BULL Review: “Stockholm Syndrome”

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This was a very strange episode of . A young woman sets off a bomb at Bull’s company’s headquarters, in order to force him to help get her husband out of jail. He entered a guilty plea and is five years into a fifteen-year sentence for manslaughter, but she’s convinced he’s innocent. He was a pharmacy owner accused of being a low level narcotics distributer and murdering a drug lord, Tommy Vega, and the entire case hinged on the testimony of an undercover FBI agent who never testified in open court. Interesting enough premise, but it opens with Bull addressing the camera, asking us “gun to your head, what would you do?” and claiming that crisis builds character. From this odd breaking of the fourth wall, it seems like Bull would’ve orchestrated whatever crisis was about to happen in order to assess how the people effected reacted, but no. It was just an odd scene to include.

The show has also fallen into the awful trap of using popular music in scenes where it makes no sense whatsoever in a blatant attempt to seem hip. This show has always tried too hard to be cool, but there’s something slightly pathetic about randomly underscoring scenes with a pair of ubiquitous alternative-rock songs—Miike Snow’s “Genghis Khan” and “Spirits” by the Strumbellas. “Genghis Khan” plays while Laurel, the wife of the accused murderer, enters Bull’s building and begins assembling her bomb. It just made no sense.

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The bomb goes off, but luckily no one is hurt. Laurel then pulls out a 3D-printed plastic gun—the only weapon that would’ve gotten past the metal detectors—and lays out her case for Bull. I can appreciate the ingenuity of someone 3D-printing a gun, but that thing did not look intimidating in the slightest. Laurel dramatically reveals that the undercover FBI agent who sent her husband, Gordon, to jail is none other than Danny, although this is not a shocking twist. The show telegraphed it by having Danny mutter under her breath that she knows the case and then sigh loudly and pace around distractingly. This show really has no faith in their audience’s ability to follow a story.

Bull, Chunk, Marissa, Danny, Benny, and the mock jury participants are stuck in the courtroom, as the bomb caused a hallway to cave in. It will be at least an hour for the police to clear it. Bull talks Laurel into handing over her gun, telling her that he won’t work under duress but he will help her. They decide to retry Gordon’s case right then and there, with Chunk as the judge, Bull as the defense attorney, and Benny as the prosecutor. This time, they’re going to interrogate Danny. Bull discovers that Danny missed several check-ins with her handlers while she was undercover, including some drug tests. He also knows that she left the FBI under suspicious circumstances shortly after the case. After he learns that the district attorney offered Gordon a plea deal three days into the trial, he surmises that the DA must not have had faith in Danny’s testimony, the only piece of evidence in the case.

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A serious situation has just happened. A deranged woman set off a bomb, which could have killed everyone, then made demands at gunpoint. Bull’s employee may be responsible for sending an innocent man to jail. However, the writers apparently thought the mock trial was a good time for Bull, Benny, and Chunk to make light-hearted jokes and banter with each other. It just felt out of place and distracting. Also out of place and distracting? The random construction noises coming from the police trying to clear the hallway that would appear and then disappear, as if the showrunner didn’t trust the audience to remember what was going on.

Benny calls Danny to the stand, painting her as a dedicated, trustworthy agent. Bull absolutely destroys her, pressing her on her drug use—she had to do some to gain the trust of the Vega brothers—and the circumstances under which she left the bureau. Bull tells Marissa that this awful treatment of someone he’s supposed to care about is justified, as it serves two purposes. It shows Laurel what a trial for her husband would have been like and it will cause Danny to confront the demons of her past. The mock jury votes, overwhelmingly finding Gordon innocent. Thanks to Bull, they didn’t trust Danny in the slightest.

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The police burst into the room, as they’ve finally finished clearing the hallway. But Bull has a big announcement to make, so none of the jurors leave. He tells them that verdict was one way the trial could have gone. Bull did a good as her defense attorney, but if he were the prosecutor, he would’ve asked Danny more about when she first became aware of Gordon, demonstrating that he was actually a drug dealer on the FBI’s radar. Yes, after Bull spent 40 minutes passionately arguing that a wrongfully convicted man was rotting in jail, we learn that Gordon was really guilty after all.

There’s something interesting and terrifying about the idea that facts alone aren’t the things that win cases, it’s the way that facts (or falsehoods) are presented that matters, especially in this dystopian age of the White House pushing “alternative facts”. But this episode was like most episodes of the show—a kernel of a good idea obscured by melodramatics and obvious twists.

TB-TV-Grade-B

Season 1, Episode 12 (S01E12)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS

Read all of our reviews of Bull here. 
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Jennifer lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA.
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Keep up with all of Jennifer’s reviews here.

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