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Monday, October 24, 2016

I Wonder What It’ll Be Like If She Ends Up Being A President’s Kid Again #Conviction #ABC #3weekroundup

I Wonder What It’ll Be Like If She Ends Up Being A President’s Kid Again #Conviction #ABC #3weekroundup

All pictures courtesy of ABC 

Please excuse me as I am deathly behind on my three-week roundup reviews of this Fall’s new shows. I am trying to squeeze so much stuff into such a small, cramped space of time that I haven’t been able to pump these babies out at the high rate I’m used to. It’s been hard trying to find the time to watch everything as quickly as possible, but don’t fret, for I have another review/recap of a new show right here for you now. This time we have ABC’s new show Conviction. Will this show confine you to its viewership stable or will you be crying out, “give us us free!” after a handful of episodes? Let’s find out.

ABC’s Conviction (#Conviction) stars Hayley Atwell fresh off her semi-star-making stint as Agent Peggy Carter for the Marvel universe. Here, she plays attorney Hayes Morrison, a rather complicated lady who grew up as the daughter of a very famous and powerful man. In fact, he was the most powerful man on earth. He was the US President. That’s right, the character of Hayes is a complete Hollywood makeover of Chelsea Clinton’s life with two swigs of the Bush daughters splashed in for good humor. Not only was her father the president, but he also cheated on her mother, everyone in the US knows that, and her mother is now running for senator of New York state. Hayes even lives in the Big Apple where she’s sure to be mingling with the new version of beatniks, someone who thinks he’s the next Andy Warhol, and the 21st-century yuppy who still uses the word Kafkaesque liberally in casual party conversation, though they have no idea what it really means. A party girl (we’re talking Pharrell Williams, Everybody Nose; obscure reference. I ain’t got time, look it up), we find our vulnerable hero in jail in a holding cell when first we meet her. Why? She’s been booked on possession of cocaine, and instantly we know a great deal about her character.
Hayes, unlike Chelsea Clinton but very much so like the Bush sisters, has used her life in the public eye as fuel and reason for her to rebel against her parents’ image at every turn. She despises her father for cheating (maybe there’s some lingering anger there), but instead of shirking from the paparazzi-shutters, she half-embraces it while loathing it all at once. Her look-at-me levels are astronomical as she has used every juncture of her adulthood to piss off anybody who cared for her. Speaking of people who cared for her, enter DA Conner Wallace, played by Eddie Cahill recently off of the canceled Under the Dome. An old... something (we later learn the depth of their relationship), he finds her in jail and makes her an offer she can’t refuse, not for lack of trying. His offer: run his newly minted CIU or Conviction Integrity Unity for him and he’ll make the charges go away. At first, Hayes refuses even after he mentions things about her mother running for election and yadda, yadda, yadda, but she eventually caves when she remembers how little she wants to be featured as the main cause for her family’s strife. Plus, it could be fun to screw with both Conner and her mother in a far more interesting way.


What is the Conviction Integrity Unit? Simple, it looks into past convictions prosecuted by the city and the DA’s office and makes sure that the people who were convicted are actually guilty. This does not mean that they are like the Innocence Project which looks to prove someone is innocent of a crime—a fact the show has made abundantly clear. They want to make sure that justice was served. How do they do this? Review the evidence, visit the convicted, entertain wilder theories than were conceived before, then give their recommendation on if the conviction should stand, if it should be overturned or if it demands retrial after original burden of proof was debunked.

It’s a very good concept and a great way to re-configure the old law show. I vaguely remember a similar idea on a Dick Wolf show over at NBC in the early aughts, starring one of the lawyers from the Law and Order franchise in the same role. In fact, it might’ve had the same name as this show. Huh.

Anyway, Conner wants a good win for the first case and gives her five days to figure out what she wants to do with each case. This is all about making him look good for when he runs for office the next election cycle. Making him look good doesn’t mean making his original conviction of a case stronger, but simply getting the facts right so that it looks like he is solely about justice rather than a high conviction rate. One of the many problems Hayes first has with the job is that she doesn’t get to pick her own team; that’s been done for her. She is flanked by people who already had their job and really don’t trust her to be or act any other way than like the selfish, entitled, spoiled little privileged white girl that she grew up as and has done nothing to change the narrative of in the public eye. Her first meet: Sam Spencer played by Shawn Ashmore, who I only recently learned has a twin. Ha! Yeah. I didn’t know that. The ADA that Conner originally promised the job to, he’s got no problem being pissy and abrasive to Hayes’ pissy and abrasive demeanor.

Next, she meets, lemur-eyed and doe-tailed Tess Larson (played by Emily Kinney) who is not only a fan of the former First Daughter but the team's paralegal. A familiar face, Hayes thinks she’s met the girl before but Tess says no. We later learn that she was herself involved in a tabloid-trial when her aunt was killed by a family member.

Then we meet Franklin “Frankie” Cruz (played by Manny Montana) who looks slightly out of place with his plain white prep school shirt and tie, butting with his edgier look. Kudos (or maybe not?) to the casting and costume department because I could tell immediately, as could Hayes, though she does it through his tattoos, that he is their past-felon. He looks like a reformed Latin gang member and has the speech intonation of one. He’s also the forensics guy.

Finally, we have TV and ABC veteran Merrin Dungey (from Alias fame) who joins the cast as Maxine Bohen, a former NY detective who hails from a family line of cops. Her father worked the beat before making detective, so she knows plenty of contacts in the offices and cruisers of the Law. Unfortunately, both cops and prosecutors alike hate when you look into their past cases to snoop around for if they did everything right and got their job done correctly. It’s that same feeling you had when you were younger and your mom came to check to make sure you actually cleaned your room, and properly made your bed as opposed to kicked all of your dirty clothes underneath your bed. Why she has this job is not yet known as she has expressed some discontent with the position similar to Hayes, but she seems far more committed to the position than her new boss.

The good news: Hayes did finagle the ability to choose her own cases. While the team throws out two good cases at her, she chooses a Black former high school football player who was tried and convicted of shooting his girlfriend in the back of the head and leaving her in the woods to rot. She not only thinks he’s innocent but wants the publicity of getting a black guy freed on overturned murder charges. Lily-white Tess sees his photo and asks, “And that matters?” when confronted with the possibility of overturning a life sentence for a Black man. The irony and dark humor was not lost on me.

Hayes tries to play the role of consultant, lest she commit to doing real work. She believes that making Conner appear as a white knight now will not only get him the political cache he wants but give her and the team freedom later when tougher cases come along. She makes her team disperse to talk to the prosecutor that tried the case in front of an all-white jury and sends the past jailbird in Frankie to visit the prison with the past cop Maxine.

The black dude thinks that they are on his side just by questioning the validity of the conviction. He gives his side of the story as per usual on any law show: his timeline might not match up with the girl’s murder, he said he was at the football game when she was being killed, he loved his girlfriend dearly and would never hurt her, etc. One of them notices the pimples on his chest, and he bonds with Frankie. As he holds to his story, the prosecutor holds to his in front of kiss-butt ADA Sam and law-junkie Tess. The man swears that he did everything above-board to get the conviction and that the case was open and shut for a few reasons, mainly because of her journal entries.

After a brief interlude where we meet Hayes’ brother Jackson (played by Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls fame) and learn that he is his mother’s campaign manager for the senate race, we get back to the case. Maxine figures out that Hayes had just come from lockup, and, minutes later, Hayes sticks her foot in her mouth when she starts to give up on the case and says something offensive in front of the boy’s mom. One piece of telling evidence against her son is that he got overheated during the interrogation and nearly lunged at the cop across the table, but Maxine surmises that the acne he had on his chest was from steroid use. He was likely roid ragin’ the day he supposedly killed his girlfriend. We get a not-completely-obligatory but obligatory scene of Hayes showing how much she doesn’t care or respect those around her and her family when she changes her clothes in front of her entire team. She pays a visit to the dead girl’s mother herself and pisses her off with this whole thought that the guy they put away might be innocent of the murder. Her reaction is less than caring to me.

