CONVICTION Review: “Not Okay”

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After a lengthy holiday hiatus and a move to a new night, CONVICTION is back. It’s formula is roughly the same as ever, though we probably shouldn’t expect anything close to a reinvention for a drama that’s basically living on borrowed time at this point. After a lengthy previously message to remind us who everyone is and how they relate to one another, we’re off. While “Not Okay” is a pretty fun watch from a soapy character perspective, this week’s case is predictable, preachy and dull.

We pick things up almost where we left off last time, with Hayes attempting to process the fact that an innocent man was put to death for a crime he didn’t commit.We learn that she and Wallace spent the night together after Earl’s death, just like we all expected they would. But Hayes is having a really hard facing herself, her and the entire criminal justice system in the wake of Earl’s death. She comes back to work shaky and angry, and lashes out at anyone who dares to ask how she’s doing. Hayes decides that the CIU will next tackle the case of Sophie Hausen, a young woman serving a life sentence for the murder of a college basketball star whom she accused of raping her. Now that Hayes doesn’t trust the system anymore, she’s become sort of pro-vigilante and is determined to find a way to get Sophie out of jail. Her argument? If the state can murder an innocent person (i.e. Earl), she doesn’t know why a young woman has to spend the rest of her life behind bars for taking out a man who attacked her. Given that the CIU is supposed to be about supporting lofty big picture things like justice and truth and the American way, watching Hayes act out like this is super uncomfortable.

In theory, rape is a perfect subject to build the internal argument of this case around. It frequently goes unreported or unpunished and women who accuse others of rape are held to impossible personal standards, mocked and disbelieved. It’s a horrible crime, and a deeply uncomfortable grey area within our own justice system – where victims are judged and blamed as much, if not often more than, the accused are. But instead, Conviction handles it in an unsurprisingly ham-fisted manner, full of clunky discussions between various characters about consent and revenge.

Anyway, Sophie’s case is an unusual choice for the CIU, considering that she has motive, no alibi and her DNA was found on the murder weapon. Her case doesn’t look much like a wrongful conviction, besides the fact that Hayes seems weirdly fixated on it. She even admits as much, saying that she just doesn’t think a college student deserves to spend the rest of her life in jail for killing her rapist. She wants the CIU to do its best to find some technicality to get her off. Again, this is all kind of uncomfortable to watch, especially because the episode never really does much in terms of exploring Hayes’ position here.

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The technical details of Sophie’s case aren’t that interesting. There are the typical red herrings and scenes designed to dismantle the evidence that convicted her. Sophie admits that she bought a gun, but only because she was contemplating suicide. Frankie and Tess do some crime scene recreation and determine the murderer must have injured themselves fleeing the scene. The DNA evidence is retested and deemed inconclusive. The team visits the rape crisis center at the school and discovers that Travis was accused of assaulting several other girls. Eventually, we learn that Elyse Salmon, the school’s rape crisis counselor, killed Travis. A rape victim herself who never got justice, Elyse was determined to protect all the other girls from his serial raping ways. Hayes’ promises to help her get a good lawyer, and actually shows up to see Sophie released from prison. It’s a big win for her after the Slavitt case, so maybe we’ll go back to a more traditional investigation next week.

The most interesting part of the episode, however, is the way the CIU team reacts to it. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that Sophie isn’t guilty – most of the episode involves the team throwing up various alternatives for who killed Travis and seeing which stick. So, watching how the team sees rape and rape culture provided a much more interesting plot than this week’s actual case. Hayes and Tess immediately aligned themselves with Sophie, while Frankie and Sam remained more skeptical – both in terms of the crime (“An accusation of rape isn’t proof of rape.”) and whether or not being assaulted gave Sophie some kind of right to take justice for herself.

The fact that Sophie is – of course – innocent makes Hayes’ obsession with her case even murkier. Does Sophie’s innocence make Hayes’ determination to get her off at all costs okay? Is that something we should be exploring? And, really, if we don’t get a case where the CIU team discovers that a case they investigate actually involves a guilty person before this show ends…

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The CIU case this week is only a small part of the episode as a whole, which prominently features both Tess and Hayes dealing with the relationships in their lives.

Tess, you may recall, had tracked down the man she’ d wrongfully sent to prison for murdering her aunt. His name is Matty and she’s been going by his coffee cart every day. The flirty vibe between them last time apparently turned into something, as the two have been texting regularly. Matty finally appears at the CIU offices – though it’s unclear how he knows where she works – to ask Tess on a date. She hesitates, but says yes eventually. Their interaction is kind of sweet and they have a nice chemistry together – but isn’t this situation just really weird? Not just because Tess hasn’t told him who she is, but also because she’s interested in him in the first place? She accused him of murder and sent him to prison. Clearly, she feels very bad about that, but it’s not clear how we get from that to romantic interest, or why this is a situation we should be rooting for.

At Frankie’s insistence, Tess invites Matty back to the office to tell him the truth about her past. He basically walks out on her, but it seems likely we’ll be seeing him again at some point in future. There’s no way we did all of this build up just for that moment.

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As for Hayes, things are getting interesting again between her and Wallace. After they spend the night together in Indiana, Wallace tells Hayes that he and girlfriend Naomi have ended things. She’s taken aback and asks if it’s because of what happened between them. Wallace says no, but that’s clearly a lie. Hayes hashes out recent events with her brother Jackson, who finally just tells her that if she wants to be with Wallace they should give a relationship a try, for real. He insists that she’s changed since being put in charge of the CIU, and she’s ready to make it work. Honestly, it’s not entirely clear that Jackson is right here. In the previous nine episodes of this show we’ve seen very little evidence that Hayes has changed all that much, unless we’re supposed to trust the Conviction ’ apparent inability to write her character consistently as being the same thing as “growth”. (Apparently Jackson’s main evidence is that Hayes would have never been so upset about Earl before. Um, okay?) Anyway, Jackson – quite rightly in this instance – tells Hayes that if she wants Wallace she’s going to have to take a risk and go get him herself, because he’ll never act interested out of fear it’ll scare her away.

So that’s exactly what she does. Hayes marches straight to Wallace’s office and tells him that she’s all in for whatever’s happening between them. She says she’s sure she’s going to screw it up, but Wallace just says he’s up for the challenge of dealing with her. They kiss as music swells in the dramatically background and then ask each other what’s next. Neither of them know. Neither, it would appear, do we.

Since Conviction has so few episodes left, maybe Hayes and Wallace will actually get their happy ending. (But it’s kind of fun to speculate what kind of crazy secret would pop up just at this moment to break them up if it weren’t.)
TB-TV-Grade-C+Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E10)
Conviction airs Sundays at 1oPM 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.
Follow Lacy on Twitter: @LacyMB
Keep up with all of Lacy’s reviews here.

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