CONVICTION Review: “Enemy Combatant”

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This week on CONVICTION, we finally meet Hayes father! And the addition of President Morrison to the canvas is pure, unadulterated soap opera ridiculousness. He’s manipulative, selfish, and ultimately out for his own ends almost all the time. We should have met this man weeks ago. If Conviction had ever fully committed to the legal Dynasty at its center, we might not be getting ready to watch its series finale in two weeks. This stuff is exactly the kind of over-the-top fun this show needs. Particularly when you realize that this is the second major terrorism case we’ve seen depicted on Conviction, and somehow neither of them managed to be particularly compelling. But whereas “Dropping Bombs” was trying much too hard to be “shocking”, the plot of “Enemy Combatant” manages to be almost completely forgettable.

Part of this is, again, due to the fact that the possibility of their client’s guilt is never really presented as an option. It would seem that Hayes Morrison and her CIU team are a magical group who only ever manage to take on innocent defendants. How are none of these people ever guilty? It completely takes away all of the tension from the episode because we all already know that after a suitable number of red herrings and dead ends, something will pop up to exonerate the CIU’s client. It’s a pattern that’s becoming increasingly dull.

But, onward to the story. President Morrison (played by the always wonderful Martin Donovan) stops by his daughter’s apartment for a quick visit, and also to lobby Hayes and her CIU team to take on the case of Omar Abbas. (Man, for all that Hayes goes on every week about being the woman in charge of the CIU and getting to pick her own cases, she sure does end up working on ones that are “suggested” to her a lot. Sheesh.) Anyway, Abbas is a Muslim-American citizen who was arrested for allegedly plotting a chemical attack on Manhattan. But he was declared an “enemy combatant” upon arrest, allowing him to be held indefinitely without trial. He’s been in a military facility for six years, but has only recently started a hunger strike. A month into this protest, and it’s starting to look like Abbas might be serious about starving himself to death. Plus, President M has it on good authority that it’s possible Abbas is innocent after all. Only he can’t identify said intelligence source without compromising their anonymity and safety. Morrison tells his daughter that she could be Abbas’ only shot, even if that means she has to go up against Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

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The CIU team is less than thrilled about the case, since Abbas was pretty much caught attempting mass murder with a chemical weapon. They spend a few minutes debating what “enemy combatant” means and comparing the different kinds of justice that men like Omar receive, versus a domestic terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. Listening to all this, President M gives the team a pep talk about how they are now tasked with offering Abbas the protection of the legal system, and that his life may depend on them. It’s easy to see how this guy got elected. He’s really good ta this.

The Red Cross arranges a video conference with Abbas. Tess and Hayes attend, and Omar tells them in no uncertain terms that he is innocent. He looks hazy and ill, but refuses to consider backing off his hunger strike because it’s the only thing he still feels like he has control over. He explains his story, that he was picking up a fare at the train station, and someone had forgotten a bag in his trunk. He says he took the bag in to try and find its owner, and he certainly wasn’t trying to launch any kind of chemical attack. Omar insists everyone just assumed he’s Al Qaeda because of his name and the fact that he’s Muslim, and that’s been enough to keep him in a cage for six years.

Hayes and the CIU team dig in, but as investigations go, this one is pretty dull. We learn that Omar’s cousin Asif was radicalized by jihadis at some point, and flew to Pakistan three times, once on Omar’s credit card. Omar apparently followed him there to bring him home and had to pretend to be a jihadist himself to get him out. This adventure means that Omar ended up in some photos that now seem pretty damaging to his cause. (In one, he’s posing with several most-wanted terrorists.) But then Hayes and company manage to track Asif down to a seedy motel, hoping he can give them some info on who exactly has been passing on information to the Feds. They’re sure that this person might be Morrison’s anonymous source. Except it turns out that Asif is the person who informed on his cousin. He says that he only did it because the government tortured him into doing so, and he’s felt guilty about it ever since. Unfortunately, even though Asif eventually recants his testimony, it’s not enough to sway the DoD board on Omar’s behalf.

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Hayes pleads with her father to give up his anonymous source, insisting that figuring out who called the tipline and told them about the duffel bag in Omar’s cab is crucial to saving his life. But, President Morrison refuses. So it’ s pretty convenient when Hayes receives an anonymous package in her elevator containing an unredacted version of the call log from the terror tip line. Thanks to this new info, the case unravels pretty quickly. The tip call was made from a payphone in the financial district, and of course Omar somehow remembers a strange fare he drove back then, who offered him five times his normal fee to drive him into the middle of the Occupy Wall Street protest area.

That fare turns out to be a man named Paul Sedgewick, who was angry at Gallaway Bank because his family’s savings was wiped out by the country’s financial crisis. His father ended up having to come out of retirement to work, and later dropped dead on the factory floor. Paul has plenty of motive, and after an extremely brief interview with the CIU folks, confesses to everything to keep the Feds from being the ones who arrest him. He says he he got cold feet in the end, and couldn’t go through with his planned attack on the bank. He left the bag in the cab, and called a tip in about it because he wanted to keep people from getting hurt. He didn’t mean to ruin Omar’s life, apparently. Paul’s confession is enough to free Omar, but due to national security concerns the CIU can’t celebrate the win. But he’s still released and quietly reunited with his family, including the daughter he’d never met.

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As a case-of-the week, this story isn’t incredibly interesting, despite it’s controversial subject matter. What is interesting is the insertion of Hayes’ father into the story, and our first real look at both his character and his impact on his daughter’s life. He is incredibly charming, but also extremely self-motivated. He always has an agenda, and he’s apparently willing to use anyone to achieve it. He brought the Abbas case to Hayes and the CIU on purpose – he’s angling for favorable to boost his chances of snagging the UN Secretary General position. And he has lots of opinons on Hayes’ relationship with Conner Wallace. Which, given the fact that watching the show’s marquee couple was as boring as watching paint dry last week, is a welcome shake-up.

President Morrison, it would seem, has no qualms about telling both Hayes and Wallace that he thinks their relationship is doomed. He tells his daughter that he’s sure they love each other or whatever schoompy stuff Hayes currently believes, but part of the reason that Wallace is into her is the fact that she’s his daughter. He explains that, as such, Hayes has a lot of things that Wallace has always wanted but never had – power, political influence, access. He couldn’t fail to be into her, if only to get all those things for himself. Hayes, looking hurt, does her best to defend her boyfriend, insisting that they’re doing things right this time and he really loves her. President M just shrugs nonchalantly, and says maybe that is true – but how will she ever know for sure? This rattles Hayes badly, and even when she gets home that night, you can see she’s thinking about what her dad said. Wallace, somehow doesn’t seem to see her new awkwardness, but it’s clear there’s drama coming.

With just one episode of Conviction left, this all feels fairly irrelevant – though Wallace and Hayes’ inevitable confrontation about what her father said should be good . However, it does make you wonder how much more fun we could have had with President Morrison around all along. After all, why make it a plot point that your special government task force is run by a former First Daughter if we’re not going to get some politically motivated-family drama out of it?

TB-TV-Grade-C+

Season 1, Episode 12 (S01E12)
Conviction airs Sundays at 10PM on ABC

Read all of our reviews of Conviction here. 
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Lacy is a digital strategist by day and a writer because it seemed like a good start to her supervillain origin story.  Favorite things include: Sansa Stark, British period dramas, and that leather duster that Aeryn Sun wears in Farscape.
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