On Right is Tess

Meanwhile, Frankie and Tess trace a path from where the boy played football that night to where the girl was killed to figure out if he had enough time to take the 100-mile round trip to kill her and get back to his game for warmups. He did. Poo! Next, they talk to the detectives who worked the case after jailbird Frankie accuses the cops of planting evidence. While Maxine goes to haunt some of her old cop buddies, Tess and Frankie again go out to perform a little science experiment. Frankie wants to put a dead pig’s body in the forest to see if it’ll attract flies. Why? With the temperature and time of day at which she was found, the body wouldn’t have had flies on it as was said in the police report. If the boy had killed her in the window of time he had to get back to the game, her body would’ve attracted flies. Evidence piece one against him having done the killing.

In the midst of this case, we meet Hayes’ mom at a gala for her senate campaign. They have a contentious relationship talk about her tough upbringing and she holds back tears and it’s all very eh! Back to the case, she starts applying herself after the mom lecture and she tries to find out why the boy had recently bought a gun—he just thought it’d be cool to have a gun. She and the others finally circle back around to the diary and the police accounts taken from the family. The diary revealed that the girl feared someone, who they originally thought was the boy, but was written HE in all caps, referring to someone else’s name. That, coupled with Maxine’s cop buddy and arresting officer burning his police files to hide his own tampering, led them to realize that the cop spoke to the Latina mother without a noted translator to help them converse. The person there to help them translate the woman’s Spanish was the next door neighbor with the initials HE. Turns out he had a big crush on the dead girl and killed her when she rejected his advances. Conner gets the happy ending his political career wants, and Hayes threatens him and tells him that she can’t be controlled. Meanwhile, we learn that Frankie maybe has a love connection in jail (some guy we hardly see), Maxine threatens her old cop buddy by telling him he should retire for evidence tampering, Tess re-reads the article about her aunt’s murder, the ADA Sam gets approached by an old reporter friend and they get hundreds of more cases that excites Hayes.

Episode two focuses on the case of the Prospect Three: three teenage boys charged with the brutal beating of a Black businesswoman during one night of Warriors-style city rampaging along with 32 other rowdy youths. Creating a path of destruction and vandalism through the early night, they started by stealing a camera and recording much of their journey through New York City, burning trash cans, assaulting bicyclists, etc. Already ten years deep into their conviction, they had all confessed to the beating and rape of the black woman that night, after trying to beat up a young white woman on her bike. The first problem with their conviction: the cops fed them the assault weapon, a brick, in the interrogation. When talking to one of the boys, the team discovers that two of the boys were old friends that grew up together, while the third had gone to school with them for a while, but had never really hung with them until that night. Now, in jail, they had bonded and become tight, each one having recanted their confession made under duress.

A deeper dig into the assaulted woman’s history rendered the best results. First, they timed her walk through the park and the boy’s approach to where the assault happened, determining that there was a huge gap in time between when her watch broke and stopped on the time that the cops determined was the time of her attack, and the amount of time it takes a normal-stride walker to reach the point where the attack happened. Science claimed that the spot on her head in which she was hit wiped her memory clean of that night, so she couldn’t remember anything after leaving work—a sly lie to save face in the public’s sight. Turns out, she and another coworker had gone to a Mardi Gras-themed bar where they had drinks, collected some Mardi Gras beads and had sex in a dirty bathroom in public. They both wanted to keep this secret because he was married and she knew it but flirted with him over the course of months. He confessed to her before she testified in the trial (and perjured herself) that it was in the bar during the sex that she broke her watch, and reminded her of the “nasty relations” they had.

From Left to Right: Frankie, Sam, Hayes' mother and Tess

The team stopped for a brief interlude to meet Hayes mom, the future senator, and for Hayes to receive another lecture from her mother, but as it turns out, her mother told her how proud she is of her and mentioned that she hopes she doesn’t screw this case up and make Conner loathe her. For an added knife-twist, this is one of Conner’s personal cases he tried it himself ten years prior. He thought it was a very clean conviction and hates that she dug it back up to look at. But turning a negative into a positive, he spins it that he wants to be thorough in his new CIU, even if it means that he himself was wrong on a past case. He wants justice more than Batman. The press eats it up.

With the confession from the married lover of the black woman, Hayes focuses in on one particular interrogation video and has her team comb back through the files from the boys. As it turns out, the boy that barely knew the other two had grown up in the foster system. As a juvenile, he was charged with sexually assaulting his 13-year-old foster sister in his new foster family. A psycho, he had to take a trophy from her, and stole her sweater. In this case, he stole the woman’s Mardi Gras beads and wore them around his wrist during the interrogation. Also, the fact that he was arrested last (a fact pointed out by Maxine’s past detective experience) shows that he had been separated from the other two boys long enough to go back and attack the woman. Hayes convinces him to do right by his “boys” and confess so they don’t have to spend more time in jail after having served enough time to take care of their other crimes. All is right again, and Hayes got to half-way stick it to the man while Conner got to white-knight once again and turn her game around on her. Except the Black woman is shamed publicly like she feared, and that reporter that has been hounding Sam keeps digging. Craziest of all, they end on a classic Grey’s Anatomy dancing apartment scene. Hmph.

Episode three starts with a bang and keeps giving the punch as Conner continues to show up to events for Hayes’ mother and tells the reporter corp. that Hayes is a brand new person, changed for the better. Pissed that he says she’s different, she goes in search of the foulest, most disgusting case that she can find and seeks to prove that the person is innocent. She finds a bigot, an Islamaphobic ex-military white guy who was convicted of bombing a Mosque, killing a local Imam and four of his fellow Muslim brothers. Considered a hate crime, he went away for consecutive life sentences for a crime that he swears he didn’t do even though he ran a blog where he cataloged his hate for Muslims and how they are supposedly destroying the country, as well as talked about how to properly make a bomb. His excuse for why he didn’t commit the crime: he wanted to blow up a different mosque with a bigger bomb and more people to kill. It’s sad, but it is something Hayes believes. The entire team has a huge problem with even looking into the guy’s case because of his unabashed hatred. Still, they do their jobs even after Frankie threatens to walk out.

After visiting the Imam’s widow, along with the widows of all the other men, Hayes learns that he was a great man, loved by the community and all of that crap. He ministered to troubled youths, helped women in need of marital guidance, etc. The man convicted of the bombing, on the other hand, was on a potential home-grown terrorist watchlist and had been surveilled by the city’s Counter-Terrorism Unit for weeks. Unfortunately, they broke into the bomb expert’s home and read all about his plans to bomb a mosque weeks before the bombing, making the way they got that evidence and why they suspected him so quickly inadmissible due to tampering, which would be impetus for a new trial alone. Also, the bomb he described how to make on his website and the one actually used didn’t have the exact same chemical mix as discovered by Tess and Frankie in another science experiment.

Hayes finally doubles back to her visit to the Imam’s house and the description of the charismatic man that he was, noting that her father was the same way. Eureka! When it clicks that she saw no photos of the dead Imam in his house, she theorized that his widow discovered he had been cheating and was the one to set the bomb. They find one of her purses in which she carried the bomb that day and placed it in a three-ring binder in the top drawer of his desk to be opened at lunchtime. The one thing she didn’t count on: her cheating husband not eating lunch alone that day. She confesses to the crime and is arrested.

Meanwhile, the racist bigot guy tells Sam that his plan as soon as he gets out of jail is to follow through with his original bombing plans and kill a few hundred or thousand people. As committed to justice and stand-up-citizen-y Sam is, he can’t have that. So, in a twist of bad-boy-dom, he tells another prisoner that the bomb guy was actually snitching on other prisoners. Rather than getting the man killed, this actually gets the man to stab a white supremacist on camera in the prison, thusly securing a long stay in the penitentiary for the once-convicted but innocent terrorist, quelling any fears the rest of the team might have about this man getting out on the streets. Hayes doesn’t know what to think of this but does realize just how dangerous the guy who could replace her at any moment truly is. If he’s willing to do that, what else might he do?

We end with Hayes and Conner finally revealing more about their past together. They used to date and live in Chicago where she worked a very good job but got herself fired—a great reason for her to flee the city. Conner knows that the only reason she got herself fired was because what they had was becoming too real for her and she can’t do real emotions like an actual grownup. Still, they want each other and he loves complicated women so they start to sex each other up but are interrupted when news finally breaks with video evidence that Conner offered Hayes the job after she was arrested in a cocaine bust. And this review and the first three episodes thusly have symmetry and all is right in the world.

