Alicia joins Stern, Lockhart & Gardner, a prestigious Chicago law firm, where she’s competing for a full-time associate position with Cary Agos, a clever young attorney willing to put in the long hours Alicia often can’t commit to. However, she has the trust of her former law school classmate, Will Gardner, and she wins over Diane Lockhart, another partner, due to her dedication and hard work. She slowly makes the transition from embarrassed wife to career woman able to provide for her two children, Grace and Zach.
At the beginning of the season, Alicia’s husband Peter is in jail. Their relationship is cold, but still cordial. However, he’s later put on house arrest and then cleared of all charges, which brings him back into Alicia’s life full-time. After his trial is over, Peter plans to run for office again, with the help of Eli Gold, an image consultant.
Meanwhile, our protagonist is clearly attracted to Will, who is also interested in rekindling their relationship. She finds a friend and ally in Kalinda, who makes it a point never to reveal too much about herself, but is always there when Alicia needs a drinking buddy.
The end of season one finds Alicia with a full-time position at the law firm, winning the race with Cary, who takes a job at the State’s Attorney’s office. She once again stands by her husband as he announces his candidacy for State’s Attorney, ignoring a call from Will in which he professes his feelings. Will leaves a voicemail, but Eli deletes it, knowing that a divorce would hurt Peter’s political career.
Season two involved multiple storylines. Peter is running for State’s Attorney against Glenn Childs and encounters several setbacks throughout the campaign. Lockhart & Gardner brings in a new partner, Derrick Bond, which leads to a feud between Diane and Will. They later work together to get rid of him, but not before Bond brings in a new investigator, Blake. Blake has his eyes set on Kalinda and is determined to uncover her past.
We find out that the resourceful investigator used to go by the name of Leela and that she slept with Peter when she was working at the State’s Attorney office. Alicia finds out about their affair on the night that Peter is re-elected for State’s Attorney. She kicks him out, and her relationship with Kalinda goes sour. The season ends with Alicia and Will together at a hotel, riding the elevator to the penthouse suite to celebrate the fact that, finally, they have good timing.
Alicia is now on track to become partner, while simultaneously having an affair with her boss. The two enjoy some steamy moments together, until Alicia decides that juggling a career, a family, and an extramarital relationship is too much. She calls it off.
Meanwhile, Peter is now State’s Attorney and battles with Lockhart & Gardner on a regular basis, while the law firm encounters some money troubles. Eli joins the firm as a crisis manager, to prepare for Peter’s campaign for Governorship of Illinois. Wendy-Scott Carr investigates allegations that Will stole money from his old firm in Baltimore and gets Will suspended for six months. This leads to a power struggle at Lockhart & Gardner, but it’s nothing that Will and Diane can’t handle.
Following Will’s suspension, Alicia takes on some of his workload, including Kalinda’s tax case. She finds an un-cashed check and calls the number, which leads to a series of unfortunate events for the investigator. We find out that Kalinda has a husband, a dangerous man who now knows where she is. She plans on leaving Chicago, but later changes her mind and decides to face the man from her past with courage… and a charged gun.
In other news, Alicia is faced with eviction and wants to buy her old house, but finds that she’s short on money. She asks for a raise, which Diane agrees to. However, she finds out that her mother-in-law purchased the house for Peter. The season ends with Alicia dropping the kids off at her new house, to spend the weekend with Peter.
Season four of the show focuses on Lockhart & Gardner’s struggle to come out from bankruptcy. A trustee is appointed to watch over the firm, and the partners aren’t happy when he starts making changes. The firm offers partnership to some of the associates, including Alicia and Cary (who’s now back with the firm), in order to cash in their capital contributions. Once their debt is cleared though, they delay the partnerships, causing a small riot among the associates. To calm things down, they make Alicia partner; while the rest of her colleagues keep silently plotting for their revenge.
Peter runs for Governor and, as expected, things don’t go as smoothly as he’d hope. Alicia finds a new friend in Maddie Hayward, who donates money to Peter’s campaign, but is utterly disappointed when she finds out that Maddie decided to run against him. Also, Alicia is now back with Peter, but she still deals with some residual feelings for Will.
A secondary plot involves Kalinda, whose husband Nick is back in town, ready to complicate her already complicated life even more.
At the end of the season, Peter becomes Governor, and Alicia decides to join Cary and the other fourth-year associates to start their own firm.
Alicia and Cary leave Lockhart & Gardner to start a new firm, taking a few clients in the process. However, the fierce backlash from their ex-employers makes for a rocky start, and they will soon feel like they’re in way over their heads. Luckily, they manage to move forward despite all the obstacles and they get the firm up and running. Peter is now governor, but has to deal with an investigation of a ballot box that may end up ruining his career.
In the middle of the season, all hell breaks lose. Will is fatally shot in a courtroom, leaving his colleagues devastated. As a side note, it’s almost incredible how the creators managed to keep John Charles’ departure from the show under wraps for so long, ensuring everybody’s shock when watching the episode. The series dealt with his death in a gracious, but gripping way. It was unexpected and sudden, leaving no room for prolonged goodbyes. Just as death often is in real life.
Will’s murder had a tremendous effect on many of the characters, mainly Alicia, Diane, and Kalinda. All the actors delivered sublime performances following Will’s premature departure. Alicia decided to split up from Peter – they would only stay married in the public’s eye, since it benefited both their careers. Louis Canning joins Lockhart & Gardner as a partner, but plots to kick Diane out of the firm.
As the season draws to a close, Diane asks if she could join Florrick & Agos, Zach goes away to college, and Eli asks Alicia if she would like to run for State’s Attorney.