Category Archives: Murder in the First

Murder In The First: Blunt The Edge

Photo Courtesy Of TNT Network
Photo Courtesy Of TNT Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

There was just one burning question at the outset of the season finale for the TNT Original Series “Murder In The First,” would tech wunderkind Erich Blunt, walk away from committing two murders, or could SFPD detectives Hildy Mulligan and Terry English, outsmart their suspect and put him behind bars where he belonged. Although Blunt’s attorney Warren Daniels, got his client exonerated of the murder of his lover Cindy Strauss, evidence putting the tech genius behind the murder of his biological father Kevin Neyers, starts pointing directly to him.

The episode opened with Betty Harbach, arriving via limousine to the office building where Blunt’s company’s located, met by her grandson’s assistant, who tells her she will take her to her meeting with Erich and his attorney David Hertzberg. Blunt expresses sorrow over the suicide of his grandfather, Betty’s late husband James, who shot himself in the head in the previous episode, leaving behind a handwritten confession that he had killed Neyers. However, he soon reveals the reason he had asked for them to meet, telling her that he and her husband had bonded although they had met for the first time just months earlier and that James and Hertzberg setup a financial package for Betty’s welfare after James had passed. She’s quite surprised when she realizes that she now has a financial portfolio valued at half a million dollars.

Hildy and Terry discuss the weapon that Harbach used on himself and to kill Kevin Neyers and they’re informed that the weapon doesn’t have a paper-trail, although it was originally issued to an officer from the department. When the pistol’s disassembled there’s a number; 1970 written on the inside of the handle. The three of them realize that the number came from the officer who got assigned the weapon and that number now belongs to their fellow detective Edgar Navarro. Navarro, tells him that the weapon was never in his possession, but he recalls the officer that had the number before him was Howard Toomey, an officer fired from the department for drinking excessively.

Toomey now runs a half-way house and readily admits his drinking should have gotten him fired 18-years-earlier, however after the detectives show him pictures of the weapon, he tells them it was never his. Toomey then tells the detectives, that the reason he had wanted the number 1970, was his father had held it before him and he had to trade numbers with another officer to acquire it. The officer was Jimmy Salter, English’s former captain on the force, now head of security for Erich Blunt.

Mulligan and English meet with Salter at an Italian deli in the city and the former captain, admits that the gun was his rookie service revolver, but that he never gave the weapon to James Harbach. Hildy, asks Salter if he believes that Harbach got possession of the gun by coincidence and the former cop tells her, coincidence is not a factor in the equation and he ‘s pretty sure he knows how the old man got the gun.

Salter heads to Blunt’s office and asks him how Harbach got the pistol that the former police officer had given to his employer four years earlier for protection. Blunt looks Salter directly in the eyes and tells his head of security that he never gave him a weapon and with that statement loses another valuable employee. The former officer tells Blunt it’s been an adventure and wishes him good luck as he resigns on the spot.

Hildy and Terry travel to Betty Harbach’s home, where a security company’s installing a state of the art alarm system in the rather dilapidated house. Hildy remarks that it’s probably expensive and the old woman replies, that the company’s giving her a deal. The detectives then start asking Betty about her grandson and she responds that her lawyer advised her not to talk with the police about Erich. When she’s asked if the attorney’s David Hertzberg, she tells them she has to close the door and Mulligan responds that’s fine, the officers will soon return with a warrant and the detectives get invited into the house.

She then shows the officers the portfolio that her grandson had given her and they look at the withdrawals from the bank account; one that she had made to pay for the new security system, but she has no knowledge about the other, a withdrawal of $1300 shortly before Neyers got shot. Hildy asks Harbach if she ever heard of Fentanyl and the old woman replies that the drug was the only thing that gave her late husband any relief from the pain the cancer caused him. As she looks through her calendar, the detectives notice an entry about an insurance agent who wanted to meet with James but her husband wasn’t home. She told the officers that she didn’t really trust him as James had already been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. When she told the man her husband was out he got into his fancy red sports car and drove away.

English has a pretty good idea what the withdrawal was for and drives over to Chris Walton’s house, the man originally convicted of murdering Neyers, to confirm his suspicion. Walton’s repairing a motorcycle when English arrives and tells the detective that helped free him from prison that he may move to Sacramento, get a job and start a new life. Terry tells Chris he’s proud of him and then asks if he remembers how much Neyers paid him for the delivery of Fentanyl the day he got shot to death and Walton confirms that it was $1300 cash up front.

Blunt’s starting to have sex with an attractive young woman in his home, when his security alarm informs him that someone’s at the front door, it’s his pilot Bill Wilkerson and Blunt was not expecting the visit. He tells the young woman to wait for him and heads downstairs to talk with his guest. The detectives quickly surmised that the fancy red sports car belonged to the pilot and they had already questioned Wilkerson whether he had any involvement in Harbach acquiring the gun. Bill tells his boss that they’ll soon be behind bars, but Blunt counters that the detectives are just guessing and that Erich never gave the pilot any gun. He then asks Wilkerson if he’s wearing a wire and makes him strip naked, but then realizes that the transmitter is in Wilkerson’s wristwatch which he soon smashes.

He asks how the pilot could betray him in such a manner and Wilkerson loses it, screaming to Blunt that he stole Cindy away from him then destroyed the pilot’s marriage. He then asks how he could kill a woman who carried his child and Blunt starts justifying all the heinous acts he committed by explaining that he’s just more evolved than normal humans, it’s time to cull the herd and he’s just a step ahead of everyone else.

The tech genius decides to go on the offensive the following morning and heads to the police station to talk with Mulligan and English. He then tells the pair that he’s recently become aware that Salter and Wilkerson were the men behind the murder of Neyers, they were due huge paydays if the IPO of Blunt’s company went through and that they murdered Neyers to make sure the sale went through without any problems. Hildy tells Blunt she doesn’t believe a word he’s saying and he offers to undergo a polygraph.

English then asks Blunt if he can convince Wilkerson to wear a wire so they can entrap Salter, but Blunt tells the cops Wilkerson wouldn’t after already being caught wearing one. He then hands Erich a copy of a magazine, which has an article stating that the NSA can use a person’s cellphone as a recording device, even when not in use. Blunt responds that something like that would be simple and English asks if he could accomplish that with a court order and then hands Blunt a copy of the order they obtained to bug Blunt’s phone. Hildy then plays back the conversation he had with Wilkerson the previous night admitting all his crimes and place him under arrest.

Hertzberg goes to Warren Daniels’ office and tells the attorney that Blunt wants him to represent him in the upcoming trial and Daniels refuses without hesitation, then asks his old friend why he’s still working for that sociopath. David replies that every criminal deserves an attorney and then says the only difference between a CEO and a criminal is venture capital. He goes on to tell Daniels that he truly believed Blunt’s innocence before this revelation and the other attorney admits he knew Blunt was guilty from the start. Hertzberg says that Blunt passed a polygraph, but Daniels informs him that his client did not pass the test.

David heads to prison to meet with Blunt and asks him point-blank if he admitted what the District Attorney claims they recorded him saying and Blunt denies it and tells him to have Daniels file to make the tape non-admissible at the trial. Hertzberg then tells him that Daniels refused to take the case and that he’s resigning as of that moment and sticks out his hand to shake Blunt’s hand before he leaves. The tech genius instead spits on the attorney’s hand and Hertzberg glares at him then silently walks out.

Mulligan and English are walking the streets of San Francisco splitting a six-pack of beer as they walk, throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The two start talking about how somebody like Blunt could exist, when Terry’s phone rings and we can see by his reaction what the call was about. Erich Blunt had hung himself in his prison cell, as we hear his words about his grandfather going out on his own terms rather than waiting for death repeat over and over.

Murder in the First: Family Matters


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Warning: Spoiler Alert

After last week’s reveal, we find the free Erich Blunt doing Larry King Live. And if that was all that I said, you could fill in the rest. Blunt seamlessly bounces from one cliché to another. Meanwhile each and every person from SFPD who had any part in the trial looks like they are one bad metaphor away from throwing up. As the camera moves from person to person while Erich speaks, one image sticks out. While he goes on about the importance that he run his company while the trial went on, Ivana West looks pissed.

English pauses the TV. And declares, Blunt killed Niers. Mulligan tries to get him to drop it, but English can’t allow Blunt to go free knowing what he told them last week. For a few reasons she mentions, Mulligan cannot get involved. At least not at this stage. Just after she leaves and just before the fade out, English stares at the TV screen. You can almost see the steam billowing out of his ears.

Koto escorts DA Perez to her car in a parking garage. He uses a metaphor to describe how they need to move on. Perez’ reply is so cheesy I will not repeat it. They begin making out. Simultaneously, Mulligan is riding in an elevator for the same parking garage. The door opens and she sees what she sees. She immediately hits a few buttons to get the door to close. The sound of which, is noticed by Koto and Perez. Could be problematic.

English shows up at a park. Conveniently the park where he finds ‘D-Hop’, the witness that pegged Chris Walton as the man who killed Kevin Niers. English questions the kids about them not actually seeing Walton there that night. D-Hop breaks first and his friend resists and tries to quiet D-Hop. The actual killer not only is not Walton, but is a little off. The kids told English of how the killer took them into the building, put a gun to their heads and forced them to watch as the blood left Niers’ head.

English and Mulligan walk down the street while English tries to convince her that his theory is real. English’ impression is that the actual killer was skilled. The kids said he was old but couldn’t discern if he was older than English. Blunt has motive based on his blaming Niers for the death of his mother. Am I crazy or does this not sound like they are building toward Jimmy Salter (former chief to English, current head of security for Blunt) as a potential suspect? I’ll be honest, if that’s the end game, I’ll be disappointed. They went on to question Salter, which was short. The result of which was not fruitful, as of yet.

Back at the precinct, Koto rips English and Mulligan a new one. Essentially giving them a verbal cease a desist order. At this point Mulligan is just taking everything in to see if there is anything to pursue. English on the other hand, is holding on tight with white knuckles on both hands. Mulligan enters the room English relocated to. Some small talk about dropping it passes and English has a theoretical breakthrough. “What if the killer had a motive of their own”. James Harbach, Erich Blunt’s grandfather and Blunt’s mother’s father.

It appears that his illness (that presumably is killing him) is getting worse. This we have all seen before. You find someone with a motive they otherwise would not act on. Share with them their own mortality. Offer some ridiculous reward for doing the deed that will exceed anything the dying person can do with the time that’s left. My only skepticism is that 24 minutes into a finale, and this feels to soon to be true.

As polite as English tries to be with his probing questions, James Harbach sees right through it from the jump. Betty Harbach seems more than willing to be as forthcoming as she possibly can be in her elder state. James is far less accommodating. After a series of questions, James first response on any importance is, “Why don’t you get off my property *******?” James does a decent job selling the idea that his morality wouldn’t allow him to kill anyone, even Niers.

Nice comedic break. English, while in Mulligan’s house gets the call that they need to report in, Mulligan goes to wake up her daughter. They need to get her overnight bag together because she has to go to work. To which the daughter replies still dead very sleepy, “Really…? These murders have got to stop.”

This new murder in question is at least from Koto’s view, a slump buster. A new thing to focus on to deviate their attention away from anything Blunt related. We have a woman allegedly drowned in the bathtub. The problem with that is Burnside tells Mulligan that since her body’s been submerged for a matter of days, it will look like she drowned even if she didn’t.

English slips away to pursue other leads in the Niers case that more directly have his attention. Koto, upon figuring this out, gets a little snippy with Mulligan. Mulligan asks to speak freely to Koto. When she almost drops the anvil that she saw Koto and Perez in the garage, but instead asks, “Are you a politician now or are you still a cop?”

English went to visit Walton in prison to try to find some clarity with what Walton may or may not know. He asked about Walton’s relationship with Niers, which we find out is your typical dealer to junkie relationship. The drug Walton delivered was not Niers’ drug of choice, which is curious. And even when English showed a picture of James Harbach, Walton had nothing.

Mulligan drives out to intercept D-Hop leaving school. She shows him the picture of James Harbach. He immediately resists saying he’s never seen the man before. After Mulligan adjusts her vantage point so she is eye to eye to D-Hop, he reluctantly and timidly admits that James Harbach is the man who held a gun to his head.

Back in the SFPD break room, Burnside breaks down the autopsy results on the woman in the tub with English and Mulligan. Long and short of it is that the woman died of a heroin overdose and just happened to be found in the tub. Also there are two punctures near her shoulder blades that she could not have possibly given herself.

English and Mulligan bounce their theory about Harbach back and forth to see if it seems workable. As Koto arrives, they quickly spit out at him everything they have on the overdose case. He is not there to talk about the overdose case. He asks, “when was the last time either of you spoke to James Harbach?” English avoids answering the question with another question, “why?” Koto says, “Because he just killed himself, bullet to the head”.

At the scene, the weapon of choice was an antique 357. English has a note sealed in an evidence bag that asserts that Harbach acted alone in the murder of Kevin Niers. Upon further investigation, Betty Harbach confirms that the letter is in her late husband’s handwriting.

Back at APPLSN, Herzberg interrupts Blunt wooing a young lady with his VR toys by saying, “We have a situation”. Clearly Blunt is tired of having situations. Ivana West and Jeremy Leonard have been working to create a new company. Ivana is very much the woman scorned by not getting the credit for running the company while Erich focused on the trial. And Blunt, in typical form, is showing just how maniacal he can be.

Wilkerson drives Blunt home. Upon their arrival, Wilkerson in a pathetic way, creates a need to go back to the office. Then Erich notices a gate was left open. If this was a mob movie, this would be the part where I’d say Erich Blunt is about to get wacked. Close, but instead of Vinny with a sawed off shotgun, its Detective English. This was a simple warning. English outlined that Erich had his grandfather kill his father.

Warren Daniels appears at the precinct and says one very conniving thing. “My client wishes to turn himself in.” Yeah, I gasped for air too, but pump the breaks. Erich Blunt is not Daniels’ only client. Daniels presented the husband of the overdosed woman. Hand delivered for no other reason than to establish the man’s alibi.

Ballistics came back from the James Harbach suicide. Confirms that it was the same gun used to kill Kevin Niers. Which should be enough to move this thing forward. Instead, Koto gives them the ‘order’ to take the Walton release as a victory and move on.

English went to meet Walton for his release and offer a ride home. A very anti climactic last few minutes. With or without the promo for next week’s finale, you had to know the wheels would fall off. Looking forward to it.

Murder in the First: Win Some Lose Some

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Warning: Spoiler Alert

This week’s episode starts off with English going to visit Chris Walton (the guy who confessed to the Niers murder weeks ago) in prison. Very cryptic in nature. English seems to want to find some new wrinkle, but his attitude as an investigator is making that difficult.

Preparing for another court appearance, Blunt simply cannot help himself from trying to control the situation. Daniels, essentially, is the best criminal lawyer money can buy. Yet despite Daniels’ repeated claims that putting Blunt on the stand is a bad idea, Blunt insists. It’s his life after all.

During the actual trial scene at hand, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. It should have been earlier, but as a viewer I am by nature biased. Siletti is in over his head. He keeps trying to get something to stick but he keeps coming off as petty and over matched. Ivana West was a clever witness, but Siletti is in over his head.

“Your Honor, the defense calls Erich Blunt”. This somehow feels like a colossal mistake. Well. Either he’s better at selling his own story than I gave this character credit for, or there is a serious problem with the suspect list. Blunt came off sincere and not at all the arrogant S.O.B. that the has a reputation for. However, there is still a part of me that remembers seeing how he has been candidly in previous episodes. Something is missing one way or the other. A small something or a huge something.

During the cross-examination, Siletti did what Siletti does and tried to force something (many somethings) to stick. And for my money was highly unsuccessful. Blunt was not what I had expected. Granted, it goes back to his character make up and is not outside the realm of possibility. Well played Bochco. With that said, it probably will not go over exceedingly well. The standoff between Blunt and Siletti at the end will not endear Blunt to the jurors. It was a nice moment for Blunt personally but might not have been the best play.

I do not like Hannah Harkins. The fact of her rape aside. I just don’t like her. I’m worried there is something on her end that will come back around.

Closing arguments should prove to be something. As I watch Siletti I am more and more concerned that this will not go the State’s way. He’s throwing around buzz words as opposed to facts. Hoping that the sound of what he is saying will justify what he is saying. I’ve got to say, just from an etiquette standpoint, I am really opposed to Siletti’s tactics. He is all but lying in an effort to connect dots that aren’t there while doing so two feet from Blunt. I imagine to illicit a response from Blunt.

To be clear, neither side has an iron clad case. However, Daniels does not come across as a hack. I may just be one real solid detail away from rooting for Daniels and Blunt. Almost, let’s not get carried away.

Outside English’ place, sounds of love can be heard from outside. Pretty obvious, what is happening. And then the woman in question said, “I love you”. Now personal feelings aside, English just buried his wife not that long ago. He is clearly conflicted on a few levels. Dropping the magic 3 little words to a man this lost in his own head on the night of the first official date is a bit much. The woman’s tantrum was a little bit her own fault.

Outside a different law office, Bill and Mrs Wilkerson have a civil conversation (by comparison). It is revealed that the video of Bill and Cindy was sent by an anonymous email account. Hmm, curious. Considering Blunt has the technology to do such a thing with moderate ease. And that Blunt to Bill to his face, “we have each other’s backs, right?”

At Blunt’s residence Erich and Herzberg watch a news discussion on the impact of Blunt’s testimony. There is a nice but not important back and forth with Blunt and Herzberg when Bill Wilkerson shows up. Blunt instructs Herzberg to go home, Bill’s here to babysit. As I have the TV paused, Wilkerson’s expression suggests that sending Herzberg home might not have been the best idea.

Bill in his frustration and reacting to the conversation with his wife, asks Blunt about how a deleted video could resurface. Blunt is what he is and indulges that conversation on the tech side explaining how the data could be moved to the cloud and accessed anywhere. And then Blunt suggests that Bill owes someone a thank you for this because he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife if he loved his wife. Then Bill comes out and asks, to which Blunt immediately denies it. And in that moment or two. In the time between breaths, I actually thought, “come on Erich, just come out with it. This has your finger prints all over it.” And he did. And to my utter surprise, Wilkerson did not attempt to assault Blunt.

Back at the precinct the next day, Chief Koto gets word that the jury is back and English and Mulligan decide to go with him for what must be the verdict. This is seriously stressful. I actually feel invested enough that I don’t know that I’m prepared for what is to follow.

In an artistic approach, they decided to fade out the voice of the court reporter reading the verdict. Almost in an effort for we the viewer to experience the verdict in real-time as we witness the responses from the various characters in the court room. And that reaction is NOT GUILTY. Regardless of what happens going forward, this result is the fault of the DA’s office. They were not prepared and jumped the gun. They were not ready, and the prosecution’s case appeared to be built on hearsay and wishes.

Pardon me while I run around my living room shouting obscenities.

So with most of the court room cleared, English and Mulligan decide to leave. On their way out Erich Blunt decides to stop them on the other side of the door.

Blunt: Hey…(looks at both of them separately) You still think I did it.
Mulligan: Yeah, we do.
Blunt: Luckily the double jeopardy rule means there’s only one bite at the apple.
English: A woman’s dead. A child, your child is dead. (English advanced to violate Blunt’s personal space) So don’t get up in my face and gloat.
Blunt: Why not? You’re right. I did kill that dumb b****

To be honest, I really don’t know what’s what going forward. I may need for this to marinate for a bit. However, I will say this. The double jeopardy rule only works on trying the exact same case a second time. The Niers murder is still in the wind. They can still attempt to put Blunt away on Murder. And throwing it in their face as he just did is not going to get the police to slow down. If anything, they are just going to ramp it up after that stunt. Stay tuned, next week could be insane.

