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Spring 2012 Review: The Firm

24 Apr

The Firm and wife chat

The Firm is the sequel to the mid-90s film based on a John Grisham movie which no one asked for or needed, but that is here anyway.  The pilot is a double episode, so it was a pretty much a movie-length first episode of The Firm I was subjected to.

The show begins with the most overused gimmick in the television business – a flashforward to much later in the story, which then moves back six weeks earlier so we can find out how we get there.  I have plenty more to say on why this is a lazy and overused plot device but we’ll save it for another article.  Suffice it to say, it’s not used well here.  For at least the first half of the pilot, I expected to get back to the flashforward by the end of the episode, but realized eventually it just wasn’t going to get there.  I just really don’t understand what the point of these gimmicks are.  Do the creators really think I’m more likely to keep watching to get to a part of the story that seems so disconnected from where the narrative is now that it doesn’t even connect?  In this flashforward, protagonist Mitch McDeere is on the run, searching for THE TRUTH, and meets with a mysterious man in glasses, who may have answers, but, as he’s only a middleman, he decides to jump off of his hotel balcony, killing himself, rather than face the wrath of his superiors.  Flashforward over.

Moving on.  Tom Cruise’s Mitch McDeere has been transformed into Josh Lucas, and Jeanne Tripplehorn’s Abby McDeere into Molly Parker (of Alma Garrett on Deadwood fame, but best known to me as Ron’s infatuation in the reunion episode of Party Down – I screamed out “Call an ambulance!” at least three times while watching her on screen – if you don’t get the reference, stop reading this and watch Party Down right now).  Mitch wants to avoid witness protection after the events of The Firm, the movie, but Abby convinces him that they need help, because she’s pregnant.  Ten years later, they’re finally out of witness protection and Mitch has started his own firm in DC.  They’re just started to get used to a life not on the run.  Working with Mitch at his new firm, is his brother, private investigator Ray (Battlestar Galactica’s Callum Keith Rennie) and his longtime girlfriend Tammy is their secretary (Juliette Lewis in the show, Holly Hunter in the film).

McDeere is struggling to get by, as most of his clients can’t afford to pay.  He’s already shown the judges around town that he’s a competent lawyer, so a judge asks him to take up two different murder cases.  One for a woman named Sarah, which we see virtually nothing more of in the first episode, and two, for a 14-year old African American named Donnell.  Donnell’s being accused of murdering fellow student Nathan Williams.  Donnell claims self defense, but after some investigation by the brothers McDeere, it turns out Donnell was lying, and he actually killed Williams because he was getting in between Donnell and a kid Donnell was planning on giving a beat down to.  Though disgusted, Mitch must be a good lawyer and argue that Donnell be tried as a juvenile, and his vicious cross-examination of a witness angers the victim’s family.  This plot continues with a fairly uninteresting plot angle in which the victim’s father attempts to hire a hitman to kill Donnell out of grief.  The brothers McDeere catch his attempt on tape, and out of respect for a moment of weakness as a grieving father in an otherwise good life, work out a deal with the district attorney which keeps Williams out of jail and with his remaining daughter at home.  That plot is just about over.

The other plotline in the episode is that an acquaintance of Mitch’s invites Mitch to join his far larger firm, which is run by fierce managing partner Alex Clark (BSG’s Tricia Helfer – two Cylons getting to reunite here).  Mitch fiercely wants to remain independent but works out an arrangement in which he can keep his own office while being associated with the firm after he realizes he needs their resources to fight a tort case which he thinks is a winner.  He thinks the firm wants him for the tort case, but we learn, while Mitch doesn’t, that they’re really interested in the Sarah whatever-her-name-is murder case, and if Mitch learns the truth to that case, all these high powered lawyers will go to jail (BUM BUM BUM).  Way to raise the stakes after an hour and twenty minutes of a Law & Order episode.  Apparently, the client of this new evil law firm is the glasses wearing man who kills himself in the flashfoward, which we’re reminded of, since we haven’t seen him in about an hour and 28 minutes.

Also, the son of the mob leader who went to jail because of Mitch may be after him and his family.  Just sayin’.

So The Firm is an all right legal procedural/thriller that clearly aspires to be Damages, (I must credit a critic on wikipedia for making that allusion, which seemed so obvious once I saw it written on the page) straight down to the flash forward format.  The main case was a bit tedious and not terrible interesting, but it is a my dad-approved legal thriller, which means it can’t be too slow and boring, because my dad would certainly not tolerate that.  It really wasn’t bad; it was seriously and entirely unironic, but not The Practice-level over the top.  If you like legal procedurals that could turn into thrillers at the drop of a hat, The Firm might be for you.  That said, legal procedurals have been done so many times that it’s very difficult to stand out, and nothing about The Firm did that.  Without the long-term angle, I don’t think it’d have a leg to really stand on.

Will I watch it again?  Probably not, but I’ll ask my dad for some sum ups of where the conspiracy goes, because I’m that low level of interested.  I can’t wait for The Chamber the series.