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A Stunning 'Good Wife' Death: Why Did [SPOILER] Get Killed Off?

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Warning: Major spoilers ahead.

Plot twist? What happened on "The Good Wife" this week was so shocking, we need a new term for it.

The CBS series left viewers stunned after killing off one of its lead characters, Will Gardner (played by Josh Charles). The jaw-dropping turn of events happened as Will was defending a young client on trial for murder. The nervous, fragile client lost it, grabbed a bailiff's gun, and fired several shots in the courtroom. One of those shots hit Will in the neck — and he died.

There was absolutely no hint that Charles, an Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated original cast member and the show's male lead, was departing (good job on locking down those spoilers, Michelle and Robert King). But, according to a letter written by the Kings (the show's creators) to fans, the actor first approached the showrunners last year about leaving at the end of Season 4.

[Related: CBS Renews 'The Good Wife,' 'NCIS,' 'Two and a Half Men,' and 15 Others]

Julianna Margulies, his co-star and a "Good Wife" producer, persuaded Charles to stay on for part of Season 5 so the writers could plan his exit. The staff considered keeping Will alive but sending him away, much like "ER" did with Margulies's love interest, Dr. Ross (played by George Clooney). Instead, they ended up going big.

And ratings were big, too: Sunday's "Good Wife" earned the series its best ratings in the key 18-49 demo since January, despite being delayed on the East Coast by the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The Kings even took the unusual step of penning a letter to fans explaining the shocking development (which you can read below):

A Stunning 'Good Wife' Death: Why Did [SPOILER] Get Killed Off?

(CBS)

Will’s death set Twitter aflame (#TheGoodWife trended all evening) as traumatized fans expressed their sadness, disappointment, outrage, and concern for what might happen next on the show:

As for what happens next, Michael J. Fox is booked for another guest stint, as is Dylan Baker. And Matthew Goode, whose prosecutor character survived the shooting, will be sticking around.

But as Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) says in the preview for the rest of the season, no one can replace Will.

RIP, Will Gardner.

"The Good Wife" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS.