When The Good Wife debuted in 2009, one of its most exciting elements was the friendship between Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) and Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi). Alicia was a political wife making a second go at a law career, while Kalinda was an investigator with very few moral scruples. Together, they were an incredibly effective team.
Then, after the 14th episode of season four, they stopped sharing scenes together. BuzzFeed was the first to notice this trend, with an article pointing out how weird this was for a major ensemble drama, where just about everybody should be sharing scenes with just about everybody. But soon, Alicia and Kalinda's "separation" had become part of the show's lore. Whatever happened to prompt this decision, it seemed suitably weighty.
Panjabi opted to leave The Good Wife at the end of its current, sixth season, and thus the last few episodes have been marked by fans wondering whether the two characters would "reunite" before her exit. In a flashback scene in the season's penultimate episode, Alicia and Kalinda were meant to be in the same space together, but everything was filmed in a series of close-ups that never placed actresses Margulies and Panjabi in the same frame. (See Indiewire for more.)
The show's creators, Robert and Michelle King, promised Vulture that the season-six finale would feature one last scene where Kalinda and Alicia appeared in the same place at the same time, unmistakably.
Except when that scene finally aired late in the episode, it wasn't very convincing at all.
Here's the moment when Kalinda sits down next to Alicia. Notice how little it seems like the two actresses are occupying the same space:
The most damning element here is the eyelines. Even if Alicia hates Kalinda, she would at least look at her former friend as said former friend sat down. But in the shot above, Alicia just sort of glances in the general direction of where Kalinda might be.
Then the scene settles into a bunch of over-the-shoulder shots of the two actresses, like so:
In and of themselves, these images aren't remarkable. The over-the-shoulder shot is one of the most basic in all of TV, because it allows a director to create the impression that both actors are present with only one of them having to be on the set. You might think you're looking at Kalinda or Alicia in the stills above, but you're actually looking at the obscured back of someone's head. It could be anyone.
The over-the-shoulder shot works for TV because it frees up actors to do other things. Producing television is so much about speed that any time an actor can be off at a costume fitting or working on lines or even just preparing for another shot is valuable.
But it also contributes to the sense that Margulies and Panjabi aren't sharing this physical space together.
As does this. Look at this red line:
Kalinda crosses this line exactly once during the scene, in the few shots where we see the actresses together. When she does, she's nowhere near Alicia. (Notice, also, how weird Margulies's eyeline is in the screenshot above. She's just sort of looking at Kalinda's hands or something.)
What I'm getting at here is that this scene from The Good Wife's finale feels split-screened. It's a process that is usually employed to allow the same actor to occupy the same frame multiple times. In its most basic form, it involves an invisible line down the center of the screen that the actor doesn't cross, so that the two halves of the shot can be meshed together.
Once you know what you're looking for, split-screen becomes pretty easy to spot. The most famous variation on it that you might be familiar with is from The Parent Trap:
Of course, it's impossible to prove that Alicia and Kalinda's final scene together was split-screened, and neither CBS nor the Kings are going to say anything definitive. To admit it would be to essentially admit the long separation between Alicia and Kalinda was driven by something other than plot.
The chief evidence against the The Good Wife's possible use of split-screen in this scene is just how clunky it is. It looks hastily tossed together. If low-budget Orphan Black over on BBC America can convincingly put four different versions of the same actress in the same frame, surely The Good Wife could do a better job faking two completely different actresses sitting at the same bar.
But then you see something like this, the one time Kalinda and Alicia physically interact (by clinking their glasses together), and you realize that the actual glass touch happens in an over-the-shoulder shot (of Alicia's face), before cutting to a split-second after their glasses pull apart. The sound effect of the glasses clinking masks the fact that they don't actually touch in a shot containing both actresses.
C'mon. You have to admit it's a little weird.
Maybe Margulies and Panjabi were really there on set together, but if so, then why shoot the scene in such a way as to suggest they weren't? It's a bizarre creative choice, no matter which way you cut it, but that's in keeping with a Good Wife season that's felt as if it's been primarily driven by bizarre creative choices.
Update: Over at TV Line, Michael Ausiello has learned that the scene was, indeed, faked by using body doubles.