After being preempted for the vice presidential debate last week, BULL returns with an episode that centers on a Serial spoof and the miscarriage of justice it propagated. Thanks to a popular podcast called “Open and Shut with Ellen Huff”, the whole world, including the judicial system, thinks a young woman named Reese shot and killed Mike, a popular athlete at Hudson University, because she wanted revenge after he raped her. Bull is so upset by this that he takes on the case pro bono, once again using Benny as his defense attorney, which pits him against his ex, Amanda, who works for the prosecution.
We’re only three weeks into the season, but Bull has settled into some patterns that make the show very predictable. The episode opens with various talking heads discussing something that relates to the case of the week. During jury selection, the lawyer asks an offbeat question meant to uncover key details about a juror’s personality—this week, Benny shows them two works of art, an abstract piece and a still life, asking them which they prefer. If they choose the abstract one, it means they are open-minded. Bull’s team assembles a mirror jury and we hear the jurors/their mirrors demonstrate how eerily alike they are. Bull observes the trial, reading the minds of the jurors. Bull and his team throw a party to celebrate winning the case.
The issue with the predictability of the show is that because it requires so little brain power from the viewer, it gives them time to think about the improbabilities of the whole thing. How does Bull find people who are exactly like the actual jurors for the mirror jurors? Does he put out an ad looking for people that make the demographics? Wouldn’t this take forever? It seems to take less than a week on the show, possibly even only a day. How can Bull read the minds of the jurors so accurately? Some thoughts he picks up on are easy to assume, but others, like ascertaining that one juror doesn’t like a witness because he reminds her of her broker, are near impossible.
But back to the case of the week. Bull decides to put Ellen Huff, the podcast host on trial via the media. He needs to discredit her, as the judge won’t sequester the jury and everyone has heard/believes her podcast. They subpoena her files, but she goes to jail rather than share them. She decides to give in after Bull visits her in jail, but she’s killed that night—pushed out her window in an attempt to make it look like a suicide. Bull finds in her audio files that Ellen willingly ignored some facts because they didn’t fit her narrative, like the fact that Mike and his best friend Rob were heavily involved with steroids and the fact that Mike’s girlfriend Gina also filed a sexual assault report against him.
Once again, the case comes down to one juror, a man named Wade. Benny is able to convince him by playing the audio files at the trial. Bull wins again! Reese is released and the whole crew has a party to celebrate. There were two mysteries in this case: who really killed Mike and who killed Ellen? Naturally, I was interested in the answers to those questions. However, the show was not. In a quick, blink-and-you-missed-it aside, a character mentions that the basketball coach killed Mike because he was mad about the whole steroid thing. So did the coach kill Ellen too? We never really find out.
This might be reading too much into a throwaway statement, but by saying that Mike was a star athlete at Hudson University, the show suggests that it could take place in the same universe as Law and Order: SVU. The fictional Hudson University has been the site of many, many crimes on the NBC show. I kept hoping that Olivia Benson would show up to liven up the proceedings of this episode, but to no avail. Both Bull and SVU are procedurals. However, SVU has so much more tension than Bull. We may know that Benson and her squad are always going to solve the case by the end of the episode, but at least there’s twists and turns in their search to find the culprit. In Bull, Bull always wins his case. If we know that from the onset, where’s the tension? Where’s the drama? That’s the biggest problem with this show, and I’m not sure if the writers are interested in remedying it.
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor