Emma (1996, Douglas McGrath)

Emma keeps misplacing things. For a long stretches, it misplaces second-billed Toni Collette (who goes from being the subject of the first half to an afterthought in the most of the second half to just a plot foil in the third act). There’s also lead Gwyneth Paltrow’s painting. The film opens with Paltrow’s paintings of her friends, home, and familiar places, which get used again to identify locations for a bit in the first act, and then the painting becomes a plot point… but then it’s gone, both from the narrative (which could make sense with the plot point if you’re being generous) and the film’s visuals. It’s indicative of Emma’s greatest problem—even greater than Paltrow not really being up to snuff for the lead and often mugging her way through scenes, her costars all doing the double duty of load-bearing and acting—is director McGrath. He’s got some ideas, but he’s rarely consistent with them (outside he and cinematographer Ian Wilson’s astoundingly ill-advised attempt at “natural” lighting), and even if he were… he doesn’t have the chops to pull them off. Not in directing actors (there are some rather oddly bad performances throughout), not in composing shots, and definitely not in establishing a narrative distance. Particularly bad form on the last one, as McGrath adapted the Jane Austen novel himself.

The film’s got two competing narrations, one from Paltrow and one from what we assume is one character but is actually another because getting in a pointless wink is more important than verisimilitude. But the misleading narration—which only works because the supporting cast is so thinly drawn—is just a third act problem. Paltrow’s narration, which kicks off in earnest somewhere in the second half, is from the character’s diary. The diary doesn’t come into play until well after the narration is established and has very little interesting to convey. It’s good writing (so presumably from the source novel) but it doesn’t add anything to the film because the film’s already established itself without needing diary or narration. McGrath’s constantly introducing elements the film’s already shown it can do without. Sometimes they’re competent, sometimes they’re piddling.

Ewan McGregor, for instance, is piddling.

McGregor plays Paltrow’s eventual de facto suitor. So, the film starts with Paltrow just having succeeded in marrying off governess Greta Scacchi to local widow James Cosmo and deciding she’s going to become a matchmaker. Her next subjects? Vicar Alan Cummings (who’s more middling than piddling) and aforementioned second-billed Collette. Now, Collette doesn’t have any money and Cummings is out for a rich dowry only Paltrow thinks love will conquer all. Except the condescending, gently demeaning way Paltrow treats Collette is duplicated in how the film treats her. Collette, and many of the other women in the film, are often used for laughs. Weird since Paltrow getting her eventual comeuppance involves her punching down, you’d think McGrath, adapted the novel, would be able to do something like foreshadowing… but he cannot because he does a poor job of adapting the novel. Seriously; you get done with Emma and don’t even wonder if you should read the novel. Given the film’s from the renewed era of Austen adaptations… it ought to at least encourage readership.

Anyway.

Eventually McGregor shows up as Cosmo’s son and, presumably, Paltrow’s intended. Except he’s playing the part like he’s in a bad Muppet Jane Austen’s Emma and not just because of the hair. In some ways he perfectly compliments Paltrow’s performance; they both mug for the camera, he just does it with more volume, more bluster. Their similarities even potentially become a plot point but not really because of the way McGrath directs the scene, which… is again the biggest problem with the film. McGrath’s well-meaning enough in his direction, just inept with it. And when he does try to show flourish, usually with a silly camera move—one does have to wonder about cinematographer Wilson’s agency—it ends up silly at best.

There are some okay supporting performances: Jeremy Northam’s fine as Paltrow’s male friend, though there’s a way too big performance differential between the two of them and never the right chemistry, Collette’s good, especially given the circumstances, Sophie Thompson’s probably the best, as the woman Paltrow meanest girls. Sacchi’s all right. Cosmo mugs. Denys Hawthorne, as Paltrow’s father, is literal scenery. Juliet Stevenson, as a second half punchline, does a lot better than she should given the part and the direction.

Not great editing from Lesley Walker doesn’t help things. Rachel Portman’s score has its moments but also the ones where it seems more appropriate for an ostentatious adventure picture, which then just introduces the false promise of personality to the filmmaking and what could be, if only McGrath had the chops.

