(CBS) -- You can call it one of the best-kept TV secrets.
Viewers tuning in to CBS' "The Good Wife" Sunday night probably thought they would see how the case of Jeffrey Grant (returning guest star Hunter Parrish) would play out, along with the usual legal drama and romantic nuances.
But what they didn't expect to see was the death of lawyer Will Gardner (Josh Charles), a main character on the hit series that premiered five season ago.
The episode, titled "Dramatics, Your Honor," started off as normal episodes do with visits to the courtroom and scenes from a bustling office. But it ended in bloodshed.
The crux of the episode centered around touch DNA, or DNA transferred via skin cells and how it pertained to Jeffrey, who was on trial for the murder of fellow college student Dani. Jeffrey's defense attorney, Will, had been trying to find some other way (aside from murder) that DNA found on the victim's fingernails could have gotten there.
So he had Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) pursuing several angles: Did Dani and Jeffrey take out the same book from the library? Perhaps they visited the same coffee shop? The last angle almost seemed like it could be Jeffrey's ticket to innocence. The college student injured his arm and was admitted to the hospital on the same day as Dani. What made it all the more interesting was that Kalinda learned that paramedics may not have switched the sheets, possibly leading to a DNA transfer.
But in the end -- it was too late. In one of those edge-of-your-seat moments, the focus turned to Jeffrey in the courtroom. He appeared to be having some sort of breakdown as Will and the prosecuting lawyer spoke separately to the judge. When Jeffrey noticed that the latch on a courtroom police officer's gun belt was undone, he stole the gun and launched into a shooting spree inside.
Much of the action wasn't shown, but the shots heard could send shivers down your spine. Not knowing what was going on made it all the more suspenseful. Kalinda, who was down the hall, tried to get inside the courtroom to see what had happened. People were crouched down behind benches, but aside from a shoe that appeared to be Will's, it was unclear who was alive and who wasn't. Jeffrey was seen with a gun to his head, but he had already run out of bullets.
The whole time, one couldn't help but think that there's no way that Will could be dead. Wrong. When Kalinda and Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) arrived at the hospital, they learned that Will did not survive.
Kalinda and Diane tried to get in touch with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) to let her know, but she wasn't answering her phone as she was at a correspondents' luncheon. As the luncheon's guest comedian, played by Will Vought, carried on in the background, Alicia stepped away to take the call.
Then the episode ended.
Series creators Robert and Michelle King explained the major plot twist in a letter to fans:
We, like you, mourn the loss of Will Gardner. And while Will is gone, our beloved Josh Charles is very much alive and remains an integral part of our family.
The Good Wife, at its heart, is the "Education of Alicia Florrick." To us, there always was a tragedy at the center of Will and Alicia's relationship: the tragedy of bad timing. And when faced with the gut punch of Josh's decision, made over a year ago, to move on to other creative endeavors, we had a major choice to make.
We could "send him off to Seattle," he could be disbarred, or get married, or go off to Borneo to do good works. But there was something in the passion that Will and Alicia shared that made distance a meager hurdle. The brutal honesty and reality of death speaks to the truth and tragedy of bad timing for these two characters. Will's death propels Alicia into her newest incarnation.
Death also created a new dramatic "hub" for the show. We're always looking for these turning points--- some event midway through the season that will spin everybody's lives in new directions. These turning points keep the show from slipping into a numbing sameness, and keep the characters fresh: because you see how they react to a completely new status quo. Will's death in many ways becomes a hub for the whole series, violently spinning everybody in new directions.
Finally, we chose the tragic route for Will's send-off for personal reasons. We've all experienced the sudden death of a loved one in our lives. It's terrifying how a perfectly normal and sunny day can suddenly explode with tragedy. Television, in our opinion, doesn't deal with this enough: the irredeemability of death. Your last time with the loved one will always remain your last time. The Good Wife is a show about human behavior and emotion, and death, as sad and unfair as it can be, is a part of the human experience that we want to share.
Thank you for listening...and watching and caring and inspiring us to rise to the level of your passion and intelligence. There are seven wonderful episodes to follow this season and Josh will be directing one of them. We think you will enjoy them. It's not all tears -- there is comedy too. Michael J. Fox is back for four episodes. Dylan Baker. Dallas Roberts. Stockard Channing, as well as amazing new guest actors. And of course, Julianna does some of the best work of her life. Archie, Christine, Alan, Chris and Matt as well. Life does go on.
We've always taken as a guiding principle of this show that drama isn't in the event; it's in the aftermath of the event. We think you'll find that true of this episode. Thank you for your devotion to the show - we are continually grateful.
With all our thanks,
Robert & Michelle King