Murder in the First: Suck My Alibi

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Warning: Spoiler Alert

So our saga picks up after a less than stellar episode on the whole, while revealing some critical information. Last week we heard opening statements as well as some testimonies that could be interpreted in any number of ways. Mark Strauss (estranged husband to the deceased) did very little to come off as anything other than an optional second suspect. So naturally, he ends up dead from what looks on the surface like a suicidal overdose, I became very suspicious. It was too convenient and too clean. The note that was typed into the computer is a little much for an addict. The apartment was too clean. Something has to be awry, it’s too easy.

Tonight’s episode starts out with English reading the ‘suicide note’. As per my previous hesitation, its way too cohesive. Mark Strauss if nothing else, exhibited an habitual inability to convey steady thoughts. He thinks and speaks like an addict. Short and choppy. No way those are his words. Operating on the premise, the team including the DA decide to keep Siletti (ADA and lead prosecutor) in the dark about the details. This feels like thin ice though. If it gets out that there was a suicide note and SFPD intentionally kept it off the books, the whole case is done for.

In the judge’s chambers, the question at hand is, “should there be a postponement of the trial until such a time that SFPD can identify the death of Mark Strauss as whatever it is?” Smart move on Daniels’ part, but it won’t stand. Siletti makes the claim that Mark Strauss’ death is nothing more than a witness who completed his testimony has died. Daniels naturally disagrees. However, the judge agrees to move forward, allowing the state to finish its case. Which Siletti thinks should only take another three days. At which point, if they have not proven their case, allows for Daniels to file for a mistrial. Interesting little set up. Once again it seems, the state is all in.

Bill Wilkerson (Erich Blunt’s private pilot) takes the stand. The state runs through a basic line of questioning asking Wilkerson to recount the events he was involved in that lead to him and the landlady finding Cindy Strauss’ dead. All very straight forward until Siletti asked about Blunt’s reaction when Wilkerson gave him the news. This is peculiar because in an earlier episode when Wilkerson’s wife was flying off the handle, Blunt stepped up for Wilkerson. And there was an odd moment where Blunt insinuates that they have each others backs. Wilkerson didn’t do a great job selling his sincerity, but the testimony (to this point) looking like Wilkerson has no intention of ‘taking one for the team’ is intriguing.

Oh Warren Daniels…no pleasantries, no gentlemanly banter, just straight to the affair. After mentioning the affair with Wilkerson and Strauss, Daniels heads right into Blunt and Strauss. Then just that quickly moved to the physical nature of the meeting between Wilkerson and Hertzberg and Wilkerson’s wife and attorney. His wife repeatedly hit him. He repeatedly told her to stop. Then he hit her. Convenient that Herzberg was there to witness it. With that out-of-the-way, there appears to be a discrepancy between the time of death and the text message Wilkerson received from Strauss assuring him that all was OK. Her time of death was approx 8:15pm. The text came at 9:02. And as Daniels will do at every opportunity, suggests that Wilkerson may have killed her then sent himself the message after the fact from her phone. So much for having each others backs.

Almost immediately following Wilkerson’s testimony, English and Mulligan escort him upstairs to ask him some questions pertaining to the death of Mark Strauss. Regardless of Wilkerson’s involvement or lack of involvement, I get the impression that there’s only so much further he’s going to get pushed before he pushes back. The first question was “where were you last night”, which he replied, with Erich. Come to find out that the security system that runs 24 hours a day in Blunt’s house gets directly routed to SFPD. No intermediary. Which could prove to be helpful in more than one area.

Tonia Pyne speaks. Associate counsel for the defense. This is interesting because it’s the first time she has brought anything to the table. Daniels is not in the room. She cross examines Mrs. Wilkerson as to her whereabouts as well as her husband’s during the window of 7-9 pm. Pyne is a well-trained lackey. As she follows the same line of questioning that Daniels had earlier with Wilkerson. Suggesting that it were possible for her to leave her house and kill Cindy Strauss and get back without anyone noticing. Just as Daniels did before, their plan seems to be blame everyone else and aim for a mistrial.

Back at the precinct, English is grabbing some coffee while reading a document. A voice claims that there’s no work allowed in the break room. That voice belongs to former Capt Salter and current head of security for one Erich Blunt. He came to the precinct to drop off a copy of the security footage that allegedly shows Blunt and Wilkerson in Blunt’s home all night.

Salter: Blunt and Wilkerson were home all night playing Call of Duty.

English: Thanks. What about you?

Salter: What about me what?

English: Where were you the night Mark Strauss died Jimmy?

Salter: So now it’s Jimmy? (He pulls a paper out of his pocket) I was at the hospital with my mother. I slept there. Talk to nurse Roberts. Nurse Wynn. And nurse King. I’m there most every night, because she’s dying. And I know you can understand that. I’ve been in your shoes pal. I know what it’s like. You try to do good, you try to make a difference. Then you arrest a guy like this. Now you’re dealing with the press and the politics. Then the pressure builds and builds. All of a sudden, the whole world’s looking at you. God damn, you drop to your knees every night and pray that you got it right. Because now, it’s not just your ass on the line. It’s your partner’s, the lieutenant, the Chief, the DA, but what if the truth is he’s innocent? And you’re wrong? That’s scary. Take it from someone who’s been in your shoes Terry, you’re in a deep hole on this one. I strongly suggest you stop digging.

English: Well, I have to get to the bottom of this so, I gotta keep digging. Look at this kid. So close to two murders. Do you really think his hands are clean? I mean, you’re the one that taught me, there is no such thing as coincidences. And if you were in my shoes, you’d be all over this kid. All over him. But instead, you sold out and now you’re working for him. Guess you found that retirement gig. Here’s what worries me, what are you going to do when this kid goes down? What are you going to do when you realize you’ve been protecting a murderer? And that your hands have blood on them too? That you are the one who’s thinking was compromised by self-interest and not me. The door swings both ways Captain Salter, you can’t be on both sides of it.

Later at Blunt’s office, English and Mulligan look to question Ivana West (Blunt’s second in command and acting CEO) about her whereabouts during the window of Mark Strauss’ death. This becomes a series of question and answer about what can and cannot be manipulated by a computer savvy type. It all ends with West giving them her ‘root log’, apparently an incorruptible history of actions and locations that even a person of Blunt’s intelligence could not change.

Hannah Harkins is the next witness. Harkins, you’ll remember, was the former employee of Blunt’s who filed a lawsuit that was settled out of court as a part of her claim that she was drugged and raped by Erich Blunt. In steps Daniels to shoot down any relevance that Harkins could potentially provide with his (at this point) typical approach. Again, suggesting ‘reasonable doubt’. He paints a picture of the economic circumstances that were about to take place around her. Suggesting that she made up these allegations to prepare herself financially.

Back at the precinct, English and Mulligan preset the root log to Kami Keefer, the police tech expert (who still has a crush on Mulligan). She claims to fake this root log, it would take upwards of a week to fake. They are running out of time to nail down exactly what Mark Strauss’ death was. When Mulligan asks English for his advice when she takes the stand in the morning, he says “Talk very slowly”.

With Mulligan on the stand, Siletti takes her down the typical path. Asking leading questions about why they suspected Blunt and where he was arrested. The latter of which paints Blunt as a rich kid with the physical ability to break Strauss’ neck based on his status as a black belt in Krav Maga. Daniels goes in on Mulligan bringing up the forced temporary leave that caused her to miss the arrest of Erich Blunt. Daniels keeps digging and digging and in the end they are in a figurative standoff. Mulligan did not waver.

That night at the precinct over some Chinese takeout, English and Mulligan are pulling at straws. English finds the use of “shouldn’t’ve” to be suspect. People don’t generally type out that particular contraction. It also appears in the typed suicide note of Mark Strauss in almost the exact same usage. This is curious to say the least. This absolutely puts her in their cross-hairs. The question is, “does the second in command, someone who appreciates Blunt’s genius, and has on some level affection for him, have enough to gain by killing either or both Strauss’? Or would she actually have the stones to pull it off?”

The very next scene involves taking West in for questioning. At first she seemed drunk or worse. Upon further review, her look may have just been disguised disbelief that her alibi may not have worked. And to the previous latter question, I am quickly starting to believe she has the stones to pull it off. Now the previous question becomes more critical.

English: Where were you two nights ago?
West: I already answered that question.
English: That’s right, you were working.
West: Yes. I was working my ass off trying to save the company of the guy you are railroading.
English: So saving his ass meant taking out Mark Strauss?
West: I’m out of here (as she stands up to leave)
English (his hand to her shoulder sitting her back down): Nope. Not tonight. Maybe not ever. Sit down.

I love when Mulligan gets in her zone. When she believes she has what she needs, she really seems to enjoy it. I’d love to quote this one, but the text doesn’t do it justice. Mulligan walks in with a hair sample from Ms. West and a hair sample from Strauss’ apartment. Mulligan moves into the room with the confidence of a snake circling a mouse. “I really have to say, you did a nice job cleaning up the place. But that’s the funny thing about hairs. They’re so thin and easy to miss.” Matching hair samples. Fingerprint on Strauss’ laptop. And now a flash drive with surveillance footage of West accompanying Strauss into his apartment, then leaving later without him.

Staring at irrefutable evidence, and looking rather shocked, West responds in a way that again answers the second question from before. “I’m not saying another word without my lawyer”. The text on its own doesn’t quite say it. Her delivery and body language once again suggests that yes, she has the stones to do this. It’s not enough. The DA claims that short of a confession, they have to disclose the suicide note. At the eleventh hour, English gets an idea. They don’t need West to confess to murdering Strauss. They just need her to confess to writing the suicide note.