The third act’s particularly disappointing as all it really needs is some narrative sincerity. It doesn’t even need to have Paltrow step up… though I guess it does make some sense how McGrath then takes the movie away from her. It’s like he gives her a vote of no confidence after he’s just made a two hour movie of her.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Douglas McGrath; screenplay by McGrath, based on the novel by Jane Austen; director of photography, Ian Wilson; edited by Lesley Walker; music by Rachel Portman; production designer, Michael Howells; costume designer, Ruth Myers; produced by Patrick Cassavetti and Steven Haft; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Gwyneth Paltrow (Emma Woodhouse), Toni Collette (Harriet Smith), Alan Cumming (Mr. Elton), Ewan McGregor (Frank Churchill), Jeremy Northam (George Knightley), Greta Scacchi (Mrs. Weston), Juliet Stevenson (Mrs. Elton), Polly Walker (Jane Fairfax), Sophie Thompson (Miss Bates), James Cosmo (Mr. Weston), Denys Hawthorne (Mr. Woodhouse), and Phyllida Law (Mrs. Bates).


Watchmen (2019) s01e04 – If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own

I’m not sure what would be a more unpleasant way to spend an hour, listening to “Watchmen”… “creator” Damon Lindelof talk about Alan Moore or listening to him talk about way too influential screenwriting professor Robert McKee. McKee has some profoundly insipid advice on writing and the creative process in general, which Lindelof seems to have imprinted on his DNA, if this show is any indication. Because this episode is all about the show’s “stakes.” Turns out they’re really low.

It starts with the reveal last episode’s OMG moment with the space junk falling out of the sky is actually a message for Regina King and not Dr. Manhattan still caring about vigilante turned Fed Jean Smart, which just teams up King and Smart, who have even less chemistry as strong women working together than they did as strong women not working together—most of it is the writing (starting last episode and continuing into this one, “Watchmen: The HBO Event Series” is shaping up to be far more what one would expect than the first couple episodes). But then there’s also a draining of the import of Don Johnson’s secret Klan history. Of course he’s a racist in the Klan, he’s a white man in Oklahoma. What did King actually expect? It seems like it should be a problematic plot point but… it’s not. It also seems like it’d piss off the Oklahoma film office and the tax breaks but maybe they demanded any white man in Oklahoma be shown to be in the Klan.

Anyway. There’s a scene with Tim Blake Nelson, because all he gets are single scenes. It’s nice to see him out of costume since you can’t see him act in the costume. And he and King do have some solid rapport.

Much of the episode involves new player Lady Trieu (played by Hong Chau, and named liked Lindelof telling you how he’s better than Alan Moore would be worse than the McKee mansplain); she’s building some mysterious giant clock in rural Oklahoma because it’s all connected. She also knows Lou Gossett Jr., who it’s still nice to see in such a big production but it’s wasting his time. In some ways, wasting Gossett’s time is worse than wasting King’s time, since King will go on to good projects after this one. “Watchmen” could be it for Gossett and non-Christian movie projects.

What else… oh, Jeremy Irons. We get more about his situation. Lindelof and co-writer Christal Henry are all about revealing the weird stuff in Irons’s life, which is all just for shock value. Steampunk-y shock value. Eh.

At least Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is still good. And it’s not like King is ever not going to be excellent, she’s just wasting her time. Also… does Lindelof really think the tick tock clock motif is the most important thing from Watchmen? He did go to NYU film school back before it was clear NYU film school wasn’t actually going to produce many good, much less great, filmmakers… so… yes?

Superstore (2015) s01e04 – Mannequin

“Superstore” significantly ups its game this episode. The cold open has Jonah (Ben Feldman) trying to show off how well he’s bonded with his coworkers by unintentionally insulting most of them. The sequence ends in a great banter showdown between manager Mark McKinney and assistant manager Lauren Ash (foreshadowing their subplot this episode) but also does some exposition on Amy (America Ferrera), revealing not just a nine year-old daughter but also a husband, which was sort of hinted at the end of the first episode. No wonder they slowed down Feldman’s romantic interest in her.

Ferrera and Feldman get one of the plot lines, with Ferrera teasing Feldman with a mannequin, which resembles him, as the store becomes more and more chaotic with Ferrera not paying attention. Lots of funny mannequin scenes, even when it’s getting old, it’s still funny stuff. Especially after Feldman starts flipping out over it, after having promised Ferrera she won’t be able to bait him. The culmination… well, it’s too good to spoil. But it’s amazing.

Ash and McKinney, instead of noticing Ferrera and Feldman aren’t doing any work and Nico Santos has got all the people he doesn’t like (almost everyone) working punishment duty in the freezer, are trying to each convince pregnant teens Nichole Bloom and Johnny Pemberton to give their baby up for adoption. McKinney and his (offscreen) wife have had foster kids but would love one “without the dings” and Ash just wants a baby. Lots of funny stuff between McKinney and Ash together, but also lots of laughs with them and Bloom separately. And the show’s figured out what I said before—putting Bloom and Pemberton together and playing them off other people is the best use of the characters. So funny.

