Murder in the First: Punch Drunk

Ep 5
Episode recaps
Photo Credit:

Last week, we saw the re-introduction of Warren Daniels as lead counsel for Erich Blunt. The case looks to be anything but iron clad. And in a unsatisfying scene, English makes a move involving a karaoke song, obvious meaning, and sustained eye contact that went unrequited. One has to believe that opening statements and actual cross examinations should be imminent.

One interesting yet unimportant observation before we get started. The first exchange from Blunt and Daniels in this episode…

Blunt: Is that the best suit you’ve got?
Daniels: Absolutely not.

I find it interesting. I like the tone. It sets up the idea that Blunt is in micromanage mode and this close to freaking out at every turn while Daniels is the smooth operator. Now I’m no fashion snob, but I know what I like and I know what looks good. The blue dress shirt with the buttons holding the collar down is a dead giveaway to either someone who has not ascended to the higher level of suits or is a hipster. This is the same shirt young boys wear to private school as part of a uniform. I’m sure it’s just the preference of the costume person or an oversight. But you don’t call out the attire of your lawyer when his suit game is clearly better than yours. Did you remember to bring your book bag too? More importantly Daniels conveys to Blunt the idea that this is a long process, relax.

In the courtroom, Siletti starts out with his opening statement to the jury. You may recognize Siletti from any number of shows from Law & Order to Fringe. I remember him from Raising the Bar (a show the Mrs and I refer to as “Zach Morris: Attorney at Law”). And that may be the last time Raising the Bar is ever mentioned here. I have to say, Siletti’s opening statement is calm, measured and friendly but when compared to that of Mr. Daniels seems almost juvenile. Now I hope as a television viewer that this is a device to set expectation in order for ‘the good guys’ to exceed it. Otherwise, our guys seem outmatched from the start.

An odd comparison if you’d like some clarity on the opening statement issue. Daniels comes off like a well-mannered under control father who has been challenged by his 8-year-old son in a game of horse. While his counterpart seems eager to do tons of things, Daniels is completely in control and not worried in the least. He does have a great, yet subtle thing. Siletti made it about what the state will prove. Daniels put the power of deciding into the minds of the jurors. It may not seem like a big thing, but it tends to put the majority subconsciously on Daniels side; at least to start.

Daniels: At the conclusion of this trial Mr. Siletti and I will have the opportunity to address you again. And at that time I’m going to ask you a few simple questions. First, did Mr. Siletti all that he said he was going to prove? Did he prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Blunt had a motive to commit murder? Did he prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Erich Blunt that committed the murder? And finally, did he prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an actual murder was committed at all? I am confident that after you’ve answered all of those questions, you’re going to find that young man over there, Erich Blunt not guilty.

Elsewhere in a bar English and Mulligan engage in a typical role-playing exercise pinning Mulligan as the defense attorney grilling English over the details of his testimony. Not exactly the kind of scene that moves along my affection for these two ‘shipping’. However, never underestimate the mental/emotional temperament of a cop grieving over the loss of his wife. Just then the scene turns in a direction any guy’s man lobe of the brain is sure to like.

Two drunk guys playing pool decide to hit on a woman who is currently on a date (the date is sitting right there by the way). English takes the exception to this and indulges the drunk when confronted. English suggests the two guys leave the nice couple alone. After throwing out some lame drunk comments, and intentionally spilling his beer on English, they decide to position themselves in an assertive and ill-advised stance. One guy takes a shot. English takes care of them in about 4 moves. Mulligan shouts for him to stop.

The next day while English is getting ready to head into court, he is clearly getting the cold shoulder from Mulligan. I already don’t like where this is going. Apparently, Mulligan (in her new role as potential love interest at some point down the line) is having a tissy about English’s predisposition lately of punching first. You’re killing me Mulligan. When asked to give an example of being “quick to use your hands” Mulligan cites an incident from three years ago. Then Chris Walton, who is currently serving time, for beating him in the interrogation room. Then English does what every man sitting at home thinks he should do and wishes we could do (at times). Visually shows his disapproval for this conversation in general, says “I gotta go” and walks out.

English’ testimony was very solid. Again, there is a subtle nuance to the performance best experienced by watching. Even after going through the prosecutions questions and onto the defense’s cross-examination, English was strong. Daniels had no real choice but to hammer English in the hopes that English would hesitate or waiver. Casting a sliver of doubt to the jury. No luck to that end.

The examiner from the Coroner’s office is next in the witness chair. Predictably he goes through what he believes is what happened based on the physical signs from the body of the victim. Naturally, the explanations are fine for the prosecutor and not so for the defense. Daniels begins to attempt to cast a shadow of doubt. “Why not 8:18 or 9:07”? I hate to sound biased at this point, but the scales are tipped, I just don’t know for how long. The characters have been set up in a manner that has Daniels as the shark and Siletti as the guy who may need to step his game up. However, Daniels to this point has done little more than shoot holes in the processes used for decades, not in the prosecution’s case.

