This week’s CONVICTION picks up with the fallout from Hayes’ interview, in which #HayesKeepsItReal by telling the world what they already know. Namely, that she is a spoiled, rich girl who never has to clean up any of her own messes. Her public rant has left her with a spike in internet popularity, but not much else. She’s sleeping at the office, because her brother has kicked her out, so Hayes decides to cope through work.
She assembles the CIU team, and tells them she wants a new case, featuring the most downtrodden underdog they can find. She wants someone poor, disadvantaged, and underprivileged, stat. The undertones of this are interesting – obviously Hayes is working through her own lingering personal issues, having just outed herself as America’s Most Privileged Woman on national TV. It seems as though she wants to make herself feel better, like it’s okay that she’s gotten this job through what is basically nepotism because she’s helping the poor with it. It would be interesting if Hayes actually acknowledged this instead of her team, but I guess we can’t have everything.
Honestly, it’s possible that the best way to watch this show is to just accept that Conviction is never going to be a serious – or even particularly good – drama. It’s not going to suddenly start handling delicate or controversial topics with nuance and care. However, if you just assume that each and every episode must be as soapy as possible, and stop expecting real character development or for the weekly cases to make a tremendous amount of sense, it suddenly becomes kind of fun.
Such is the case with this week’s CIU investigation, which takes on the conviction of a young man named Will Jarrett, who was passed around through six public defenders before ultimately getting 40 years for murder. He was convicted of killing Deborah Porter, a wealthy wife and the mother of one of his friends. Will claims the Porters were like family to him, and that he’d never hurt them. The Porters claim Will repaid all their kindness to him with a brutal murder. It’s a classic case of haves and have-nots, and Hayes eats it up. Except it’s not entirely about that at all, but you probably guessed that already.
This week’s case is particularly stuffed with red herrings and fake-outs, with everyone from Deborah’s husband to her gardener to her son turning out to be a suspect. The case turns when video is discovered of Deborah’s son Sean planting the murder weapon in the gardeners’ truck. He claims that Will – somehow, from jail – made him do this. That this excuse is ridiculous is obvious, but what’s even more amazing is Will’s reaction when the CIU team tells him Sean’s story. He’s hurt. Why? Because of course Will and Sean were in love. (That Frankie is the one who guesses this when his secret backstory subplot is that he too loved a man in prison is the kind of fun hilarity I’ve decided to embrace in Conviction.) Deborah couldn’t deal with her son’s choice of boyfriend – he was poor, you see – so she tried to break them up. And as a result the boys killed her together, which explains the difference in stab wound depth and placement, though Will covered for Sean and took the fall for the whole thing. Will proves his claim by producing a video of the two of them together in bed, talking about their plans to off Sean’s mother so they could have a great life together. He kept this video on a burner phone, while Sean kept the murder knife. Apparently it’s supposed to be a reminder of their connection or something. Love is weird, I guess.
The case-of-the-week is certainly dramatic and over-the-top, but it’s not the most interesting part of this episode. In fact, Conviction might be better served by occasionally having lighter and/or shorter cases in future episodes, so as to give more screentime to the one thing that’s really working – the backstories and relationships of the CIU staff.
This week, we learn that Frankie’s still-in-jail, possible-boyfriend only has one appeal left. He wants to ask Hayes to take a look at his case file and see if she can help him out, but he’s nervous about it, since his job is so new. Instead of going to Hayes, Frankie lets Tess take a look at the file first. He’s somewhat taken aback when she says that even if she thought Rey had grounds for appeal, she’s not sure he deserves to get out. She doesn’t think he’s a good person. This conversation is still haunting Frankie at the episode’s end when he finally manages to talk to Hayes about his boyfriend’s(?) case. He says he loves Rey, or at least he thought he did, but he’s having lots of confusing feelings about whether it’s right for him to be released. Hayes is surprisingly gracious, and offers to help in any way she can when Frankie’s ready. But what I really want to know is more about Frankie’s time in prison and what happened to him. Tell me that case, show.
As far as Hayes herself goes, she’s back on her best behavior this week. She’s placing daily calls to Jackson, apologizing for blowing her interview. She’s trying to convince Wallace to give her another chance. She’s crusading for the downtrodden with the CIU’s latest case. But why exactly does Hayes feel bad, again? Because she betrayed her brother’s trust? Tanked her mom’s poll numbers? Lost out on a second chance with Wallace? She doesn’t say anything wildly inappropriate this week, or drive any of her staff members to tears. It’s possible we’re supposed to assume that this is a new Hayes. But it’s doubtful that we should get too attached – we all know she’ll be right back to her edgy, bad girl behavior as soon as the story calls for it.
She buys Wallace a cheeky peace offering, an enormous bottle of ibuprofen, because she knows what a pain she is. And Wallace…just doesn’t care. He says he’s not angry at Hayes anymore. He’s just finished. He’s tired of her blowing things up around him all the time, and even if it turns him on, it’s not something he needs in his life. It’s…a rather stunning defeat for Hayes. Not because it seems likely that Wallace will manage to stay away from Hayes forever, but because this scene reveals her biggest weakness. And it’s being ignored. Part of Hayes’ “shocking” schtick is that it’s geared to get attention, and it’s clear she doesn’t know what to do when Wallace tells her that he’s done with it all.
At one point, Hayes is so down in the dumps over everything that she summons her mother for a heart to heart. She fills her mom in on her latest case and the ongoing problems with her brother and her ex. She even apologizes for blowing her big interview and damaging her election chances. She says she didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Harper, as it turns out, is full of sage wisdom. She tells her daughter that just because she didn’t mean to hurt people didn’t mean she didn’t do damage to them. She says Jackson will come around eventually, but Hayes needs to talk to Wallace about how she feels. This mom/daughter bonding session feels wildly out of character given how Hayes has behaved during virtually any other moment in which her mom has been mentioned, let alone been present. It also feels weird that this is ostensibly their first post-interview interaction, and apparently Harper has nothing to say to her daughter about that. The entire scene feels so out of place – and so much like it’s been inserted just to give Hayes the motivation to talk to Wallace – that I was convinced Harper Morrison would turn out to be a hallucination and we’d find out Hayes was talking to herself. (That might have actually been interesting, to be honest.)
Speaking of things that are interesting, Hayes does gather up her courage enough to go and see Wallace again. She asks how the whole Department of Justice investigation thing is going. And it turns out that he’s hired outside counsel – a woman named Naomi Golden from Chicago. Hayes looks stunned, because it turns out that Naomi is her ex-girlfriend. Apparently she’s also Wallace’s ex-girlfriend, because this show doesn’t understand the concept of doing anything by halves. Were they all dating at different times? Did one of them cheat with the other? Were they in some sort of polygamous relationship? It’s unclear, but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. This is exactly the kind of twist this show – at its heart a Scandal wannabe – would pull.
Bring on the drama, I say. It’s not going to be the cases that save this show.
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
Show Titles airs Mondays at 10PM on ABC
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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Lacy Baugher | Contributor