As usual, Colton Dunn gets a bunch of great lines.

It’s only the fourth episode and “Superstore” is much funnier than the pilot ever suggested, while making its cast a lot more likable. McKinney in particular. He started out the obnoxious boss laugh target but now he’s solidly funny on his own.

So funny.

Supergirl (2015) s05e08 – The Wrath of Rama Khan

The episode opens with Supergirl flying to Lena’s secret base to try to reason with her but Lena ignores her because Lena’s already got the bestest friend she could ever have in Andrea Brooks, who used to be Ms. Teschmacher but is now the AI Lena created to keep her company when she planned on beating up former best friend Supergirl. Brooks was an Easter egg turned into a plot device drug out, which is kind of a metaphor for most of “Supergirl” at this point.

For a bit it seems like it’s going to be Superman III with Katie McGrath and Brooks shooting rockets at Melissa Benoist, but no, Benoist quickly heads back to the DEO to check in with sister Chyler Leigh and start their butting heads subplot. Benoist doesn’t want to give up on McGrath, Leigh wants to nuke the entire site from orbit.

McGrath’s plan doesn’t really matter, suffice to say it’ll involve David Harewood bringing in formerly genocidal brother Phil LaMarr to help. LaMarr’s astoundingly bad. Harewood’s lost most of his goodwill too, mostly because all of his dialogue makes him sound like the writers get his deep thoughts off an online fake inspirational quote generator. There’s even a whole “do better” thing where LaMarr maybe was responsible for getting millions of Martians killed but he’s grown since then, so you obviously can forgive your (formerly) racist uncle? But there’s still a limit. Notice Dean Cain’s heinous ass has gone missing and forgotten from the show.

Anyway, there’s really nothing to the McGrath and Benoist stuff because there’s no scene between the two of them. “Supergirl” cops out before the Crisis crossover, which finally gets introduced in the last few scenes during the terrible (and long) song montage.

But then there’s the whole other subplot about millions years old alien Mitch Pileggi, who’s still chomping the hell out of the scenery, trying to eradicate humanity only to get foiled, natch, by Supergirl and friends.

Besides being incredibly silly, the Pileggi plot line is totally disconnected from the main cast except truly godawful new cast member Julie Gonzalo, who’s probably the worst actor ever on the show, which is something. Especially since they moved to Canada in season two.

Basically it’s “what if the Cylons got here earlier and just liked messing with humans as they evolve because the Cylons are board.” Or something. Doesn’t matter. It’s shit.

The possibly worst part of the ending is it resets almost everything the show’s done this season. Sure, McGrath still hates Benoist, but she gets a do-over as far as being a planetary menace. The hurt friendship storyline seems more appropriate for “Muppet Tweens” than “Supergirl,” but really bad, really cowardly writing doesn’t help things.

I think it’s finally safe not to come back after Crisis. Leigh’s obnoxious with the new girlfriend, Benoist’s got nothing to do, McGrath ought to get out of her contract, Harewood’s a random quote generator, and on and on. It’s been hard to give up on the show because when it used to hit heights, it hit them hard. But… this season’s been hopeless.

“Meddling Kids”

You know what’s not a word?

Self-depreciating. Self-deprecating is a word, self-depreciating is not. I wish I’d consulted a dictionary in high school when I added the word—which I pronounced self-deprecating but a friend definitely told me it was pronounced self-depreciating; I could’ve won a point, back when I thought be righting about grammar with a mostly casual acquaintance was the most important thing.

Why, yes, I did grow up on “Seinfeld,” which isn’t the best but still better than many of the alternatives. We won’t even get into growing up on “Friends,” but just imagine the nonsense you spew if you grew up on “Home Improvement” and I make that statement as someone who, before he went all in on 45, occasionally liked Tim Allen’s performances.

Reminder: need to watch Big Trouble again.

It’s going to be really scary when you type reminder and then your personal assistant mines following to create a reminder. I assume the only reason we don’t have it is because LinkedIn hasn’t made an Android fork yet. It could email all your contacts letting them know when you, I don’t know, wake up in the morning or when not to message because you’re taking your morning shit. Honestly, I think that development would’ve been more of a Hillary presidency outcome type thing. Neoliberalism’s affects on late stage capitalism’s productivity innovations.

If only.

