Wednesday, February 10, 2021

REVIEW: 'For Life' - Aaron's Influence Over the Justice System Features Some Familiar and Concerning Tactics in 'For the People'

ABC's For Life - Episode 2.08 "For the People"

Aaron faces pressure from all sides when he is forced to decide which charges to bring against the officers responsible for the killing of an unarmed civilian. While Safiya pursues video evidence that could change their case, Roswell searches for a way to move the case from Staten Island to a friendlier venue.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 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 next episode of ABC's For Life.

"For the People" was written by David Feige and directed by Jono Oliver

Aaron has been appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the police shooting of Andy Josiah. The argument was made in the previous episode as to why this was a political smart move on the Attorney General's part. It's still absolutely insane. Aaron has become a public figure. His story has been publicized and galvanized by the world at large. As such, he brings credibility as someone fighting for justice in the world. He will handle this case differently than the people who cannot be trusted to do the right thing despite their elected responsibilities. The conflicts of interests are simply too much. The case requires an outside perspective. Of course, Aaron isn't some stranger to this story either. He tried to help Andy after this shooting occurred. He has formed a relationship with the family. It makes the emotional impact of every twist and turn hit more prominently. The story itself highlights how many deals are happening without the public being aware of what's going on. That offers the perception that public pressure works. In reality, Aaron was always channeling this risky gambit in the hopes of bringing the most severe charges he could in this particular case. But again, the show is stretch its credibility with its depiction of the law. It states over and over again just how unprecedented Aaron's legal moves are. And yes, this is a time where prosecutors should be thinking creatively about the best ways to reform the system and deliver equitable justice. However, the show points out the unconventionality of these gambits only for them to be remarkably easy for Aaron to pull off. Safiya is outraged for a couple of moments. She wants to protect the bodega owner who was reluctant to come forward with video of the attack. She doesn't want to encourage the unethical practices of lying to judges and manipulating the public. She is furious because Aaron proclaims her as his voice of reason even though he doesn't particularly listen to what she has to say. This team is fighting amongst themselves. They are also fighting to present the best case. They are in uncharted territory though because none of them have the proper experience as prosecutors to navigate this system effectively. Instead, the show just sets up the problems and then has the solutions to them be incredibly easy with no consequences whatsoever. Sure, it's dramatic in the end when the community on Staten Island rallies behind the police and takes it out on whomever is helping Aaron with the prosecution. But that is also the fantastical way of telling this story. It's a way to increase the drama so that it is more entertaining for television. The situation itself doesn't really need that added boost of melodrama to increase the tension. It's perfectly poignant when Aaron has to look away before the shots are fired during the video. Him watching it is a painful and visceral experience. He has to do so for his job. He can't look away from the horror that was done to Andy. But it hits him personally as well because of all that he has endured in the world. He hopes to make a difference. He is given the power to do so. It corrupts him almost immediately. Just because the show argues he is on the right side, it then connects all of this to being the right thing to do. His morality and ethics should be questioned. He has always made these complicated deals in the hopes of getting something from the people around him without them realizing they are being tricked. That's how he behaved in prison last season. The pressure was on him upon being released though. The eyes of the world are watching him now to see how he will react. His visibility has only increased. These tactics are still fundamentally the same. People's lives are being impacted as a result. As such, it feels like the show is going too big in the hopes of saying something profound about this moment as it pertains to the law. It's a perfectly reasonable aspiration. The show has proven itself capable of handling these big, topical issues in the last few episodes. Here though, it just comes across as a massive misfire that wants to skip corners to further sensationalize the whole ordeal. That may be the result of the condensed time frame of the overall season. It means several other stories have largely been dropped so that Aaron can focus only on this case. He should be called out for taking big, unethical moves just like some of his opponents have done in the past. He is given the opportunity to do so. That is a form of equity. It paints Aaron in a complicated light. He has evolved this season. He has huge ambitions about changing the system. The personal moments have become more fleeting though. And so, the impact comes from the general conversation instead of driving something meaningful about the core characters.