What’s my grade? OK, admittedly I think I grade ABC on a curve because I’ve enjoyed some of the things they’ve put out so much over the years. However, I will give this a B-/C+ for a myriad of reasons that annoy me. I think that the acting is good for the material they are given, however, I have my doubts about Hayley. I don’t think this is the right role for her. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very unique female character and I do want to see her on TV or in film more playing strong women, but I don’t like how this role suits her. Oddly enough, I think that she and Piper Perabo on Notorious, the other new ABC drama, should switch roles. I could even go for her in the role on Quantico played by Priyanka Chopra, but since Priyanka is so great in that role and I enjoy that they have a non-white female lead, I will back away from that idea. Still, this role feels like it would suit someone else better.

Maybe I don’t like her in the role because of the character herself. Hayes is a terrible character from my perspective. This comes from the Mark Gordon Company, the second producers on all the great Shonda Rhimes shows, and Quantico. and you can see the similarities between them all. Unfortunately, Hayes seems to take some of the worst attributes of Olivia Pope and magnifies them into a very annoying and eye-roll-inducing walking middle finger. Whereas we didn’t fully understand Olivia’s motivations for why she lives the life she does until a few seasons in, here we are bombarded with Hayes motivations that stem from her need to rebel against her parents, specifically her father (in line with Olivia’s motivations). But where Olivia has true conviction in trying not only to be a good person, be the antithesis of her father, Hayes really has none of that. In all three episodes, she clearly doesn’t care about any of the people whose cases she’s actually reviewed. In fact, the show has yet to show her care about anything other than trying to piss people off a lot. Looking at the contrary nature of episode one and episode three, she willingly wants to give up on the innocent black kid multiple times without having given much effort, yet is convinced that the racist bigot has to be innocent because she has to stick it to Conner. Literally, her motivation is the same motivation as every 14-year-old girl that cuts all her hair off, dyes it that Goth black, and starts writing love letters to serial killers because its cool and counter-culture. She rebels because that is all that she can do. To simplify, her character comes off as too cynical to lead a show. This would be fine if she had a commitment to: justice, peace, doing good, or anything other than calling attention to herself about doing precisely what those who love her don’t want her to do. Watching this show is like watching the worst game ever of that annoying sibling saying, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you,” or having to watch that Ariana Grande donut-licking video on repeat for an hour each week. It’s grating, and instead of feeling uplifted because they’re doing something truly noble—similar to the early days of Scandal which balanced out Olivia’s white-hatting with her diabolical affair with the president—one is left to feel half-empty with a malaise of, “Yay, they solved another case.” This is a show without grip. It doesn’t even have the overly try-hard sentiment that Notorious does, as at least that show is trying to be salacious and watercooler-worthy. This simply has Hayes running around trying her best to be provocative in order to needle Conner and her mother. Sadly, I don’t feel it works that well.

Should you be watching? Eh! Admittedly, I’ll probably continue to watch because I do like the cast and the process by which they reveal these cases is intriguing, but with this filling the timeslot vacated by Castle and not having enough comedic flair to satiate that itch, nor provocative enough to engender that Must-See feeling, I can’t give a recommendation to watch it. Sad, because I really wanted this to be really good. Conviction airs on ABC Mondays at 10pm.

What do you think? Have you seen Conviction? If not, do you think you’ll tune in after reading this review/recap? If so, what part of the show do you like the most? Do you think I’m being too rough on the show, or do you see its flaws, too? What do you think will happen now that Hayes’ secret is out? And what character do you find most interesting outside of Hayes? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or  the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "I fought the law and the... law won. I fought the law and the... law won. But it’s cool, though, because I called for a rematch. Best of three.”

P.S. I love how this show is basically a legal re-wipe to make sure that the justice system has properly cleaned up its own crap. Oh yes, I think I like that sign-off, though I’m not sure it works on every one of my posts. Hmph! I’ll keep thinking of a good sign-off until next time.

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