English lays out a couple of options that West is resistant to. And eventually he says enough to get here to talk. Namely suggesting that he doesn’t believe she killed Mark Strauss. And then like a person with controllable split personality, she spills the beans on the entire night. Her performance is different. It’s almost as if she experiences a sexual response to giving up this information. She even goes as far as saying that she was “prepared to kill him” but didn’t have to. This woman is evil. They get the confession they need as it pertains to the suicide note.

More importantly than the initial win here, is the response after the fact. It seemed almost too easy. West seemed to flip a switch and went from angry suspect demanding her lawyer to cool, calm and collected as if she were pulling the strings instead of English. English’ response seems equally strange. His demeanor changed about halfway through. Almost as if he realized he crossed some moral line in the sand. Even afterwards, while Mulligan struggles to erase the hard drive on Strauss’ laptop, he offers to do it. Quite violently I might add. As if to take the bulk of the burden of what’s happened.

I hope I’m wrong on this one. Some good shows will walk you right up to this sort of decision. Even less force you to actually make the decision. A great example of this is the Walter White/Jane Margolis situation on Breaking Bad. Some would agree that ‘situation’ (no Breaking Bad spoilers as of today) forces the viewer to either accept who he/she is going forward or reject who they are as a certain character. As if said character has crossed over the point of no return. I hope that is not the case here.

Murder in the First: Punch Drunk

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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.

Murder in the First: Pants on Fire

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Warning: Spoiler Alert

Daniels has removed himself from the legal team, which may prove most damaging. The case against Blunt is less than rock solid. Mulligan has been reinstated. And English and Mulligan got intimate last week. That should about get us caught up.

Herzberg calls for a meeting with the Mayor. As the closest thing to a lead on the legal team, Herzberg knows he has to gain some momentum while they figure out the Daniels situation. This is prime Richard Schiff. After politely mentioning how he’s been waiting for an hour, drank a bottle of wine, and is greeted by two when he asked for the meeting in private he gets up to leave. When asked why he’s leaving he almost yells, “to go tell Erich Blunt that apparently bundling 1.6 million dollars in campaign contributions doesn’t buy you a private meeting with the Mayor!”.

Before entering the courtroom the next day, English and Mulligan have an awkward moment. Beating around the bush of whether or not they need to address the ‘intimate moments’ from before. Once in the courtroom, clearly the private meeting did take place. A new judge is introduced. The prosecution reiterates its desire to keep Blunt without bail. Herzberg plays the fumbling lawyer out of his league well. He then proceeds to lay out a number of holes or imperfections in the prosecutions assertions and even manages to make Blunt seem like a normal guy. Blunt is granted bail at twice the price plus has the privilege of wearing a tracker around his ankle.

Later that day, Herzberg and Blunt meet with Daniels. I’d love to say that we get to see Blunt grovel or even almost beg for Daniels to come back. But what I believe we saw was Blunt do and say what he feels he has to for the dominos to fall the way he wants them to. Money was never supposed to be the factor that brings Daniels in or sends him away. But 10 million makes just about anyone stay. And just like that, Daniels is back in the fold. Reluctant but in the fold.

Salter, who is not actually on the case has been poking around the canvas area. Upon further follow-up, English and Mulligan venture out to the warehouse of a tip intended for Salter. There they discover a comprehensive surveillance system and video with time stamp of the bar next door. The same bar that represents Strauss’ (the victim’s former/estranged husband) alibi. And sure enough, Strauss was able to leave the busy bar and return within the window of possibility. Placing a major hole in the middle of the state’s case against Blunt.

Previously as a condition of Daniels’ further involvement, Blunt agreed to a polygraph. The polygraph questions are intriguing. Up to and including “did you kill Cynthia Strauss”? The situation starts to fall apart, but Blunt is able to compose himself and continue on. Not that the scene was that convincing, but it did leave some doubt in the mind of this viewer as to whether or not he really is the killer. We’ve spent every moment until now under the premise of “how do they prove Blunt did it” as opposed to “how do they prove who the killer is”? Two decidedly different approaches.

English and Mulligan (with the aid of Keefer, the woman is still very much into Mulligan) narrow down Strauss’ movements and find him working a job on the docks. In a nice little moment rarely found in law enforcement dramas, English decides he doesn’t want to run today. He grabs a short metal pole. When he calls out for Mark Strauss, and Strauss recognizes him, he makes an effort to run out of the fenced cage he’s working in. English throws the pole through the door handles trapping Strauss. They then escort him off the premises.

Back at Daniels’ office, the polygraph is still underway. How it’s going is anyone’s guess at this point. I do get the impression though, that Blunt does not feel its going well at all. When they leave the man administering the exam and Mr. Daniels both exchange an odd look. Did he pass? Did he fail? Was this all a rouse to get Blunt to say that he killed Strauss on tape?

I cannot even begin to articulate the majesty of this next scene. There are good cop shows and bad cop shows. But rarely do you find a cop show (if that’s what we’re calling this) that captures a great chemistry. Normally this is the point where I’d drop in quoted lines from the episode to illustrate the quality of writing or capturing the moment. That, I think, would detract from what I’m trying to drive at. English and Mulligan have Strauss in the interrogation room. He says “lawyer” and they attempt to leave. Strauss in turn rejects the rules of Miranda and tells them his story anyway. Where the beauty comes in is just smooth the two detectives fire back. They’ve got him where they want him and their exchange in tandem with Strauss is lovely.

After chasing down what seems like a weak lead on Strauss’ alibi, English and Mulligan find themselves waiting in a doctor’s waiting room. What better use of time than to address the kissing? Again the chemistry comes out. She asks him why he did it, he accuses her of instigating. It’s not pivotal to the story as of now, but does make for an interesting scene.

This is painful. They have followed up a playfully fun scene with a painfully awkward scene. The woman in question is clearly lying to protect her own marriage and eventually her marriage counseling practice (yeah, the irony is dripping). However, our team does what it does. They play off of each other beautifully and she caves. So as of now, it seems that Mr. Strauss is in the clear.

Wilkerson shows up frantic at Blunt’s offices. His wife has left him (obviously) and needs help to find her. The last time we saw these two on-screen (Mr. and Mrs. Wilkerson) I didn’t get the impression that they had a healthy and prosperous marriage. So, I’ve got to think there is something else working here. Blunt seems way to eager to help. Tracking the wife is not going to be difficult. But its the eagerness followed by the claim that they are friends and can trust one another. Blunt is stacking assets, or at least that’s how it plays.

Wilkerson tracks down his wife at a cheap hotel. He implores her to open the door for the sake of the marriage. She opens the door and slaps him into next week. Over and over, nothing happened, where are you getting this. Then she plays a video on her phone showing him in the act. When she slams the door in his face, the sense of worry for his wife/marriage washes away. As if there is nothing left to fight for.

Back at the precinct, Strauss is released. There is word of a Karaoke Birthday bash for one of the detectives. English declines, then Mulligan insists that he attend. Forced date kind of? Then the DA cannot control herself. The polygraph from earlier was done so that Daniels could leak it to the press. So instead of letting that happen and playing it like the cool veterans with all the facts on their side, the DA throws back, putting the detectives in a more troubling position of locking down this case.

At the birthday bash, Mulligan brings up the kiss again.

Mulligan: So?
English: So.
Mulligan: We never really got a chance to finish our conversation about what happened.
English: We don’t have to.
Mulligan: No, I know. Gonna make sure that we both know it’s obviously never going to happen again.
English: Agreed.
Mulligan: So we’re good?
English: We’re always good.
Mulligan: So…you wanna kiss and make up?

Anyone who’s ever been to a karaoke event knows that the one guy that refuses to sing (I’m that guy in my circle) is the guy who will be ‘volunteered’. Not that I’m an expert on musical talent (I’ll defer that to my wife), but Taye Diggs could be a lot worse of a singer. The placement of the song “At Last” by Etta James was a nice, albeit high school-ish twist. And naturally, as English sings it with all that it implies, does so while transfixed on Mulligan. So, what does she do with this awkward moment? She removes herself from the situation. Only to place herself in a more awkward one.

Mulligan gets out of her car to find Erich Blunt sitting on her doorstep. Blunt acts like Blunt acts when he wants something. Since Mulligan’s behavior on their “date” was done so to obtain DNA, her behavior today makes more sense. “Get off my property and never come back”. She should’ve stayed at the bar. My fandom and shipper nature wanted her to stay at the bar. But then again, we have to create drama and this show does it extremely well.

Murder in the First: Burning Woman

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Warning: Spoiler Alert

This time last week Erich Blunt was being escorted to jail on an arrest warrant for “Murder in the First” degree. This week’s episode picks up with Blunt curled up in the corner of a holding cell, orange jumper and all. Not out of fear, just in that awkward genius sort of way. The next series is interesting. The creators went through the trouble to show Blunt getting completely chained up (Hannibal Lecter style) as if he would do anything other than walk anywhere they tell him to. His willingness to do whatever they say without emotion or a response of any kind may prove to be telling.

In the courtroom Blunt is lifeless. Not stoic so much as devoid of feeling. Zoned out. Oblivious to his surroundings. The prosecution and defense exchange their typical jargon. The judge at this point asks Erich Blunt whether he is entering a plea of guilty or not guilty. By this point, they have all but muted the audio in an effort to illustrate that Blunt has not been paying attention for some time. He eventually says, “not guilty”.

Then the bail portion of the proceedings was fun. Daniels (defense lawyer) thought he’d get cute with the lead counsel for the state and flash some paper that we don’t see. Before Daniels gets to the bench, the state drops the hammer. That at the time of death, the victim was with child. This changes the game a little. Bail is set at 10 million, 8 more than Mr. Daniels’ little preemptive ploy would have netted.

Mulligan grabs a cup of coffee waiting for English prior to her hearing as a result of the shooting last week. Brace yourself, Mulligan and English have their first on-screen tissy. Which is worrisome for me. I am what the fandom community refers to as a ‘shipper’. I am often inclined to want to lead characters that seem compatible on some level to become an item. English’ wife has passed. Mulligan’s ex is a questionable human being (or so we’re lead to believe). All the criteria I need. Going back to last week, Mulligan is irked that English was short with her on the phone when they (excluding Mulligan) went to arrest Blunt. Both standing firm, neither willing to concede.

