Conviction, Pilot (2016) – Hayley Atwell’s Second Chance
Crime drama’s often need to look outside the box if they wish to beat the ratings game. Sometimes trying “too hard” is just as detrimental as is the “same-old, same-old” formula. Why is this? Because oftentimes in the case of the former the trying-too-hard-bit shows. This pilot falls somewhere in the middle. By no means is it an disagreeable procedural, but neither has it found its stride.
News of her arrest will embarrass a number of people, not the least of whom is her mother, a politician running for election. But for Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell), the arrest is something she brushes off as if it were a mere wrinkle in her otherwise glamorous life. The tabloids are no stranger to Hayes wild child days, but an arrest for possession might incite a media frenzy. A top of her class law school graduate, Hayes has been involved in high profile cases, but nothing prepares her for the fallout of her arrest.
An offer by D.A. Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill) gives her a clean arrest record with one proviso. Hayes must accept his offer. He’s decided to put her in charge of his new unit, the Conviction Integrity Unit. A team of elite professionals assembled to reopen cases where a wrongful conviction might be in play.
TV SHOW REVIEW | Agent Carter, Episodes One and Two (2014)
Judging this by its cast, this pilot wins (big). Judging this as a law drama, this pilot wins. Judging this as a intro into the larger season arc, this pilot wins. But unfortunately, there are other moving pieces to this drama that aren’t inclusive to these things. Also a factor is the characters – and for me, they are a vital and important part of any story.
Conviction is a glossy pilot that puts an edgy spin on its concept while trying a little “too hard” in this pursuit. As I watched it, I had a feeling part of it might have been to place a greater chasm between this and its leading lady's former topliner. Where Atwell’s Agent Carter (also an ABC drama) was a straight arrow whose moral compass was admirable, Hayes is the opposite.
Hayes Morrison is a former First Daughter, lawyer and rebel daughter whose veneer hides a vulnerable side. She’s tough on the outside, but inside she’s hiding the emotions of a childhood burdened with a pursuit of “perfection.” I liked that she was so drastically different, but also felt as if the writers were pushing the boundaries. Imperfections aside, I’d like to let them in on a little secret: viewers want to like the lead characters. We want them to be, in an overall sense, a moral person who is ultimately not on the same level as the bad guys. Hayes is teetering on the edge of this line, and it’s not always a pretty place to be.
As is my rule of thumb with 99% of the pilots I watch, I give a show the benefit of a doubt (approximately 2-5 episodes) before I give up. This is for a few reasons, one of which being the pilot is filmed well before the rest of the episodes, which hopefully aids the writer’s in working out the kinks. Another danger sign is ALL THE BLACKMAIL! Personally, I find this kind of drama wearying. Where do the secrets end? Is there no one who wouldn’t stab a friend in the back? Will anyone be likable?
These questions linger in my mind as I ponder future episodes. Despite my skepticism, I have high hopes for this one. The concept is unique (instead of putting murderers away, this team frees them), and the script decent. The show throws a PC, liberal agenda on its team, but I can overlook this in pursuit of gripping storytelling. Given the leading lady is Hayley Atwell, I am likely to tune in to see its progress for a handful of episodes, but in my judgement, the real test will come at the end of those episodes.
Content: Hayes has a promiscuous past. There are one or two quips that reference this. Hoping to be fired, Hayes pretends to use cocaine in front of her boss. She undresses (down to her underthings) in front of her co-workers, trying on a dress. One character is revealed (briefly) as a homosexual. The show is rated TV14.