My apologies if this next bit sounds biased. Mulligan meets her ex for a walk. Come to find out the ex wanted to celebrate getting his 2 year clean chip from AA. Mulligan is happy for him but somehow detached from any connection. Clearly the ex has done something horrible during he pre Alcoholics Anonymous days. Everyone deserves a second chance. Make no mistake about it, that’s the particular heart string the show runners are tugging at. However, remember I’m a shipper by nature. I want to see the two main characters involved. I have no interest in one of the leads getting back together with their ex. So throughout this scene, I’m fighting any such feeling of sympathy for the ex. He does mention making amends with Terry (English, Mulligan’s partner).

Dr. Gibbs is quickly growing on me as a character that is barely recurring that I just love. Earlier in the series, Mulligan was unhappy that the test results weren’t coming as fast as she’d like. English offered to go down to the lab. Gibbs gave Mulligan the cold shoulder the entire time, while soaking in all of English’ charm. In this court room scene she just short of wittily brilliant. When asked about her interest in semen, she retorts back with not only a great answer but one that will endear her to the jury. Nothing she is asked shakes her or changes her ‘expert’ image.

I knew that when Mulligan’s first example of English’ temper was “my ex in the parking lot”, which he claimed was three years ago, I knew this was coming back. English agrees to meet with Mulligan’s ex as part of his 9th step. Initially, no big deal. English is there to accept an apology for behavior he probably doesn’t feel is necessary. As the story unfolds, the ‘fight’ Mulligan referenced was really the result of insecurity that English might eventually steal his wife. DING DING DING!!!

This introduces a world of hurt potentially. There is always going to be tension between these two. I doubt Mulligan ever gets back with him sincerely and long-term. If English and Mulligan do get together seriously, he’s going to find out. When he finds out, he will interpret it somehow as betrayal. Then how long has this been a thing. Was it a thing 3 years ago when the fight happened? And most importantly, what are the ramifications involving everyone if he falls off the wagon? A small seemingly unimportant scene may prove to be huge down the line.

Herzberg accompanied Wilkerson to his divorce lawyer meeting. A scene set up to pin Wilkerson against his soon to be ex-wife was very quickly stolen by Richard Schiff as Herzberg. I hope that this is a sign of more to come as this is the second time, Schiff has stolen a scene unexpectedly. After considering the silliness of fighting over literally nothing (the estate is worth next to nothing), he drops the bomb that Wilkerson’s wife has just as much motive as anyone else involved with the death of Strauss. Then after repeatedly hitting Wilkerson, he hits back. That’s probably going to come back at some point.

After sitting through Mulligan’s ex’s ‘amends’ talk, English is compelled to do the same with Chris Walton. English goes to meet with Walton at San Quentin. It is a calm conversation that leads with English apologizing for his behavior. Then after a little back and forth, English asked the question. Why did you take the fall? Walton has no hesitation telling English that he in fact did not murder the man in question. But there is little that can be done until English finds who the real killer is.

Back in the courtroom, Mr. Strauss makes an appearance on the stand. Not all of our witnesses/suspects can have it all together. This man is a piece of work. His testimony is literally not helpful to either side. He clearly has the appearance of a junkie who’s sober for the first time in a long time. He gives no specifics and cannot lock down anything, aside from the fact that he is not a reliable witness. As Warren Daniels started to step on the gas. Making reaches and assuming that the details Mr. Strauss cannot account for, may just bring the spotlight down on Mr. Strauss. The judge adjourns for the day and Strauss asks the Judge if he needs a lawyer, the Judge responds with “You should seriously consider it.”

Just as the woman brought in to verify Mr. Strauss’ alibi enters the room (presumably the next day), a note is passed to the Judge and he immediately calls for the two lead counsel to join him in his chambers. The next scene is of English and Mulligan arriving on the scene of another crime, we assume. They are told it’s a Caucasian male overdose. Mulligan wonders why there are so many for a typical overdose. The other detective chuckles and says, “not when you see who it is”. The deceased? Mark Strauss…

English does find what seems to be a confession and a suicide note. Mulligan shuts the laptop screen. A couple of things here. That is absolutely a huge monkey wrench in the prosecutions approach. However, this is Bochco, and with that should come some sense of attention to detail. The scene looks like a set up. The first crime scene we saw in this series was a murder of a junkie. This crime scene is much less believable. It’s too clean. Strauss is laid out conveniently. His place is too clean for a junkie about to overdose. A functional drug addict maybe. There is just something off about the crime scene. Just food for thought for next week.

Rate article
Add a comment