I will do my best to say you from reading a lengthy paragraph on the details of what happens next. Suffice it to say, Mulligan answers condescending questions while the interviewers resist from an angle of guilty until proven innocent. In another room, the police reps interview the beaten wife and kid. The wife is clearly delusional or out for a settlement. And sadly, the kid has clearly been coached if not threatened. In a situation where everyone except the wife’s delusions are essentially happy with the result, it disheartening that this is how the officers of the law are treated.

In Mr. Daniels office, there are Daniels, Blunt, Herzberg, Jimmy, and associate council under Daniels. In this gathering, Daniels outlines a story in which Blunt is not the murderer. Then if that doesn’t work, there will be a different story outlining how Blunt is not the murderer. Yet again, we have a moment between Daniels and Blunt. A standoff of rhetoric.

Daniels: Find out everything the SFPD knows. We have to be a lot smarter than they are.
Blunt: You’re a lot better paid than they are.
Daniels: Don’t get smug son, it’s dangerous.

Maybe this is something, maybe it’s nothing. But this is at the very least the 3rd time that Blunt has been short with or outright challenged Daniels authority in this particular avenue of life. The natural hypothesis is that Blunt is every bit the conniving S.O.B. we think him to be. He’s guilty and that he wants to manipulate everyone involved because he’s smarter than everyone involved. However, could be smoke and mirrors.

English has set up a time to interview Jeremy Leonard. The would be blackmailer from episode 1. Jeremy claims he’s responsible for the algorithms that made Blunt who he is today. This interview serves as little more than an indication of how both men in the room are out to prove that Blunt is something. A genius tech entrepreneur is not one of them.

Jeremy: I want to show that he’s a fraud.
English: I want to show that he’s a murderer.

There was one helpful tidbit (only because I saw the teaser for this week’s episode). Jeremy is headed to a techie version of hedonism meets Woodstock. The fact that he mentions both that the code came to him there and that it’s a big deal for techies, rest assured, Blunt will be there.
English sets up a drug deal with Milan (the small time drug pusher that got pinched last week). Idea being, get Blunt caught in a drug deal and it paints him into a corner. Alas, Jimmy shows up instead. Cover’s blown and it is clear that English and this Jimmy have a history. A previous relationship of some kind.

Back at Blunt’s place we get a lovely classic scene of what will eventually become classic Blunt.

Jimmy: If I hadn’t been your hero this morning…
Blunt: I don’t see my dope Jimmy.
Jimmy: You’re lying on your own couch, not a county bunk with your head next to the toilet.
… …
Jimmy: Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone.
Blunt: Don’t treat me like a child.
… …
Jimmy: This department, they’re like a dog with a bone. And you’re the bone. They tried to set you up with a drug bust today. They are going to keep coming at you until they get you or they run out of time. So if you have any will power inside you, use it. Behave. And if you can’t do that, you better get the hell out of dodge. Because you’re a bug under a magnifying glass. One wrong move and you’re fried.

And the wheels in Blunt’s head start spinning. Not taking the advice seriously. Not considering that there is probably decades of experience behind what Jimmy said, but another line of thinking altogether. We’ll get back to that later.

Mulligan and English reconcile their little fit from earlier. Ship temporarily intact.

Later, despite Lt. Koto’s explicit instructions for English to stay away from D-Hop (the kid informant whose mother is suing Det. Mulligan), English ventures out to where D-Hop plays basketball. My inner sense of how this goes down is screaming, No. After some soft conversation, English is able to portray not only what is right, but the scope of how truly bad D-Hop’s lying could be.

Blunt meets Wilkerson (his personal pilot) on the airstrip. But instead of the streamline private jet, they are about to board a single prop Cessna. Apparently this trip will violate the terms of his bail. The entitled cannot help from acting on their own arrogance. And as predicted, they jumped state lines in order to attend the techie Woodstock (minus the all time great musical lineup).

In their drugged spiritual stupor, Ivana (work associate) suggest Blunt conquer one of the strange women here. Instead of an actual living breathing one, opts for a virtual one. This is a nod to a technology they’ve been working on the entire way. Virtual reality. For just about anything. This one is sexual in nature. Entertaining enough. Ivana claims she gave him options. Which also was entertaining until the fourth option. Detective Hildy Mulligan. The experience goes south in a hurry when the next option is Cindy, the dead flight attendant that Blunt is charged with murdering.

Afterwards, we find Blunt and Ivana down with the rest of the crazies taking it all in. What that means I haven’t the foggiest. Bunch of body painted people dancing with glow sticks. But Jeremy happens to be in the crowd and Jeremy is packing a very decent digital camera. Danger Erich Blunt.

Mulligan gets a phone call while getting her daughter ready for school. We find that it’s actually D-Hops mother. They agree to meet. She is actually there to convince Mulligan to get to D-Hop and convince him to change his story back from the truth to the lie. And in a stunning display of selfish d-baggery, the mother contemplates what that would mean and still insists that Mulligan’s career and potential time in prison, her son lying to the authorities, and everything else that comes with it is worth it, if she gets her money. Mulligan does get off a nice shot though. “I’m not worried about D-Hop, he’s more adult than you’ll ever be. He’s honest.”

At this point I think it’s pretty clear to all who watch that Blunt has broken each of Daniels’ 3 rules at least once each. This time around Daniels drops in Blunt’s lap (so to speak) the reality of the transgression. We’ll try to keep this family rated and I’ll leave the CSI descriptions out. Basically, Blunt’s not as smart as he thinks he is all of the time. DNA was left and now it looks like he’s lied to Daniels and the police. Daniels describes the prosecution’s next move. To eviscerate him in the media, pollute the jury pool long before the trial begins. Blunt responds, “you have a counter move, right?”

“Your Honor, Mr. Blunt will waive his right to a preliminary hearing at this time. The sooner this case is taken out of the hands of the politicians and into the hands of an impartial jury of reasonable citizens, the sooner my client will be exonerated. And any action that speeds up this process, even waiving a hearing, is in the best interest of justice.”-Warren Daniels

Just around the time that Blunt and his law team are starting to feel comfortable, Jeremy’s effort surface. The prosecution moves to request revocation for bail in light of Blunt’s most recent trip out of the state. For the first time, Blunt appears physically shaken by a new concept. He is not going to be ahead of everyone all of the time. No bail and Daniels didn’t look particularly eager to do anything about the new housing situation.

Mulligan along with her union rep, sit waiting to meet her fate. Well that was anti-climactic. Short story made shorter, cleared on all charges relating to the internal investigation. Lt. Koto was all to pleased to inform her that since their last meeting Mrs. Ramos (D-Hop’s mother) not only rescinded her suits, but that she gave a statement confirming Mulligan’s story and even called her a hero…on video.

From one high to another low. Donned in orange again, Daniels is calmly yet angrily giving it to Blunt. Daniels is removing himself from the case. Which isn’t surprising considering that Blunt has been the poster child for a difficult client. Dark times for ahead for Mr. Blunt.

Back at Mulligan’s house they are just messing with me. After dinner, Louise goes upstairs to finish her homework. Mulligan and English share stories about the risk of the job. And while doing so are clearly and voluntarily violating each others respective personal space. And now there’s touching. Wine, violation of personal space, touching of any kind, oh this is going down! And just like that, it’s over. Damage has been done. And between the kitchen and the front door it almost happened again. What on earth is going on? There’s no summer sweeps.

Needless to say there is no question about the anticipation of the next episode. Blunt is screwing up, needs a new lawyer which will reflect horribly, and now the ‘ship’ has begun even if it’s only temporary. The Mulligan/English thing is less critical to the plot, but absolutely will play out beyond next week’s episode.

Murder in the First: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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 Warning: Spoiler Alert

To say the ‘plot thickens’ doesn’t quite cover it. The beauty of this show is that if you’ve been watching, you knew it would. You’ve probably come to expect it after only two episodes in the books. Tonight Bochco, took a few more steps to draw intrigue and to complicate the story just enough. I won’t say tonight’s episode “lowered the boom” but it made the story wider. It also did something that most shows like this are not willing to do until it starts to get stale, seasons later.

The opening scene drops Blunt (lead suspect for those just joining us) into what one would have to assume is one of his residences. With the use of editing effects, they are able to illustrate that Blunt is indeed the sexual predator we’ve been lead to believe along with an affection for adding drugs into his mix of forced coitus. A foreshadowing detail: Blunt wraps some sort of drug that he will eventually force down the throat of a consenting adult. Then she says she doesn’t like it. He calls her a liar and proceeds to strangle her, slightly. Tuck this away because you know it will come up later.

Det. Mulligan, antsy about the DNA results she was able to swindle off of Blunt last week, repeatedly calls the lab in order to get those results back. Clearly, the lab tech doesn’t respond well to being rushed by someone who doesn’t appreciate her talent. Det. English decides they should go down to the lab (a place no one actually goes to) and see if he can’t help this along. It’s a whole “more bees with honey” situation. Once at the lab it is clear that the tech has no intention of being remotely polite much less accommodating to Det. Mulligan. Det. English is a whole different story. After a little banter between tech and English, they get what they came for. With a 99.7% probability, they are confident they can call the father of the unborn child…Erich Blunt.

Meanwhile, back in Warren Daniels’ office, Blunt reconsiders retaining what he calls a “Doberman”. After giving out rules for their lawyer-client relationship, and Blunt breaking one of them before the statement is complete, they agree. Consider Erich Blunt, “Lawyer-ed Up”. Despite the acting chops of James Cromwell/Warren Daniels and the lack there of with Tom Felton/Erich Blunt (it’s not his fault, that’s the character), once again Richard Schiff carries the scene with very few words uttered. Yes, Cromwell has the lines, and the alpha male presence, but Schiff delivers sparing moments that allow the scene to breath. Felton does deliver an interesting moment. As the viewer, I am skeptical of his sincerity.

