BULL returns to New York City in this episode, promptly losing the momentum last week promised with an episode that once again highlighted this show’s problem. However, I am happy to report that they seem to have abandoned the insufferable talking heads that opened the first three episodes (they weren’t there last week either). One of my biggest notes after the pilot was that it felt gross to see Bull accept large amounts of money to manipulate the justice system for wealthy clients. Other, more important people, must have had the same complaint, as once again Bull takes on a case pro bono because he wants to see justice prevail.
This still feels very much like a new show trying to find its way, but some of their solutions to their problems raise more questions that they answer. If Bull is only going to take cases he cares about pro bono, how can he possibly afford his operation? Has he just made so much money in the past by helping wealthy assholes that he can now afford to do this? How does Bull possibly get the information about the potential jurors pre-jury selection? During voir dire, he knows everything about the prospective jurors, which seems impossible.
This week, the team doesn’t assemble a mirror jury. Without a mirror jury, how are they able to accurately predict which way the real jurors are leaning? It’s possible that there was a mirror jury, we just didn’t see it, but that would be a strange choice, as the show made a point of showing us the mirror jury in the first three episodes and the lack of one was a key problem last week. Granted, I didn’t like the moments where the mirror jurors repeated their demographic information after the real jurors, so we knew just how uncannily similar they are, but it’s a strange choice to omit the whole thing entirely, when we were told that it’s essential to Bull’s success.
Let’s talk about the case of the week. After a fight with her fiancé at a fancy party, a billionaire’s daughter runs into the streets, turning into an alley where she’s beaten to death. Her parents reach out to Bull. They want his help ensuring he fiancé, Richard, is put away for the crime. Richard’s a lowly line cook, so they’ve never liked him in the first place. It should be an easy payday—after all, Richard confessed to the police—but Bull turns down their money, instead deciding to offer his services pro bono to the defense. Based on the little bit of the taped confession he saw, he decides that Richard must have been coerced into doing it and is actually innocent.
False confessions do happen all the time, so it’s semi-interesting to see the show tackle that thorny topic. They decide to evaluate all the jurors for how gullible/susceptible they are, calling the number their “Coercion Coefficient”, or “Coco”, which they then explain means coercion coefficient every time because this show doesn’t trust its audience to remember things. The lawyer breaks down the four tactics for eliciting a false confession—mental exhaustion, the promise of escape, offer a reward, and feeding them the language—and demonstrates how Detective Murphy utilized all four.
The jurors who have been tricked into doing things before are on Richard’s side, but there’s still three holdouts. Bull rewatches the interrogation tape and realizes that Richard said the body was dragged. How could he have known that? The medical examiner’s report containing that detail wasn’t realized until two days after his confession. Bull determines that Murphy must have told Richard that detail, and he knew it because Murphy has a secret confidential information who was an eyewitness at the scene.
It’s quite a leap, but Bull is right. Murphy is protecting a CI who witnessed the whole thing. I really thought they had to release information like that to the defense in discovery, but who knows. Unfortunately, destroying Murphy’s credibility doesn’t sway the remaining jurors. Bull comes up with a new plan. He gets into an elevator with the jurors. The elevator breaks. But don’t worry, it’s just Cable hacking the system and pretending to be the security officer, who claims that help won’t arrive for several hours.
Trapped, the jurors decide to lie and say that one of them is having a heart attack, as then surely help will have to arrive faster. They ignore Bull’s warnings that doing so could get them in trouble. Cable fixes the elevator. After only five minutes, the jurors were willing to provide false information to get out of their situation, just like Richard. The lawyer dances around this in his closing statement and Richard is found not guilty. It’s a little bit fun seeing the crazy schemes Bull comes up with to change jurors’ minds, like the tornado thing last week.
Do you remember in the pilot how we learned about the real killer in one quick sentence? Same sort of thing happens here. We learn that the real killer was Richard’s friend, a server at the event. Danni found a little piece of a cufflink at the crime scene—why the police allowed her to examine the crime scene, I don’t know—and they made the leap with the help of Chunk’s fashion expertise. As it did in the pilot, this conclusion felt rushed and overly convenient. Despite a few positive changes (RIP talking heads), there’s still plenty of problems with the show.
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor