Tuesday, September 27, 2022

REVIEW: 'Reasonable Doubt' - Jax Devotes Her Life to Work at the Expense of Her Family in 'Can't Knock the Hustle'

Hulu's Reasonable Doubt - Episode 1.01 "Can't Knock the Hustle"

Jax Stewart, the most brilliant and fearless private defense attorney in Los Angeles, juggles work, family, friends, and a complicated personal life while bucking the justice system at every chance she gets as she's faced with a potential high-profile client and the ghosts of her past.

"Can't Knock the Hustle" was written by Raamla Mohamed and directed by Kerry Washington

Six months from now, Jax will be pleading for her life while held at gunpoint. That's the salacious way in which this drama opens. That's the only context provided for now. Something in her life will eventually escalate to such a direct threat to her life. After that concerning glimpse of the future, the story focuses on what her life is like at the moment. Jax is presented as a woman who prioritizes her career over her family. That has caused tension with her husband and her mother. She navigates those relationships even though she seems incapable of easily providing them with what they need. They constantly yearn for more from her. Those expectations are rarely met. She still requires something from them too. But it's also easy to deflect from those uncertainties by diving headfirst into work. She's a skilled lawyer. She's the only Black female partner at her prestigious firm. She must navigate those awkward dynamics. She endures those micro-aggressions knowing that she still makes a difference for her clients. She knows when to investigate further when one client is accused of sexual assault. Every situation is different. She recognizes when one client is simply being targeted for the payoff. Meanwhile, another may actually be guilty. However, it can all be explained away because he has the money and resources to silence it all. It's more important for the world to recognize him as one of the few Black billionaires. Jax is happy not to have to manage that ego as an ongoing client. And yet, all of that still changes by the conclusion of the premiere. The narrative certainly suggests that Brayden Mitchell killed Kaleesha to prevent her from disclosing company secrets as well as accusing him of assaulting her. All of that is implied with the brief conversation Rich had with him after Kaleesha chose not to sign the NDA. That was a disappointment. This firm couldn't provide what he needed. He chose to handle things his own way. All of this is drawn out for the audience to easily understand and follow. It doesn't exactly aspire to dig deeper than the surface level interests of these characters. People are motivated by money and power. Jax doesn't care if her clients are terrible people. She just knows she'll hurt less if they lose. That's more manageable than the burden created from her years as a public defender. She couldn't stop innocent Black man from being swallowed by the criminal justice system. She wanted to make a difference. At the end of the day, she is the one who emerged with a posh and extravagant life. Sure, some details of her personal life are relatable. She worries about her son. She wants to be understood and loved. So much is fleeting as well because she walls herself off from ever being too vulnerable with anyone.

Furthermore, it's stated directly that Jax loves criminals. That declaration is made in the context of sexual intrigue. Jax is attracted to men with criminal records or who are behaving badly. She lashes out against Lewis continually trying to control her. He hires someone to watch over her at night. He has cameras monitoring her movements inside her home. It's all done with the intention of him spying on her even though they no longer live together. He is keeping tabs on her. He has access to that component of her life. Meanwhile, he is given the freedom of doing whatever he wants with their children. Jax has no way in to that particular world. She's very giving in that way. She demands more as well. She expects to be treated with respect. She wants to believe her husband understands her after years together. And yet, Lewis is shocked that his wife chose her career over their marriage. He wants a deeper conversation with her focusing on the many problems in their relationship. She seems incapable of giving that to him. Instead, all she can do is have sex with the man he hired to keep her safe. That's an act meant solely to provoke. It's all about how Lewis will respond. It doesn't particularly mean anything to her. It appears as if she engages in the act upon learning his criminal history. The sexual tension was already present long before then. It was an inevitable moment that was going to occur at some point. It's not about the man standing in front of her. It's simply her trying to be satisfied. She needs that release in order to feel comfortable once more. Plus, she gets to flex her own sense of power and control against her husband. It's their way of combatting one another. They hope it's all treated in a light-hearted and fun way. However, Jax has a client being released from prison who has long dreamed of what would have happened if they met under different circumstances. He has survived for sixteen years because of the love she once expressed for him. It crossed a boundary as she was his lawyer. She did everything she could to save him. And now, Damon is expressing remorse for a murder he didn't commit in the name of freedom. That's all that he wants. He needs Jax to understand that. She makes a point of wearing her wedding ring during that confrontation. She wants him to be smart. She also doesn't want to think about this relationship. She will have to as his parole is approved. Jax can't escape the various aspects of her life vying for control. She's at least given a high-profile case that can consume her attention at work. That's tantalizing. But again, all of this is building towards a climactic moment that is sure to disrupt any sense of control she has anywhere in her life.