“Downloaded. This is your game Mr. Daniels, I’m happy to play by your rules”

The only thing missing is the quivering lip…

We do see a new development unfold that I personally have been waiting for. A woman not to be confused with our dead flight attendant, had prominent screen time in the promos leading up to the series premiere. She confides in one of the other detectives in the precinct. We discover they both have kids on the same tee ball team. She reveals to him that five years ago she was drugged, choked, and raped by none other than Erich Blunt. Problem is that she is telling her cop friend in a way of suggesting that they keep pulling on the thread. Not to violate her confidentiality agreement she signed as part of their court settlement. The detective doesn’t quite see it that way.

Coming out of the break, we find that Det. English has been looking for a new place. One leans towards the idea of too many memories of his wife from their previous house. Fun little wrinkle, the real estate agent is probing interest in him outside of this real estate venture. Meanwhile Mulligan is approached by one of the kids from episode 1. He wants her help in removing his father figure who is physically abusive.

Five detectives in a huddle. And there is not even a majority much less a consensus on who suspect #1 is. The good news is that we get our first signature scene from Lt. Koto (Ian Anthony Dale).

“This kid is going to get the best lawyer money can buy. He’ll spend a fortune on expert witnesses. He’s smart and he’s arrogant. We’re not going to beat a confession out of him. So let’s do better. There are three words I don’t want to hear when this is all over. O-J-Simpson.”

Our detectives follow-up on their due diligence interviewing potential leads, including other private jet employees. The ‘Mormon’ was all to happy to roll over on Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber), insinuating that Wilkerson as well as Blunt had a sexual relationship with the deceased. A detail that at the time seemed huge. However, the more I let it fester, the more it feels like a red herring.

Now for my favorite scene that holds very little importance to the overall big picture story line. There is a techie at the precinct that on a few occasions has been caught staring or outright talking about how attracted she is to Det. Mulligan. I sure can’t blame her. In this scene there is a very sultry and quite frankly fun hypothetical banter between these two in an effort to explain how Blunt could have sent a delayed text message to throw off their scent. I want you to watch this show, so I’m not going to give you the transcript. I will say how it ends. Tech Girl: So, there’s no misunderstanding, you are kind of my type. Mulligan: I know.

A petty drug runner gets pinched and brought in. Normally not a big deal. The arresting officer comes in to shoot the breeze (sort of) with English. Says the kid’s got something. Blunt. A petty drug dealer is looking to soften the blow of his arrest by turning on Blunt. The kid doesn’t hand them this smoking gun on a silver platter, but he does add “means” I don’t mean monetary. He gives them not only the fact that Blunt is some sort of Krav Maga Bruce Lee, but when and where he trains. This provides the answer to how. If Blunt was there. Had sexual relations with the deceased. Then somehow attacked her in a manner that made it look accidental with lethal force, this very well could prove how he was able to do that.

Mulligan, clearly has some issues about her ex. Not breaking news. However, it’s the specifics that could hold the key to behavior later. In this episode and beyond. Mulligan visits the abused kid’s mother at work at what looks like a convenient store. She acts like a regular customer inquiring about her bruises. Claiming that she too knows what its like. Leaves her card and walks out, more or less.

On what I believe is house hunt #13 for English, they visit a house boat. Don’t think pontoon boat with a hibachi grill. Think a smaller version of what Tom Hanks lived in as Sam Baldwin in Sleepless in Seattle. English has some clear skepticism. They enter. She keeps talking that real estate noise. He looks up and cuts her off to say, “how soon can I move in”. It’s small but functional for his purposes going forward. Most importantly though, the view is spectacular while still quaint and subtle. And in no way, shape or form shows any similarities to the house he would be moving out of.

During another one of Det. Mulligan’s internet dates, she receives a call from the abused kid. He is frantic and Mulligan runs out of the date. She arrives on scene the abuse is audible from the street. She decides not to wait for backup and proceeds in. As soon as the husband sees her, he grabs a knife and approaches Mulligan with the intent to cause harm. Mulligan orders him to freeze, he does not. And for his defiance, she puts 4 bullets in his chest. The wife is not pleased. Anyone who’s ever seen anything like this unfold on any other cop drama knows what’s next. Mulligan is put on immediate administrative suspension as a routine procedure.

After a visit to Mulligan the following morning and a quick meeting with the lab tech (all indicators point to Blunt) English and Koto meet with the DA to show what they have. Naturally, she was hoping for something more iron clad. But in the end, they have a solid theory worth pursuing. Koto sticks back to affirm to the DA that they have more than enough for a warrant. The DA then pulls Koto close. This is obviously a situation they are familiar with. As the DA is not one of my favorite characters as of now, rest assured the fan boy in me was not thrilled with this development.

The last scene grouping is one that I think most of us have been waiting for since episode 1. English and the other detectives (not including Mulligan) place themselves in strategic positions outside the Krav Maga building. They swoop in quietly and arrest Erich Blunt unceremoniously and take him away. Blunt says nothing beyond, “what is this?” There is a back and forth cinematography-wise between English’ team arresting and processing Blunt, Det. Mulligan, and the big lawyer speak we all were expecting from Warren Daniels not if but when Blunt was taken in.

So, as of today, we have what feels like a sound theory. Some strong but not concrete evidence against Blunt. And a slew of loose ends yet to be tied up. Two things to consider in the next 6 days. 1) The season is at minimum 10 episodes long and we are on 3. 2) After watching the promo for next week, I get the feeling the walls just start crumbling down around our detective team. This is definitely not going to be a one-sided affair. Plenty of peaks and valleys yet to come.

Murder in the First: Peeling Back More Layers

EP 2
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Warning: Spoiler Alert

“Murder Is Just The Beginning”. TNT’s aptly used new tagline for the show is also the cliffhanger they left us with at the end of Episode 1. We’ve had a little time to let that episode fester. I’ve watched just a hair past two and a half times since last Monday night. Part of me wants to believe it is just a very well done pilot. As a self admitted connoisseur of pilot episodes, that very easily could have been the case. Where does the plot move toward? Is that more the truth or more window dressing? Do those not quite stars or high-end cameos become recurring characters? Is it as connected as I’m sure most of us want to believe? Is it Malfoy? or is that just too easy? How does Skinny Pete fit into all of this, really? All of these are questions we seemingly won’t answer tonight. However, they are questions I think you should continue to ask yourself as this series progresses. Something tells me we will answer some of those questions repeatedly before we actually get a satisfactory or accurate answer.

Murder in the First drops us directly into the tall grass, as should be expected by now. Leading us into the first gasp moment of this episode. The pathologist is conducting the autopsy of the recently deceased flight attendant and suspected romantic conquest of Erich Blunt (Malfoy from Harry Potter-seriously I don’t think I’ll pump the brakes on that reference for a while). While the doctor is making his notes and discoveries we move to the burial site for Detective Terry English’ recently passed wife. Anyone who has lost some too early will immediately identify with Terry’s comments. “People say everything happens for a reason. No, I don’t believe that. I think it’s something we tell ourselves during times that don’t make much sense. There is no reason for this. But, I guess it can’t be avoided.” Not trying to make any theological debate stance. Merely as an implication of the quality of writing or more specifically, storytelling. As one who can in some measure empathize with early loss, that scene felt exquisitely real. Diggs’ tone and body language was spot on. We’re only through two episodes, but he continues to impress. I say that alongside the idea that I was fan before this show. Also, as much as I enjoy Kathleen Robertson in most things she does, she is an ugly crier. Made me want to fast forward as she was reacting to English’ words.

Back to the autopsy, the doctor reveals something we expected and something that maybe we didn’t. One, yes, the autopsy reveals that the cause of death will categorize this as a homicide. Then, presumably as he is ‘fishing’ around inside the body, the doctor gives a sigh and let’s his head roll back slightly. You don’t have to be a TV addict to see what’s coming next. “Amending and expanding my ruling, make that a double homicide”. Gasp moment #1.

Our first shot of English and Mulligan is essentially them starting the snow ball down the hill. English hints at the potential that there are no coincidences in police work and no way that two murders happen around Blunt without a connection. A great example of the “audience knows more than the characters” device. Shortly after our main characters exchange in an almost dare I say, “Sorkin-esque” witty banter while walking, the show takes us to Skinny Pete (Chris Walton, petty criminal for those not up to speed on Breaking Bad).

Walton is conversing with his public defender on the prospect of going to trial. One too many times in this series thus far, they have gone out of their way to mention how Walton looks, sounds, behaves and the length of his rap sheet. Maybe I’m a little more detail oriented in this regard, but I’m getting the old ‘spidey-sense’ about that little tidbit. Red flag is a waving. Naturally, Walton is between a rock and a battle he’s sure to lose. Admit to killing Niers and they’ll drop it to manslaughter and he’ll do six years. Probably less.

TV, movies, books, whatever. This is the part where the guy in lockup hears six years and immediately gets defensive. Break out the “I’m innocent, I’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve gotta believe me” speech comes out. Walton replies with a calm, “I’ll have to think about it”. If you’re red flag wasn’t up before, it better be now. This Walton situation stinks of being part of the bigger plan. On the other side of the commercial break, Walton is in court standing and listening to the judge. She throws out the typical court room speak to a man who clearly doesn’t understand half of what she said, but he stands confident. Walton is so absolutely set in his conviction to take the deal, that he’s not listening at all. When asked if he understands, he says yes and admits to killing the man. Completely out of procedural order.

Speculation note: Just throwing it out there and don’t hold me to it. To a casual observer this should feel like Walton is the first of multiple ‘patsies’ within a bigger web of bad stuff. How true that is, we’ll see as it develops.

In another Sorkin-esque scene, Blunt and his lawyer David Hertzberg walk through the campus of Blunt’s company discussing how to move forward in light of the flight attendant’s death. Hertzberg insists on a criminal lawyer while Blunt insists that there is nothing to hide. A theme that will play out throughout this episode and probably even become a bigger theme throughout at least this season. That is, does Blunt have nothing to hide or is this just another brilliantly crafted smoke screen?

