Season 3 isn’t exactly my favourite season, and yet, I’m writing about it. Whilst the first two seasons focus primarily on Alicia’s re-entrance into the workforce, her attempts to move forward as she shields herself and her kids from increasing media attention and the reconstruction of her identity as everyone around her continues to define her by the actions they see – Season 3 is about exploring the past or a potential past – whether it be facing the consequences of past actions or getting the opportunity to find out if the ‘what-ifs’ are anywhere as good as expected.
There are the mini-arcs of supporting characters which are focused on the past – Will’s potential indictment the result of a mistake 15 years ago, Kalinda choosing to stay and face her (ex-) husband instead of running in 3x22, the return of Eli’s wife, Diane rekindling her relationship with Kurt and even Peter’s attempt to rectify his ‘okay’ stint in the SA office prior to the scandal. But for Alicia – it seems to be reconciling the person she was prior to the scandal, to the person she is now.
The season opens in the early stages of Alicia and Will’s ‘relationship’. With Alicia having removed Peter from her home and having cut off her closest friend, it’s an appropriate time to explore the ‘what-if’ the show has hinted at for a long time. Whether Alicia thought it would mean more than it did is something I’m not entirely sure about – but what it does is set the scene as Alicia builds more confidence – she’s on a partner track at work and her personal life isn’t a total bust. It creates the character who we see even more of in Season 4 – a woman who a) feels entitled to a partnership because she thinks she genuinely deserves it and b) someone who’s calling the shots in her romantic life instead of letting herself be ‘unprepared’ yet again. It’s probably not my favourite arc the show has ever done, mainly because their relationship isn’t underlined by anything else – that’s literally the entirety of Alicia’s character for ten episodes – but I liked the notion of dealing with a ‘what-if’ when it’s right in front of her. For someone whose image has been used endlessly over the last two years – as both the side-character and other half to a scandal and a comeback – Season 3 seems to be about capturing the person Alicia could’ve been without those experiences. Alicia and Will’s relationship fails because they don’t want the same things – Will won’t speak up for what he wants (he showed signs of doing so in 3x10 but you know the story). It also doesn’t work because the person Will ‘loved since Georgetown’ isn’t the person that exists. Whether she ever did, I’m not really sure – but based on the way Will pictures her in 5x10 (in his memories and his imagined cross-examination) – it seems Will’s image of her is a blend of the person he’s seen on TV over the course of 15 years (a place where Alicia mightn’t look as confident as she does in the courtroom) and the person he re-establishes a friendship in Season 1. Tangent aside, the point I was trying to make was that this arc seemed to be part of closing a chapter – in terms of letting this relationship rest (boy, that’s completely wrong) and embracing the idea that ‘what-ifs’ aren’t necessarily the better choice – they’re just the path that wasn’t chosen. When Alicia tells Will it wasn’t a mistake, it felt like the message that Alicia wasn’t making a bad decision – it was just she had the opportunity to see how another option could’ve panned out and she took it.
The latter half explores not only Alicia and Peter’s earlier relationship, but also her life as a Highland Park mum. Honestly, the last four episodes of this season are so good (though I really don’t like Jackie’s intrusion) – and it’s because we get to see the Alicia on the day of the scandal in contrast to the successful marriage/family she had right up till she found out the truth. The way the season finishes with Alicia standing outside her family home (basically) was lovely and heartbreaking, in that the inside would’ve been her life if Peter didn’t cheat. Alicia has come so far since the pilot, but with a season focused so much on the past and ‘what-ifs’ – it’s fitting that the ultimate ‘what-if’ would be if none of it ever happened. It’s a lovely finish to a very uneven Season 3, because it’s the last time in a while (until 5x15-5x16) that Alicia allows herself to continue on whilst exploring the past. (Mid-) Season 4 is a fresh start, in that everything in the past has happened, but it’s no longer at the forefront of her mind.