I’m not even trying to get dark, just get some cat pictures posted. Wholesome blogging. With fake watercolors.

Possibly daily. Like, fall 2016 I was trying to do a total of lot of words a day. Multiple posts on Summing Up to get to the word count. I could probably even look up that word count, I must’ve mentioned it somewhere. But then inauguration and so on.

But daily posts as an excuse to post cat pictures? Possible. Depends on how cute the cats are being. Except Fozzy, Fozzy always just looks cutesified regal to me.

My writing has changed a lot since 2016; I’m not currently working on a fiction project. I think I stared that year with a mind to edit the second novel, instead it’s still basically in a first draft stage, which I’d call a second draft stage because of how I rather inventively incorporated revisions into the novel’s structure because I knew writing in a creative vacuum—not just no one reading the novel, no one even checking in on it—was going to present a lot of problems. As it stands, the opening needs a significant rewrite, but only about fifteen pages. Just the first two scenes.

One of the main reasons I fell off the novel is when I realized, fall 2016, how I could edit it to sell it. Because the fucking election. Probably could’ve made some hay with it, especially as centrist as my “fellow” White liberals have gotten. Glad I didn’t, but also… as a cishet White male in 2019, unless I’m fictioning by committee and even then… other people should be doing the job. White men have been writing the lines for everyone else for way too long. Some of them did it well, some awful ones of them did it well, but we’ve moved on. We’ve found the right mix of ability, creativity, and commercialism. Without being good—whereas the first time they were at least good—Marvel has determined the narrative’s future, which means we’ll have to wait until 2032 for the revised medium to mature enough for its Watchmen, but in theory we’re hitting its eighties in just a few years now. If cycles work the same way they did before the Internet, which they might not but also might. Disney slowing down the ether’s active imagination with fucking weekly releases of “Baby Yoda.”

Speaking of “Baby Yoda,” I need to write my fifth episode post but… spoiler… Dave Filoni is bad at writing, directing, and approving the casting. It’s a rather disappointing episode, but thanks to the deliberate structure, easily dismissible.

But the changing in writing… I know a lot better what I don’t want to blog about. I don’t want to write about blog setup and whatnot, I don’t want about… Somerset Maugham novels, which is too bad but it’s enough work you want to be doing it for a reason. Commercializing one’s writing slows its creative roll. It’s a very comfortable hill and there are almost no exceptions to the rule, not really. And I don’t take the blogging potentially professionally enough to want to slow the writing development. I’ve got years of 250 word posts on Stop Button where the writing stalled, whereas now I understand the point is writing not the number of posts.

I’m creatively holding but staying present because there’s the more potential for good readers and watchers and thinkers than any other time in history.

Well; made my word count so now cats.

Superstore (2015) s01e03 – Shots and Salsa

This episode is one of those sitcom episodes where you’re laughing so loud and so constantly, there’s a chance you’re going to miss something. If it weren’t paced well. And it’s paced extremely well, between Ruben Fleischer’s direction and Justin Spitzer’s writing, there’s always the right amount of time to get the giggles out.

It starts immediately with the laughs—store manager Mark McKinney getting everyone to do the pre-opening chant. It’s absurd and inappropriate (McKinney’s Christian religiosity is a very reliable punchline).

From the second scene, the show splits off its two storylines, one for America Ferrera, one for Ben Feldman, with Colton Dunn providing something of a bridge as he advises still new Feldman on how not to fall into the “quicksand” of helping customers and coworkers. Dunn’s fantastic. His deadpan deliveries are probably the best on the show, though Lauren Ash—who I’m warming to, even if she’s still the subject of laughs versus the situations she finds herself in—is getting to be a reliable second.

Ferrera’s plot line is about the store’s new house brand salsa promotion. McKinney wants someone Hispanic to sell it, which Ferrera finds gross. Her coworker, Grace Parra, doesn’t see it that way, neither does Filipino Nico Santos, who doesn’t mind McKinney can’t see the difference. Lots of funny stuff as Ferrera tries to have some morals in the face of capitalism.

“Superstore” also goes in hard on how awful Americans are going to get when it comes to racializing their consumerism. It’s shocking, accurate, and hilarious.

Meanwhile Feldman makes the mistake of helping jackass pharmacist Josh Lawson with some boxes and ends up an assistant pharmacist for the day.

Ferrera, Feldman, and Dunn are all varying comedic straight men, though Feldman a little less as he’s got some quirks more similar to the absurdist coworkers; with Feldman and Ferrera, it’s all about their facial reactions foreshadowing their eventual lines, while Dunn’s got a much shorter lead time before he makes his sardonic response.

