Thursday, July 26, 2018

REVIEW: 'Trial & Error' - Lavinia's Criminal Record Creates Problems for Josh in 'The Murder Clock' & 'A Hole in the Case'

NBC's Trial & Error - Episodes 2.03 "The Murder Clock" and 2.04 "A Hole in the Case"

Josh's team hunts for the potential murder weapon that would seal their timeline. The case takes a turn as the search leads to two new suspects and some shocking news about Lavinia. Josh experiences some hiccups in proving Lavinia's innocence to the judge. As soon as Josh thinks he's found cause for dismissal of the case, Carol Anne tests the timeline herself, leading them to uncover a hidden passageway on Lavinia's property.

Josh and his team discovered that a very specific clock was used to kill Edgar at the end of last week's two episode premiere. So now, the search is on for that murder weapon. It was teased as coming from the most despicable family in East Peck - the Jesups. They are a clan who no one wants to interact with. As such, that set up so much potential for the show to establish new characters who are absolutely horrifying to everyone the audience has come to know so far. However, the show doesn't feature any of the Jesups onscreen during "The Murder Clock" or "A Hole in the Case" even though the clock is found and Dwayne issues a subpoena to search the Jesup property. Instead, all the audience gets of this mysterious family is one woman yelling out at Dwayne as he tries to enforce the law. She shoots at him. That, in turn, leads to a breaking of the mockumentary format with one of the cameramen being shot and Dwayne just leaving him beyond. That's a stark image that presents as a potentially dangerous consequence for the documentary that is being filmed of this case. It's the show at least being aware that there is a team of documentarians on the ground in East Peck who are also occupying this space. This is just one of the few times where their presence is actually important. Of course, no update is given as to what happened to the person holding the camera after Dwayne fled the scene. That should serve as further proof that he is not a good police officer at all. He gets scared easily and barely has any understanding of the law whatsoever. And yet, he's still on the job. He is still working the case for both sides. That is also a very amusing story throughout these two episodes. Josh would love to have Dwayne just working for his team. But Dwayne is also compelled to share evidence with Carol Anne Keane even if it is disruptive to the case that Josh is trying to build for Lavinia. That's very exciting and presents a new way to tell this story. It's just lackluster that the show gets to the point by going around something that it had previously set up as being important to this new case.

Of course, "The Murder Clock" also has to establish who had a motive in killing Edgar. Josh believes that Lavinia is innocent of this crime because she had no reason to kill her husband. She didn't know that he was having an affair. She didn't know that they had no more money. Those would serve as some pretty damning motivations if she actually knew about them. And yes, the show doesn't present a solid enough argument just yet proving that she didn't. She still easily could have been the killer in this case. It doesn't take a whole lot of digging from Anne in order to get Amanda to confess that she was having sex with Edgar while also serving as his new apprentice. It seems like everyone Edgar was trying to train in his profession got too close to the family. And now, the sheer mention of their names is enough to set Lavinia off. Of course, that's very funny because she just happens to carry around a bunch of dishes to throw at Josh if he should ever happen to mention Jesse Ray's name. Josh has all of this potential evidence to prove Lavinia's innocence based on testimony from a convicted killer. That's not a strong position for him to be in at the moment - especially considering he doesn't have the clock he believes to be the murder weapon. So much of this case revolves around the timeline and how the time zones in town would drastically shrink the window Lavinia had to kill her husband. Josh still wants to believe in Lavinia's innocence. He is very empathetic in that way towards his clients - especially considering his two from East Peck have wanted to form very close connections with him.

And yes, it definitely should be discussed that Josh seems to be forming a romantic dynamic with every single female on the show at the moment. Well, the show isn't pursuing that angle with Anne just yet. That appears to be more bent on the possibility of her and Dwayne getting together - though even that is just flimsily there for the audience to possibly pick up on. But with Josh, it's a main component of his relationships with Carol Anne, Nina and Lavinia. Of course, all of those relationships are completely different. The Lavinia one is made complicated because he is acting as her lawyer. It would be highly inappropriate for him to start having an affair with her especially as she's on trial for murder. And yet, that could also be why Lavinia is trying to seduce him. She may be guilty and wants to ensure that she has a lawyer who will always be passionately loyal to her no matter what the outcome may be. Sure, she may not try to remember his name. But this is a connection that obviously means something to her. Meanwhile, Josh is completely delusional with his belief that there is some spark between him and Nina. In fact, Nina continues to be nothing more than an extraneous character so far. She hasn't been all that important to the narrative. She's just good for a couple of jokes that highlight how Josh may not always be on top of things regarding his case. She knows things simply by investigating the crime. She's pursuing angles that Josh didn't even think to cover - like Edgar and Lavinia actually being broke and bouncing checks with their workers. But he still has it in his head that there is a flirtation going on between them simply because they are both from New York. And finally, there is a significant back-and-forth between Josh and Carol Anne where they keep trading places as to who is actually in love with the other. At times, Josh is convinced that he is the father of Carol Anne's baby and will start a loving family with her. At other times though, he doesn't care about her and Carol Anne gets incredibly jealous when she sees him with Nina. It's all a little too complicated and possibly just present in order to keep things busy for the characters throughout the season.

