by Netflix Lincoln’s lawyer will scratch the itch of anyone inexplicably longing for tedious, low-stakes legal drama. Created by David E. Kelley, who plans to endlessly express his affinity for the genre, it is meant to recall his early work as The practice or Ally McBeal. Except in 2022, it looks incredibly dated, like it should have aired on network TV for years to come. Aside from the diversity of the show’s lead role, it offers nothing fresh or incisive. It’s not Boston Legal-amusing or entertaining level, nor boasts of a truly spectacular performance like Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath.
To confirm: Those examples above are also Kelley-directed legal dramas. And you can only beat this drum so many times before it crashes with a thud. Enter said noise: Lincoln’s lawyer. Contrary to the title, the series is not based on Michael Connelly’s 2005 novel of the same name (which is, in fact, the inspiration for Matthew McConaughey’s vivid and gripping 2011 film). The Netflix adaptation is based on the sequel to the book, The Brass Verdictbut he slips into some Connelly’s stories Lincoln’s lawyer as well. If this is already unnecessarily convoluted, wait until you press play. It’s getting worse.
The show spans 10 long episodes and doesn’t deserve its long runtime. Repeatedly, the thin plot turns into a class that should be called “How to Win a Case 101”, complete with a boring lesson in legalese. Despite his work, Kelley fails to make Lincoln’s lawyer interesting, both inside and outside the courtroom. Directed by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, most actors are able, but not good enough, to fix bad writing. Apologies to the actors involved, in particular Scream Queen Neve Campbell – who gets stuck having to deliver shoddy dialogue early on.
Garcia-Rulfo plays stylish defense attorney Mickey Haller, who returns to work after a year-long hiatus due to an accident and subsequent addiction. The actor starts out slightly stoic but eventually settles into the role of a charming lawyer, who at least sells the show’s thesis. Mickey immediately starts working in his car – a Lincoln, of course – because the guy can “think” better out back and on the road, or something, and hires a new driver named Izzy (Jazz Raycole) . He inherits a deceased colleague’s intense caseload, including a high-profile murder trial.
Mickey now represents Trevor Elliott (Christopher Gorham), a video game developer and tech billionaire accused of killing his wife and her secret lover. But he is adamant about his innocence. Lincoln’s lawyer focuses on other cases handled by Mickey, as well as part of his personal life, but the Elliott saga is the guideline. It’s a shame because even if the public did not read The Brass Verdict, this arc is predictable and drags on, with major twists at the last hour unsurprisingly. Gorham’s wooden performance also lends little value to the air of mystery that supposedly surrounds his character.
Meanwhile, Mickey gets help from his brave case manager, Lorna (Becki Newton, a treasure who deserves much better material). Oh, she’s also his second ex-wife and is aptly named on her phone. If that wasn’t obvious enough, the initial exchange after he answers the call is that he says, “You’re not my wife anymore.” Lincoln’s lawyer likes to hit viewers over the head with his goofy, redundant writing. Lorna is now dating Mickey’s researcher, Cisco (Angus Sampson), while aspiring to be a lawyer herself.
And then there’s Maggie McPherson (Campbell), Mickey’s first wife and clearly the one who got away. She serves as a prosecutor in a major case against a Filipino gang lord and human trafficker, and sometimes asks for help from her ex-husband despite their opposing views on the law. Mickey struggles to regain Maggie’s trust while sharing custody of their teenage daughter, Hayley (Krista Warner). If anyone thinks that Mickey working with a former lover while desperately pining for Maggie could lead to juicy or even romantic situations, think again. Like the rest of the series, all of the love stories are terribly mundane. But to Campbell’s credit, she’s kind of a scene stealer.
Instead of breaking the fourth wall, Lincoln’s lawyer makes an extremely bizarre choice to have Mickey blatantly explain legal terms and situations. He is often and randomly shown riding with Izzy on a deserted highway under an orange haze; she asks him about the importance of things like opening and closing statements. It’s a weird way for him to then launch into a whole spiel about these issues and seriously question the intelligence of the public. Episode five, “Twelve Lemmings In A Box,” is almost entirely devoted to the jury selection process. It’s a weird move that completely alienates viewers from the ongoing story.
Lincoln’s lawyer has crumbs of compelling drama. As Mickey and Maggie’s career paths begin to collide in the second half, the series finally ramps up its plot. But those planted seeds really go nowhere in the end. Several subplots, including one with Cisco and his former biker gang, occupy real estate without any gain. Garcia-Rulfo, Newton, and Campbell do their best, but the show isn’t worthy of their talents (or even a sequel). For ongoing and thrilling legal dramas, You better call Saul and The good fight could be the way to go. As for Lincoln’s lawyerperhaps its best use is as background noise.
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