Finally, Asher (Matt McGorry) gets the attention he deserves! My favorite character and the show’s biggest loser, Asher Millstone, gets an emotional arc that’s actually better than most of the other characters’, even though he’s endured the past five weeks as the most one-dimensional cast member.
This episode they’re tackling the case that first opened Keating’s eyes to the failings of the courtroom: Keating (Viola Davis) has appealed the decision and her crew now has the chance to “make an unjust system just.”
It’s a classic TV trick to reveal a character’s backstory in an episode when someone from their past returns. It airs dirty laundry in an organic manner. But Keating isn’t the only one uncovering an emotional past: Asher’s father turns out to be the corrupt judge who sent an innocent man to death row in exchange for a career boost. Needless to say, this is a downer for Asher.
Asher’s confrontation with his dad is his best scene yet. They talk in front of a football game on their 60-inch TV, a reminder of the privilege the Millstone family enjoys. Asher has always been the douchey frat boy of the show—as exhibited in the episode’s opening scene in which he cavorts about in all his majestic douchiness, eye black, popped collar, all—but here he finally gets another dimension. He draws the line at his own father allowing a man to die, and their relationship is over by the time the scene ends.
And yes, the Keating vs. Wes (Alfred Enoch) showdown set up last week is everything I hoped for. Wes immediately writes a confession, puts it in a security box, and can mail it in a phone call. He knows enough to think that she’s covering up a murder for her husband, so he would be a pretty damning witness. Keating gives him what he wants by allowing the phone to be found, after filing off the proverbial serial numbers tying her husband to the crime.
Keating is still in control of Wes and his circumstantial evidence, even if he doesn’t think so. She should be worrying more about Nate (Billy Brown), who is revealed to be surveiling her shady actions. But he’s supposed been fired from the police department, so is he still reporting to them or to someone new?
The show is still shuttling through possible plotlines with such speed that this time it even feels the need to highlight this problem: Keating’s husband Sam (Tom Verica) mentions her new case is a lot to handle given her meltdown with Wes. And this time, the combined plots are a little much.
The emotions feel a little strained and confusing – the episode gives us a quiet moment with Keating after she learns her best potential witness for her appeal has overdosed on drugs. She sheds a tear before picking up the perfect file off her desk and turning everything around, as generally happens every ten minutes on this show. (Turning everything around, I mean, not the crying.) But how’s she getting so invested in this case when the murder her husband’s implicated in is still dangling over her head? The show usually separates the case from the ongoing plot, but this time that just highlights the disconnect of giving Keating’s two very differing focuses for her emotion.
That said, her rant against the case’s most corrupt culprit, the senator, is a high point. Keating might lose her temper in every other aspect of her life, but this is the first time she’s lost it in the courtroom. It almost loses her the case, too. A moment of near-failure is nice to see in an otherwise inhumanly perfect defense attorney.
And the one other emotional moment that does land: Keating’s final words, where she admits that she still loves her husband and needs him, despite everything. It’s actually a lot more creepy and sad than it is touching, given how much she clearly hates needing anything or anyone. And the one person she does need is one of the least trustworthy in the show. It’s believable, though: Keating is just as broken as most people on the show. She’s just a lot better at practicing law than them.
Overall, the acting and conflict is great in this episode. Viola Davis nails her scenes, even if the emotional setup is confusing, and holds it all together yet again. Meanwhile, Matt McGorry gets his chance to shine when pitted against a father who’s douchier than he is.
Asher might be my favorite because everyone else dislikes him. The entire show is about exploiting the justice system, and all our heroes are on a moral high ground that’s just a little better than those they face. And it’s always sinking a little farther down, too. Asher just absorbs the distain that they all kind of deserve.
Plus, he isn’t in on the murder in the flashforwards… meaning he can easily turn against all his murderous friends in the future. Here’s hoping he has a nice fat role as an antagonist in Season 2.