“We get to be spies!”
That’s Asher (Matt McGorry), the student whose only characterization so far has been ‘douchebag,’ finally showing his geeky side over a case in which the five law students get to snoop around a workplace. McGorry’s baby-face has been telling me that he’s actually the loveable douchebag of the cast, but this is the first time I’ve heard the dialogue support it.
And I’m glad he got that line in, because there wasn’t much time for any more substantial characterization. Once again, the episode was ripping at the seams with plot. But now that we’re getting into the season, the season-long threads are taking it slow – we only see Rebecca (Katie Findlay) and her murder charge at the beginning and end, for instance, though she is softening up to Wes (Alfred Enoch).
Instead, the case of the week is pushed to the front. The arrogant Marren Trudeau (Elizabeth Perkins), founder of her own brokerage firm, is being framed by an employee for insider trading, and, naturally, there’s a twist. Keating (Viola Davis) and company need to stop the case before it goes to trial. Luckily, they’re all just as stunningly competent outside the courtroom as inside. They all grill employees, Conner (Jack Falahee) seduces an assistant (I had no idea so much could be accomplished in the legal world through gay sex), there’s a suicide that gets glossed over after a minute, and they catch the criminals.
One low point: very little actual detective work is required to crack the case. They just pull out a random theory about two of the employees and interrogate them until it turns out the theory was right! If only crazy theories solved as many cases in real life… I would be a world-class investigator by now.
I’ve noticed a fun pattern that the cases of the week have fallen into: each one starts out seemingly at an end. The killer is already caught, or in this case, the inside trader is already exposed. Then, the cut-and-dry case slowly unravels until Keating’s crew can wrap it up the way they prefer. It’s a refreshing change from a typical murder mystery show.
Unfortunately, this one still feels like a missed opportunity. Trudeau, as a strong woman in a male-dominated field, could have been a clear parallel to Keating, but aside from a little poor relationship advice, there is no crossover. Trudeau is over the top in a way the controlled Keating never is—even going so far as to burn her warrant in front of the FBI—yet the show never pays this off. The plot pyrotechnics could use a little more character development to underpin it all.
The characters work because of the actors. Even though Wes is still giving the same old wide-eyed stares as always, he’s getting better at justifying himself to Keating. In one of the better scenes this episode, Keating coaches her class in getting a culprit to confess, calling it “one of the most challenging yet fun parts of being a trail attorney.” Shots of the classroom are intercut with shots of the interrogation in which they trick confessions out of the criminals. Well, all those who haven’t committed suicide. The show loves intercutting one dialogue-heavy scene with another action-packed one, and it work great here, with the added boost of a driving, upbeat soundtrack.
The sparse focus on characters continues in the flash-forwards, where we can see how different characters react to the intense trauma of covering up a murder. Last week we saw Michaela (Aja Naomi King) break down entirely in the future, and now we look closer at Conner, who breaks down in an entirely different manner.
While Michaela is whimpering in a corner, frozen, Conner is maniacal. He giggles at everything, sings along to Christmas songs on the radio, and in one great scene, lists the impressive evidence trail that they have left in the wake of a sloppy murder cover-up. Asher knew the other four students were at the crime scene – and we now know he loves spying. Plus, a police officer saw them leaving the scene, they left fingerprints, fibers from the makeshift body-bag rug are embedded in Conner’s car, and traffic cameras are recording their trip to buy lighter fluid to burn the corpse—Being a legal student may have made Conner better at getting away with murder, but it has also made him more aware of all the ways not to.
Conner’s Joker-like shtick is tough to pull off, and I’m not convinced he does. Once again, more character development in the rest of the season would go a long way. Still, I’d love to see what happens after all these flash-forwards, as the collection of loose ends pointing back to the law students can’t be easy to hide. The cover-up of the original cover-up will probably be most of season two.
In the meantime, though, this episode leaves one final shock to tide us over until next week: the much-hyped final nine words in the episode are “Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?” That’s right, the show’s favorite subjects, sex and death, are together again as Keating’s husband finds himself tied up in Rebecca’s case via his genitals.