Moving through potential leads, our detectives discover that the deceased not only has an ex-husband, but an abusive, persistent, Adderall addict ex-husband. Like Walton, the ex-husband has a significant rap sheet that paints him into a corner. More importantly from a viewer’s experience perspective we are about to see the game and how it’s played by our fearless duo. English tells the man he’s a “day off” implying that the evidence is so completely in the detectives favor that putting him away will be easy. Generally when TV detective do good cop/bad cop its a comical rendition. This however, is poetry in motion. This should be required viewing for detective training. English leaves the interrogation room maintaining the hard ass who just wants to clear up this paper work so he can get home early. As he turns the corner, a little smile forming from the corner of this mouth, we see Mulligan approach. English says the phrase “alley-oop” they low-five and Mulligan takes her turn with the suspect. She comes in with a bottle of water. She un-cuffs him. She even goes so far as to say she believes him. She plays up the concerned ‘good cop’. Says very little, and this guy just starts spewing everything he can about the details of what happened. With the intention of creating an alibi. Maybe jumping on the grenade of a small restraining order violation in order to clear him on murder.

The thing is, at this point I’m still very skeptical about Walton’s situation and while the ex-husband seems authentic, I’m just not buying anything at the moment. After his one way conversation, he drinks the majority of the bottle of water. At which point Mulligan gets up grabs the bottle and walks out. When the ex-husband asks where is she going, Mulligan replies with “I’m just the water girl”. All in an attempt to get a real DNA sample. Is it unprecedented genius? No. But there are so many easier way to create the need and secure the evidence. Another example of the level of storytelling happening on this show.

With English’ late wife’s sister in town for the funeral, we had to expect an awkward moment. English is in his bedroom reading. The sister enters to tell him her flight has been delayed. In this moment two things should be evident. One, both of these people are suffering through an onslaught of emotions. The result of which are unpredictable. Two, why is she wearing nothing but a bath robe. This is a crossroads moment. I don’t need to string you along, you know what happens next. But it’s what follows that will be more impactful. At the halfway point of episode 2 we are starting to understand, grasp or in some cases empathize with these characters. I think it’s fair to say that these characters have been presented in a way that makes them very likable. English’ next move will either solidify that or damage it. Examples of this are more obvious in series’ like Dexter and Breaking Bad. The sister disrobed. English stands up. Moves slowly but deliberately towards the sister. Then proceeds to put her robe back on her and hug her as if to say, “I understand, but that’s not the answer”. Brilliantly played once again by Taye Diggs. Gasp moment #2.

In another great cop scene our two detectives follow-up on a lead dealing with the pilot of the plane who employed the dead flight attendant. The pilot (played by Steven Weber) does his part explaining his relationship and the details leading up to the day the girl died. At this point in the episode, you should be “all hands on deck” for subtle little things throwing off your spidey-sense. The pilot is visibly sick and probably blows his nose 3 times in 60 seconds. You don’t have to be a fan of the CSI type shows to know what’s about to happen. Hold that thought. While you’re spidey-sense is tingling, you should have picked up on the manner in which the pilot would glance over to his wife when answering questions. And even at one point, his answer to were you and her close? his answer was, “yes, on a professional level”. His wife is clearly uncomfortable. In an effort to sell the fact that he’s cold, the pilot gets up to find more tissues. While he’s trying to avoid the detectives, the detectives are just using this line of questioning to confirm what they already think they know and grab one of those discarded tissues covered in DNA. I love not only the rapport, but the manner in which these two detectives operate. It’s Jordan/Pippen, Stockton/Malone. Something to behold. Fictional of course but brilliantly captured.

Quick note on the writing. Getting passed the storytelling. Down to the actual dialogue. Remember one thing for a show like this based on how they are telling the story. If you can say a thing with 5 words instead of 25, you’re just being lazy. There is an artistry to great dialogue. Although I am not willing to put this show into the category of great just yet, consider the following back and forth.

Blunt: This is just an introduction, right?
Hertz: Right. He’s aware of your situation. If nothing else, chalk it up to free advice from one of the best trial lawyers on the planet.
Blunt: The planet? That’s a little hyperbolic…
Hertz: Well let me put it this way, had Daniels been defending Jesus in front of Pontius Pilot, worst case scenario he would’ve gotten his charges knocked down from King of the Jews to disorderly conduct with time served in the lion’s den. Maybe some community service. Cure some blind orphans. Counsel a couple of whores. Fill up all of the soldier’s canteens with water. And presto vino, Jesus walks.
Blunt: You are so going to hell.

Instead of saying, “this guy is the real deal and can adequately protect you from whatever happens next”.

In the scene that follows, one I believe is more smoke and mirrors than required discussion for the characters sake, Blunt rejects the idea that he needs criminal trial council. James Cromwell plays the elite lawyer beautifully down to reading what the would-be client and pointing out what he is saying that he shouldn’t. I will spare you the dialogue play-by-play. In the end, Blunt stands by his conviction that he does not need a criminal lawyer because he has done nothing wrong. Cromwell replies with “call me when you do (need a lawyer)”.

Back at the precinct, Blunt and Hertz are waiting patiently in an interrogation room. This move temporarily perplexes the chief and they enter the room. The game of chess has begun. Blunt makes small talk. The detectives don’t respond. Hertz describes exactly what they are doing. How they are reading him so they will know how to proceed. It is a brilliantly presented scene that opens thing up down the line. After repeatedly disobeying Hertz suggestions, he declares that he might as well leave if his council will just get ignored. Blunt agrees and Hertz leaves. As arguably the biggest West Wing fan on the planet, let me just say that I will be very displeased if that is the end of Richard Schiff on this particular show.

The back and forth continues. Blunt really not giving anything away. Making a solid attempt to play the cooperative former employer type. Towards the end of the scene, after Mulligan asks about the nature of the sex (in that sultry way she does), she transitions back to the coincidence of multiple murders surrounding one very high-profile man. All the while, Blunt is as cool as they come. Not wavering in the least. Then we see that glimmer of Blunt that reared its ugly head in episode one with the blackmailing programmer. In no uncertain terms, Blunt dares Mulligan to charge him with murder.

“I will eviscerate your case piece by piece. I will put this whole building on trial. From the DA to the doorman. I will embarrass you. And I will win. Because I’m smarter than you. More capital at my disposal, more resources than this entire city, and I just happen to be innocent. Get a life.”

Mulligan’s reaction is peculiar. A smile. A defense mechanism for the awkwardness she just went through? Or she’s legitimately pleased with how that went down.

Later Mulligan answer’s her phone and agrees to have drinks with someone on short notice. You’re lead to believe it’s another joker from her online dating app. Something I’ve intentionally left out of the recaps since they have yet to offer anything of substance. In fact, it turns out to be Erich Blunt. They are both skeptical of the others intentions, but the ‘date’ moves ahead. At one point, Blunt asks why Mulligan hasn’t inquired at all about the case or his involvement with it. She replies, “I’m off duty”. Earlier in the scene where Hertzberg leaves, Blunt does divulge that he trusts Mulligan more than English. Which may be part of the plan, on both sides. Maybe she’s setting Blunt up by creating a deeper sense of trust. Maybe she honestly sees something in him, something attractive on some level.

As they depart for the evening, Blunt insinuates that Mulligan is wearing a wire. She emphatically denies it. But what’s more, she invites him to investigate (physically) to make sure. Again in that sultry way that has. He obliges because it would be un-gentlemanly of him to reject an attractive woman’s advances. Right about the time I think I’m going to gasp again, she grabs Blunt’s face and makes out with him right then and there. Not that awkward high school kids trying to get away with it sort of way. More like, step one of ‘it’s about to go down’ type of kissing. Then just like that she stops and walks away. Gasp moment #3. Alas, by design.  The DA said, “get Blunt’s DNA sample. Whatever it takes.”  As Mulligan walks away, she casually pulls out a clear container and spits into it what looks like gum (and/or saliva).  Either way, there’s DNA in there.  Whatever it takes.

The most important thing to take from this show at this point in the progression is that regardless of what you think you know, there is an excellent chance that you are wrong. Not in that hipster-ish manner of other shows where they zig and zag so many times that when it’s all over the ending was obvious from the beginning. No, twists, turns, hints and pull backs all part of an eloquently told story. Imagine any typical procedural cop show. CSI, NCIS, Bones, Blue Bloods, etc. In each episode there are x number of suspects. One of the suspects is the guilty one. The remainders are smoke and mirrors. Details are shown to make you think its suspect 4 when it’s really suspect 2. However, in this show, each and every suspect has a specific function. Each man or woman plays a role. None of them are throw-a-ways. None of them are expendable. Each and every detail in some way plays into the bigger picture. Or at least that is my theory as of week 2. I reserve the right to change said theory as many times as need be until I get it right.

Murder in the First: Anything But A Typical Start

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Spoiler Alert

I am a sucker for anything that defies conventional expectations. If you are anything like me, you may have seen the promos and buildup for Murder in the First and chalked it up to just another Law and Order clone. Law and Order: San Francisco perhaps. Everything I saw lent itself to that idea. Every preview I saw during the NBA playoffs or searched on YouTube gave me the impression that this is a typical, procedural, investigation/law enforcement show. Two detective partners who look like they couldn’t be more opposite. Both in physical appearance and back story. A large “office” contingent who inevitably will come into play (i.e. fellow detectives, coroners, specialists, etc). Not to mention a series of characters and actors that clearly don’t look like recurring stars of the show, so they must by mid-high level cameos. As one would find on Law and Order. If this was a well done, well acted procedural detective show, it would have been worth a first look. If it was all of that with a few curve balls, even better. If they were able to completely dupe me into believing it is one thing just to reveal it is completely not, then it probably becomes a recurring feature here at NJATVS. I should have known. You don’t put Taye Diggs, Kathleen Robertson (Boss), Ian Anthony Dale (Hawaii Five-O), Chris Baker (Breaking Bad), Steven Weber (Wings), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Richard Schiff (The West Wing) and whose creator is Steven Bochco without their being something significant to it.