It’s a really, really funny episode.

Really funny.

Oh, and the corporate anti-racism video… wow. So funny. And way too realistic, which is the point.

Superstore (2015) s01e02 – Magazine Profile

Two months have passed since the previous episode—based on how long new guy Ben Feldman has been at the store and he’s gotten a settled in. During those two months he’s apparently chilled on the America Ferrera romantic interest, or—more likely—the writers realized they were rushing that plot line. Assistant manager Lauren Ash is still making googly eyes at a mostly unaware, occasionally confused Feldman however, because it gets laughs.

And letting Ferrera and Feldman actually develop chemistry is a good move; it doesn’t come up much in the episode, which has Feldman getting involved with “reporter” Eliza Coupe during her trip to the store. Quotation marks because Coupe writes for the chain’s corporate magazine, which has some hilariously odious practices.

Of course, Coupe shouldn’t be focusing on Feldman but store manager Mark McKinney, who’s a lot more sympathetic this episode than in the pilot—and no longer has gray hair, so something else happened during the two month window.

Ferrera’s time is mostly spent trying to get McKinney ready for reporter Coupe; her visit frames the episode, leading up to Ash discovering Coupe and Feldman locking lips, which leads to a really funny emergency staff meeting—though it’s unclear who gets to go to staff meetings (regular cast and supporting actors with lines) during the middle of business hours—where Ash has to have a hard talk with everyone about inappropriate sexual workplace behaviors.

The episode’s got two subplots. The first is for Colton Dunn, who doesn’t want to end up on the magazine cover… seeing as how he’s both in a wheelchair and Black, it’s not like photographer Josh Fadem (who’s wonderfully slimy) will be able to resist exploiting the combination. It’s really funny. Dunn’s great.

The other subplot is about pregnant teenager Nichole Bloom (who doesn’t look like she’s in still in high school) trying to get jackass, dimwit white boy rapper baby daddy Johnny Pemberton to record a jingle for the store. It turns out in the end, when they present the jingle to Coupe, they’re a lot better playing off people as a couple than playing off each other. It’s fine but it’s not on par with the rest of the episode, which solidly juggles laughs and heart.

Becker (1998) s01e14 – Larry Spoke

This episode of “Becker” has Steven Wright guest starring, so even though it’s not the best writing for Steven Wright, it’s still at least great whenever Wright is on screen.

Wright’s a new patient of Ted Danson’s who hears God. God’s name is Larry and Larry tells Steven Wright to repaint his apartment all the time. Not the funniest situation, but Wright makes it great. It’s actually sort of strange to see some middling plot device so perfectly executed as Wright doesn’t seem very CBS sitcom at all. He’s in jarring contrast to the rest of the show, even when the rest of the show is totally serviceable.

In addition to Wright, Danson’s dealing with a slowly dying patient, Nathan Davis, and the patient’s impatient yuppie daughter, Mary-Joan Negro. It’s not a funny subplot, but a depressing one and it’s borderline unpleasant. Especially juxtaposed against the absurdity of Wright on this show.

The episode also has Hattie Winston and Shawnee Smith stopping in at Terry Farrell’s diner for the first time. Almost more interesting—they all just talk about how obnoxious it is to deal with Danson—it also implies something about Winston and Smith’s life outside the workplace. They walk to the train together, at least on this day, which is kind of nice. Especially since Winston and Smith are in the middle of this C plot about Smith keeping a nice jacket her dry cleaner gave to her by accident.

Though the end of the episode is a little too much; all of a sudden wants to comment on Danson’s apparent atheism versus everyone else’s religiosity. Sure, Wright’s plot brings in the discussion of God… but it’s not like it’s a great concept or anything. It’s great because it’s Steven Wright doing a sitcom guest spot playing Steven Wright. His comebacks are consistently hilarious throughout the episode. The holier than thou finale really misses Wright, who doesn’t get to participate. He’s already had his big finale. The rest is regular cast wrap-up.

Still, there are a lot of solid laughs throughout. Thanks to Wright, yes, but also some with Winston and Smith.

Maybe if Danson were more enthusiastic about the hard drama stuff with Negro, but he’s still sitcom star here.

Uneven or not, it’s nice to have the laughs.