Moreover, Josh is defending an actual criminal. Whether or not Lavinia is a murderer is yet to be revealed. But she is guilty of stealing a sandwich. That leads to the reveal that she has this casual disguise and alternate identity named Ronnie Del Mundo that she likes to put on every once in awhile. It comes from a very personal connection she had in her youth. The narrative continues to point out how Lavinia has had a very unconventional and traumatic life. She wasn't allowed to leave her home as a child. As such, she got close to a houseboy named Ronnie until his tragic death traumatized her and kept her from ever remembering another man's name ever again. Of course, she has broken that rule on a number of occasions so far. Sure, she only refers to Josh as "lawyer." But she knew that her husband's name was Edgar and that her brother's killer is Jesse Ray. Those are important people in her life. Of course, she doesn't know the name of her current houseboy who actually has a role to play in this murder investigation as well. Milton is the one who currently has the murder clock. He tried to sell it because he knew that it would look bad if it was discovered near the pool at the Peck-Foster Mansion. And yet, he couldn't sell it. But he does have an alibi thanks to all of the pictures that Lavinia had already provided from her gala. As such, he is innocent while also proving that the clock was present at the crime scene. But in this telling of the events, the pool is still an important location for this crime. Josh thought he had ruled it out. And right now, he is more interested in proving that Edgar was the one who ultimately changed his life insurance policy to benefit Ronnie Del Mundo a month before he was killed.

All of this is leading to some major victories for Josh though. He gets the murder weapon submitted into evidence. He is able to present some compelling evidence that proves that Edgar's handwriting changed in the final months of his life thanks to the chemicals he stored in his clock workshop. Moreover, there is simply no way for Lavinia to have escaped from the gala to kill Edgar at the nearby river and then carry his body up to her car in a suitcase. It's almost enough to get the case completely dismissed. That's a startling moment because the show is still only four episodes into its season. As such, there was the full expectation that some big reveal was about to happen that would completely tear apart Josh's preconceptions about the case. Here, it's presented through a secret passageway between the pool house and the river. Anne and Dwayne stumble upon it by accident. It presents itself at the precise moment where Carol Anne needs a big break in the case. Right now, she is losing badly. She is getting more furious that she is losing once again to Josh even though she still clearly has feelings for him. Of course, it's amusing to watch her try to prove that the distance traveled in the timeline is feasible. She may be pregnant but she moves much quicker than Josh is able to - even though she is experiencing several Charlie horses a day. But even with her speed, she is unable to travel the distance in fifteen minutes. That's what makes the secret passageway such a bombshell. It's just enough for Carol Anne to keep the case going. It's a new complication that Josh will have to deal with. Plus, it may make him wonder if there is anything else about this property that Lavinia has been keeping from him. It's already produced a number of surprises that have startled him with this case. However, the secret passageway is bound to be more important than the dead bodies discovered earlier.

Some more thoughts:
  • At times, the people of East Peck can be easily fooled. They create a whole criminal record for Ronnie Del Mundo without ever realizing that it is actually Lavinia in disguise. Of course, the officer keeping tabs on her is aware of her status and is in love with her. But that still doesn't lead to an updated file. It just makes it so that when it is faxed over to the station Josh is disappointed that Lavinia is once again at the center of this case with the most damning motive.
  • East Peck also believes in a ceremony where a moose needs to see its own breath in order to determine how many Saturdays are left in the month. That's just so strange and random. It goes against the way that calendars are simply read. And yet, there is payoff to the joke with the reveal that the moose doesn't see its breath and the town then goes into a second Friday calendar. That too is strange but also amusing.
  • Jim O'Heir pops up as the handwriting expert who has also worked extensively on the carnival circuit. That's an amusing pairing because it means he tries to build the excitement even when confirming the information that Josh and Carol Anne want to hear. But he's also amusing because he is able to expertly figure out who a person is simply based on their handwriting. He nails everyone whose penmanship is presented in front of him.
  • Anne also just randomly wins a goat when she goes to the auction house in the hopes of finding the murder clock. That then leads to the hilarious reveal that Dwayne has named the animal "John Lithgow." A moment like that could come across as too cheeky and condescending to the audience. And yet, it still does fit in with the absurdity of this world and just how flimsy a lot of the characterizations of this location can be.
  • How is this the first time that Josh's house has been targeted and destroyed by a cannonball? The insurance guy wants to sell him on the policy but Josh was reassured by his realtor that no cannonballs would ever come close to his new property in town. And now, that all just magically goes away just so Josh can save Nina from an incoming projectile. At least it leads to the amusing sight of cannonball-proof windows.