Let me put this out there in an attempt to be as transparent as possible. The cast is more than solid for a show that only has 10 episodes in the can. However, if I’m truly honest with you, my attraction to this show was short-sighted. I enjoy Taye Diggs’ work. Ian Anthony Dale I would cast in any drama that needed his kind of skill set. The real heavy hitter though, is Kathleen Robertson. Don’t worry if you can’t place the name. She is a decent (not great) actress who has been in a few things. Namely, Boss despite the fact she is probably most well know as the third wheel in the original Beverly Hills 90210. Hopefully that is the last time you will ever see “Beverly Hills” and “90210” together on this site again. For some reason, I’m intrigued by anything that remotely fits my interests that she is a part of. Let’s be honest, unless you’re a film school grad, chances are it takes more than one aspect (i.e. casting) to draw your interest. If you were not interested before, let me put this in clearer terms. Murder in the First absolutely is not the procedural Law and Order clone they made it out to be.

As predictably as possible, Murder in the First starts out by showing you the very different home lives and stresses of the two partnering detectives, Det. Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) and Det. Terry English (Taye Diggs). English, forced by limiting options has to endure the pain of watching his wife die slowly. Mulligan’s issues are much less dire. She clearly has a less than gentlemanly ex husband and a young daughter to raise. Regardless, these two carry their own baggage, how much that will play into the story is still up in the air.

Immediately following our quick glimpse into our main character’s back story, we fly directly into the crime of the day. This is the part where the unsuspecting viewer (me, in this case) begins to get lulled to sleep by way of the overtly predictable case details. Then an email is found.   I’m sorry but I have to mention the elephant in the room here. Our detectives are in a tenement where the murder of a junkie has taken place. The neighborhood is derelict. The people are unsavory. Our victim is eventually found to be a life-long junkie. For some reason though, he’s got the freedom in his life to not only own but correspond in email form by way of an Apple I-Pad. I’m just saying, that’s a little off at the very least. Getting back, the email is directed to Erich Blunt (Tom Felton), who naturally denies knowing anything about it. Immediately you get the impression of a young and volatile Steve Jobs type. We follow that story line long enough to feel we “get it”. Young, wealthy, arrogant, driven and in trouble with a blackmailer who claims he stole code. Could be Dorothy, could be the Witch. We’ll nail that down later. Suffice it to say your TV Spidey sense should be tingling by now. But, for some unexplainable reason, mine was not.

After following a series of leads, including Erich Blunt, we predictably head back into the home life. Of at least Det. English. His wife has been moved back home for hospice care, live in nurse and all. English is visibly shaken by the realization that hospice is the first step in giving up hope. There’s a short back and forth where English tries to hint at just how hard this is for him. He wants to take off work, but she won’t have it. Back at the office, English decides that a squeaky desk drawer needs to die. Really just an inanimate object that felt the culmination of his stress at that moment. Could have been worse. It could have been a person. Immediately after, Mulligan follows English to the room he entered post drawer assault. This is normal. Predictable to be sure. Partner goes in to say, “it’s alright, everyone understands what you’re going through” just to have the other person say, “Understand? What do they understand?” As no galloping shock to this viewer, they telegraphed that one. The interesting part about this scene is Mulligan’s tone and inflection. Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I give her too much credit. Maybe she just has a sultry way. But, I did get the impression that there is more there in her eyes when handling her partner. Or maybe my inner fan boy just wants there to be something there. Or maybe she’s just concerned for her partner’s mental state.

On a shot in the dark trek to Oakland, the home of the parent’s of the dead partner of the victim (22 years removed), an interesting detail surfaces. A haggard place. Bars on the windows. And very unsavory neighbors. English presents the photo to the father of deceased girl. “Do you know this man?” The man gets up to walk away and says, “Erich Blunt, I should. He’s my grandson.” It took me a second to get with the logic. The idea being that the victim they are investigating and the woman who died 22 years ago while serving as the current victim’s accomplice bore a child. That child somehow grew up to become our young Steve Jobs type, the Erich Blunt character. Who consequently, claimed he didn’t recognize the man who is his father and sent the email. Believe it or not, this is the segment of the show where I should be taking note of how this is not the show I thought it was. I was still pretty naive, even here. At this point, minute 33 of the recording, I still think it’s an episodic, procedural, detective show.

Naturally, while I’m thinking it’s business as usual, our detectives head back to visit with Erich Blunt. He and his lawyer (played by Richard Schiff) pull the “set up a time, we’d love to help but we’re late for a flight” number. Which naturally doesn’t work. We find that Blunt did in fact recognize the man and remembers the email. This is typical procedural drama stuff. This is the point when you are lead to believe the perpetrator of the crime cannot possibly be Blunt. He has motive. He is uncooperative. He’s arrogant. But we are just barely past the halfway point. This is where anyone whose every seen more than a couple of episodes of any Law and Order, Bones, House, CSI knows this is the part of the show where you eliminate this suspect from the list.

Blunt leaves his company’s building by saying, “If you want to arrest me for murder wait here, I’ll be back before dinner.” Following this quick meeting, Blunt and lawyer get on a plane to meet with the previously mentioned blackmailer and his lawyer. Let’s just sum it up by saying the meeting did not go well for the blackmailer. At one point, Blunt stands up leans in and says very intentionally, “I will take you to court. And I’m going to kill you. And when you’re dead and gone your tombstone will read, Jeremy Leonard (blackmailer) IRRELEVANT”. On the flight back, while pouring wine, the flight attendant (Blunt conveniently is intimate with) spills the wine due to turbulence. Blunt snaps, says some things, that include you’re fired. She breaks down where her fellow flight attendant and pilot (Steven Weber) can see. The lawyer informs Blunt that he can’t fire her if they are sleeping together. Blunt agrees and says, “I’ll take care of it”. This might be the first time I start to “get it”.

Our detectives follow a hunch after Det. Mulligan stares at a rubber ducky too long. Makes the connection that the tattoo on a suspects neck was a duck not a bird. After some interrogation, the suspect (played by Charles Baker, Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad) says something rude to Det. Mulligan. Det. English decides to take out the anger he feels in relation to his wife dying out on the suspect. Despite the behest of Det. Mulligan, English does not just walk away when the situation goes too far, as he did with the desk drawer. Mulligan demands, he go home and not to return until he’s in control of his emotions. One very cool detail from the perspective of the viewer. After the assault on the suspect, we see the boss (played by Hawaii Five-O’s Ian Anthony Davis) remove the recorded disc of the assault, tuck it and leave.

At home, English and his wife share some stories of earlier in their relationship. English breaks down. There is a hand-held embrace. A very nice moment. Taye Diggs did a great job selling the anguish.

Curious little trick they pulled at the 55 minute mark. Maybe TV’s done this before and I just fast forwarded through the commercials too quickly. Amidst the commercial break, they essentially did the “check our website for all the details you missed as we try to piece together what happened tonight”. Before the show was over. Now the wheels are turning.

Following the break we find the pilot and flight attendant #2 on the tarmac. Flight attendant #1 is missing. For the sake of clarity I’ll run through the basic thought process leading into the stretch run.  Blunt has been suspected (temporarily) of killing his biological father over attempted blackmail. Says, I will kill you to another guy blackmailing him. Regarding said flight attendant, “I’ll take care of it” and now she’s missing. How are they possibly going to tie up all the loose ends? The victim, the murderer and the why? All in the next four and a half minutes. The pilot gets the landlady to open the flight attendant’s condo. Predictably, she’s dead, naked, lying face down at the base of her stairs. The coroner on site states the obvious and indicates that we won’t have any answers from his office regarding the woman’s death anytime soon. While English goes to take a phone call, Mulligan finds multiple pictures of Blunt and the flight attendant in social settings. She looks up to find English, excited as she believes she’s uncovered something of major significance. Only to see English’s body language during his call go from normal to limp as he falls into a nearby chair. The look on Mulligan’s face says all you need to know. Just then, English’s tear filled eyes turn toward the camera (facing Mulligan), fade to black.

They end the episode without concluding anything! Please don’t mistake my typing tone. That is great news. In almost every single dramatic television series there is the battle between episodic story lines or episodes and big picture story lines or episodes. Murder in the First is not a procedural detective show at all. This show is telling one major story and using 10 episodes to do it. In the “Coming up this season on ____” teaser they revealed just enough to give you the impression of where this goes. More importantly, to steal a line from The Matrix, “to see just how far the rabbit hole goes”. This is not predictable, typical TNT type drama. This thing has legs. In hindsight, Murder in the First feels an awful lot like Graceland with a different subject matter. A show that at first glance feels far superior to the shows that generally inhabit said network. Every episode is a big picture episode. A show that was written in a manner to tell one big story instead of 10-13 little ones.

After one episode I cannot make any wild accusations that Murder in the First is the next Breaking Bad. I won’t even sniff that level of confidence. Though, considering the drivel that gets rolled out in the summer schedule, this show is comparatively remarkable. With shows like The Bridge and Under the Dome which were ratings winners and can stand behind garbage lines like, “The summer’s #1 hit” Murder in the First is a legitimate must watch. At least for now. I know it’s summer time. You’ve got cook outs, time with the kids, baseball and World Cup coming up. But this is definitely worth space on your DVR. That sentiment could change.  Intelligence had a great start too.  So only time will tell.  There is the possibility I’m just riding high on the fact that the pilot episode was much better than I expected it to be. But I doubt it. I love pilot episodes.  I believe you can discover a great deal about a series based on their pilot.  If last summer’s lineup is any indication, Graceland is the #1 drama of the summer. And unless something else comes along and does better, Murder in the First is the best new drama of the summer.  Add it to your DVR.  If by chance, you missed tonight’s pilot, it’s TNT.  I’m sure they will re-air it.