Becker (1998) s01e13 – Becker the Elder

Whenever an episode of “Becker” starts, I hold my breath until the writing credit comes up. This one’s from series creator Dave Hackel, who likes doing the Ted Danson is a master doctor and basically right bastard; the episode opens with him ranting about little people. And even though it’s 1998 or whatever, they know it’s wrong because Alex Désert comments on it. Little bit later Danson’s making fun of how his Hispanic patient talks. So when “Becker” is being icky just to be icky, it’s in Hackel’s line. Andy Ackerman does do a solid directing job, however, because it’s Andy Ackerman.

The episode’s about Becker’s dad, Dick Van Dyke, coming through town. Van Dyke ran out on the family when Danson was eleven and Danson’s never forgiven him. Van Dyke’s never really asked for forgiveness either—until this very special episode, which isn’t even trying to be funny unless you count Hackel punching down (no blind or Black jokes about Désert so apparently someone said there were limits)—but since Hackel writes Becker like a complete Dick, who cares if Van Dyke had a reason to run out or whatever. It’s a waste of Van Dyke as a guest star and rather concerning the show creator hasn’t figured out when the show works.

There’s actually some decent stuff with Hattie Winston and Shawnee Smith, with Smith making Winston laugh, which is at least something pleasant. Because despite Van Dyke being a lovable career salesman, the show positions him as a deceptive dick (no pun) and then walks it back, then forward, then back, then shrugs it off and goes out on a character building moment for Danson.

Of course, Danson is an asshole so who cares. It’s okay he’s an asshole, however, because he treats a guy living on the street—apparently for free—but whatever. Sitcom is an abbreviation for a situation comedy. This episode is a very light, very thin situational drama. I watched the show because I wanted to laugh.

Nope, not this time.

All Rise (2019) s01e09 – How to Succeed in Law Without Really Re-Trying

Okay, when I said “All Rise” reminded me of “Major Crimes,” maybe I shouldn’t have cursed the show with an Ever Carradine guest star. Carradine plays an old defense lawyer nemesis of Simone Missick’s, who’s got an appeal—she wants to get alt-righter, white supremacist Ben Leasure out of jail—and Carradine’s confident because she’s up against Wilson Bethel not Missick. I mean, Missick’s only got the bionic arm, Bethel never misses. Wait, wrong shows.

Better shows.

Good shows.

Anyway, Missick wants to help Bethel but not too much. Meanwhile she’s pissing off a prosecutor (Suzanne Cryer), who’s trying to railroad some defendant in an unmemorable case but has it out for Missick and it doesn’t at all seem like Cryer doesn’t like Missick because Missick’s a Black woman. Oh… wait… it does. As it seems Cryer will be back to report Missick to her manager… maybe Cryer ought to fire her agent.

The thing about the episode is it’s directed by Cheryl Dunye, who’s an excellent indie filmmaker; usually “All Rise” is just wasting Missick and Bethel’s time, not the director’s. This episode, though, it’s well-directed but with that same tepid “All Rise” writing. At least it’s engaging to watch to see the direction. I couldn’t help wishing it’d lead to Dunye, Missick, and Bethel teaming up on something worth their talent.

Back to Carradine. She’s playing this neuroatypical (but self-aware) defense attorney who’s seemingly convinced Leasure is innocent even though he’s obviously guilty. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter if she thinks he’s innocent. It’s unclear. The show’s not smart enough to delve into the defense attorney of the guilty client thing, even as third lead Jessica Camacho is defending obviously guilty John Ales and doesn’t want to defend him because he’s a pain in the ass. I guess Ales is good? Maybe. He’s at least not unwelcome when he’s in a scene. Carradine hovers around like a threat. The scene where she has a showdown with Missick is patently absurd as Missick starts seeing herself from Carradine’s warped perspective, which has its own optics the show doesn’t seem to recognize.

Also good is Audrey Corsa, as the new law clerk in the district attorney’s office who teams up with Bethel on the Leasure case.

In addition to actually being good, Corsa also reveals J. Alex Brinson isn’t so much interested in Camacho as he is a hot to trot capital D dog, which is fine. I resent liking Brinson given he’s still the murderous spousal abusing cop from “Travellers,” also a much better show. And good.

Last thing—the episode’s weird with the other white people in the alt-right case. Michael Graziadei is a reformed alt-righter who might be a co-conspirator but gets a pass because Christian and no one talks about how “resister” Tamara Clatterbuck, sister of defendant Leasure, is actually a perjuring monster with half-Asian kids her brother wants to kill and she picks the brother.

“CBS woke” is not woke at all.

Though it’s nice to great to see a Dunye credit and pretty please, universe, let her make something else—something actually good—with Missick or Bethel.

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