In an emotional episode of BULL, the team takes the side of a skydiving company in a wrongful death suit. The governor of Connecticut and the owner of the skydiving company both died when the governor’s main parachute and back-up parachute malfunctioned. The owner died trying to save him. Bull’s mainly interested in the case because Liberty Davis, the once shy and awkward lawyer turned star in the the legal world thanks to Bull’s coaching, is representing the widow. Bull looks pretty petty this episode, taking a case just because he wants to show Liberty who’s in control. It’s not an appealing side of him.
This episode unfolded in the show’s typical style. Bull decides that someone must have purposefully tampered with the parachutes after the owner double-checked them, thus making it not the fault of the company, but murder. Predictably, there are false leads, red herrings, and irrelevant information thrown out until it’s finally revealed that it was the person you’d least expect. The structure of these episodes is so predictable that it’s hard to be shocked or titillated by the latest reveal, as the weekly viewer of Bull knows that it won’t hold any significance in actually solving the case.
Other procedurals function like this. In Law & Order: SVU, it’s also a pretty safe guess that the real culprit will be the person who seems the most innocent at the beginning of the episode. However, Bull follows this structure so steadfastly and rigidly that the episodes feel a bit paint-by-numbers. There’s no element of surprise anymore. The show thinks it can coast along on Michael Weatherly’s charisma. The actor is incredibly charming and confident, so this strategy has worked for much longer than it should have, but it’s beginning to wear thin.
This week, Bull meets with the owner’s brother Max and daughter Dylan and decides to investigate the governor’s former staffers, as they were all on the skydiving trip as part of a team-building effort and they’ve all moved on to bigger and better things since his death. Danni poses as a journalist and talks to his former press secretary Veronica, as GoPro footage from before the governor’s death revealed that he mentioned something about Veronica getting ready to deal with something big. Veronica tells her that the FBI was looking into the governor, but closed the case after he died.
Danni goes to her contact at the FBI, Gabe, and gets him to hand over the case files, which reveal that the governor was being investigated for 23 counts of corruption. Someone on his staff could have killed him to cover it up. Even though Danni promised not to make the case file public, as it contains secret information that could only come from the FBI, Bull tells his team to bring it up in court. Max, the owner of the skydiving company’s brother is representing the company in the case, even though there’s no way in hell he’s a lawyer. People have the right to defend themselves in court, but why wouldn’t Bull hire someone experienced? The answer is because Max will be important in the plot later on, but it felt like lazy storytelling.
Bull uncovers yet another scandal. The governor was having an affair with the wife of the former lieutenant governor, now governor. Bull deduces this because the former lieutenant governor moved office spaces six days before the governor’s death. Bull has Max bring it up in court, but of course this doesn’t lead to anything. It does inspire Liberty to fight harder though, as she finds information that the governor signed new zoning laws that caused the skydiving company to lose their lease. The new governor reversed those laws. Liberty suggests that the owner deliberately sabotaged the governor as payback, then changed his mind at the last minute, reducing Dylan to tears on the stand.
It’s not a lot of fun to watch. Bull tells Max that his new strategy is into admit that his brother killed the governor, but because he was acting outside the scope of his employment, the company is not liable in the wrongful death suit. He prepares closing arguments for Max, which completely slander his dead brother’s name. Max breaks down and tells Bull he can’t read it. He killed the governor, as his brother blamed him for losing the lease and fired him. Max decided to kill the governor as revenge. Once again, it’s the person the audience would least expect.
Bull convinces the widow to drop the suit and leave Dylan with the company. Danni convinces Gabe to forgive her, even though what she did would have gotten him fired in the real world. In Bull world, he apparently only got a slap on the wrist for leaking classified case files. Everything’s back to normal for Bull and Danni, but things aren’t looking so good for Benny. The U.S. Attorney’s office is investigating the case of Hayden Watkins, a man Benny put away 9 years ago, as DNA evidence might exonerate him. It’s the show’s first attempt at a subplot that carries through from week to week, but they keep regulating it to the background, making it feel random and disconnected from the rest of the story. Bull may have Michael Weatherly’s charm, but it needs to step up the storytelling.
Season 1, Episode 16 (S01E16)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor