Wednesday, November 18, 2020

REVIEW: 'For Life' - Aaron Scrambles to Protect Himself and His Loved Ones From an Emboldened Maskins in 'Never Stop Fighting'

ABC's For Life - Episode 2.01 "Never Stop Fighting"

After nine years of fighting to win his freedom, it's do or die for Aaron Wallace. As dangerous enemies lurk at Bellmore and Marie faces criminal charges for assisting Aaron in prior cases, Aaron must find a way to gain the upper hand on Maskins.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of ABC's For Life.

"Never Stop Fighting" was written by Hank Steinberg and directed by Russell Fine

Aaron Wallace spent his time in prison becoming a lawyer in order to prove his innocence. He felt the urgency to return to his family and expose the corruption of the individuals who put him behind bars in the first place. The first season saw many starts and stops to that endeavor. Every time he felt like he secured a pivotal lead or win, the system would then knock him back down again. This fight was so much more than what it meant for him as well. He had a responsibility as a father and husband. He also had a responsibility to his fellow inmates who rely on his legal advice. He manipulated people. He used cases in order to help himself. The season was fundamentally designed towards him gaining enough evidence to secure a retrial in his case. It ended with him putting his friends and family in danger. Marie was facing criminal charges. Jamal was severely injured. Aaron had to make a choice at the start of the new season. Was he willing to take a deal to return to his family if it meant he could never practice law again while Maskins became the top law enforcement officer in the state? That seemed like the only viable option because of the risk he exposed to others. He had to get home to enjoy life with his newborn grandson. The decision isn't easy though. Being a lawyer has become a part of his identity. He has fought the system and made a real difference in the lives of his fellow inmates. He made mistakes along the way. And yet, he got others released from prison long before he was himself. He gave people a sense of kindness and humanity that was long removed from this environment. They have always appreciated that. That makes it meaningful and earned when the crowds cheer for him as he walks to freedom. Sure, this hour is packed with action and sudden developments. It's clear the creative team wanted to wrap up this particular part of the story early on knowing that it still has so much more to examine about Aaron's life. He has fought so hard for his freedom and innocence. And now, he has obtained that. He is returning home to Marie and Jasmine. He has won. What comes next for him? He is overwhelmingly told that he can't forget about the people he is now leaving behind. Aaron already offers some assurance by telling Jamal that he has looked into his case and has become his lawyer. He helps the system by forcing Maskins and Cyrus Hunt out of their jobs. Will that improve the system at all? If it does, it will only be by small increments. Safiya isn't magically offered her job back. She feels that the only good she has done as warden is help Aaron every step of the way. That cost her a lot as well. She may have lost her job and her marriage. That is devastating. She is lost. It may all be worth it in the end because Aaron is free once more. He didn't have to do it alone either. He survived every threat that was put in his way. He has fought for justice as well. The guards are now willing to listen to his criticism and try to do better. They will at least not actively be making matters worse. That may be all a matter of perspective though. Violence still occurs in the prison. It remains horrifying. The future is full of possibilities though. Aaron will have to determine what the path forward looks like. He has achieved this goal. What comes next? It's an exciting place to start the season. It means a dramatic shakeup from what was the narrative foundation in the first season. It takes a bold creative direction to feel confident in doing that. A version of this story would have been perfectly fine keeping Aaron in prison while his retrial places out in the courtroom. Instead, Dez crafts a much better deal for Aaron after all the corruption is used to force Maskins out of public life for good. The narrative spine of the series may always find some connection back to the prison and fighting for the innocent. Aaron had a unique perspective because he was a part of that environment as well. Now, he will fight from a place of understanding that experience. That may afford him more resources without the forces actively suppressing his rights to conduct this business his way. Will people's lives still be defined by him? His freedom will allow more agency and intimacy to form that has been lacking in the years since he was imprisoned. That could change things. Whatever happens, the show has earned some trust by making these moves in the premiere to show it is perfectly fine switching things up in a dramatic way while still being true to the characters.