after it started.
When Alicia broke it off, it was because she could not handle the secrecy and hiding anymore. “I can’t. It’s too much.” she said. Celeste (Will’s ex) even called their relationship “vanilla” and it really was.
In her bid to change her life, Kalinda might have been drawn to the relative normalcy that Alicia represented. By the same token, this might be why she resisted sleeping with Cary, despite their mutual attraction.
When Kalinda moved, she gave her new address to both Alicia and Cary, the two she considered her true friends. Whereas Alicia teased her mercilessly, “This is going in my copy of Eat, Pray, Love.”, Cary was surprised at being informed.
“Just felt normal,” Kalinda explained, “I like normal.” She might value his friendship too much to risk jeopardising it with romantic entanglements, which often seem to end badly for her.
Ah, the next episode looks exciting on the political and legal front as well, looking forward to more answers.