Tuesday, October 11, 2022

REVIEW: 'Reasonable Doubt' - Jax Hopes to Improve Brayden's Image as Jury Selection Begins in 'Guilty Until Proven Innocent'

Hulu's Reasonable Doubt - Episode 1.04 "Guilty Until Proven Innocent"

Jax and the team focus on jury selection. When Jax's dad comes into town, Jax turns to Lewis for help, but finds relief from a new friend.

"Guilty Until Proven Innocent" was written by Tash Gray and directed by Darren Grant

Everyone has an opinion on how Jax will behave in any given situation. None of them properly convey her true complexity. That's the defining characteristic of nearly everyone across this ensemble. Therefore, that produces the consequence of none of them seeming worthy of having her in their lives. They want to dictate their terms and expect her to follow them no matter what. She pushes back hard. She demands to be respected for all that she is and has accomplished. And yet, people continually underestimate what she is capable of. When Jax visits Daniel in the hospital after the assault, he believes she only wants to talk about how this will impact the case. He has already crafted a strategy for this proving the shady cousin has a violent history that could incriminate her in Kaleesha's murder. Jax wants him to prioritize his health. He deserves to talk a few days off to recover from this heinous act. The show mostly goes through the motions in that regard though. Jax makes that statement even though she also requires him to bribe the cousin to get the computer that can reveal new potential motives. That too suggests a hesitance towards depicting Jax as the multi-dimensional figure she strives to be. Her skills in the courtroom and vulnerability at home are on display in every episode. She struggles to maintain balance. In doing so, a very obvious pattern has emerged. Every single episode has requisite dynamics it must produce no matter how the story evolves over time. It's frustrating because it doesn't offer a strong sense of momentum. A lot is happening with Brayden's case. The jury has been selected. Jax and her team must think strategically in that regard. However, the focus remains on Rich being frustrated as a capable lawyer whose opinion is being discounted. Those personal slights are adding up and causing him to lash out. It's a story about a powerful white man not being accustomed to serving in the supporting role. Jax proclaims her expertise in this field. That demands respect. She has to be trusted in every single dynamic of this case. Her every move is still questioned. It may be better for Brayden's business if he steps down as CEO now. However, Jax can't allow anything to disrupt the story being told in the media at the moment. She has to do everything to sway public opinion before the trial begins. That's how she is going to win. She believes he is innocent. She has to make others believe it. And yet, every episode requires her to prove to her colleagues that she knows what she's doing. Part of that is simply being a Black woman in the workplace. This recognition is always elusive. It makes up a core tenet of the storytelling. It's just annoying when it's the same exact beat happening over and over again. That's not the only part of the story that loves repeating itself either.

Every episode must feature some development in Brayden's case, Jax and Lewis seeming to get along until one comment destroys all of that, Jax having a tense dynamic with her mother because of some overall hesitance towards her stepfather, Jax hanging out with her girlfriends whose problems don't really matter at all, Damon being friendly to Jax in a way that could easily turn romantic, and Spencer being an annoying teenager. All of those elements have been included in these opening four episodes. That's reassuring to a certain extent. The show knows what it has to offer. It delivers it every week. It's not expanding on that formula though. It's trying to establish a routine in order to disrupt it later on. The narrative plants clues that these personal complications leave Jax vulnerable to being abducted. That also amounts to pointed dialogue about Lewis turning the cameras off throughout the house and Will continually stalking Jax. The audience having this information about the future makes all of this seem more potent. Lewis' behavior was already creepy. And now, the audience is being conditioned into seeing him as a rational guy. Everything doesn't line up in a neat way with him. He always says he will talk to his son about his behavior towards his mother. However, he mostly wants to be the cool dad who has time to be with the kids. Jax's job is too important. As such, no one can reasonably expect her to make her children a priority. They are though. She made that clear. She also wants the opportunity to form her own relationship with her father as an adult. Instead, her mother steps in to make that impossible. It's disruptive and further suggests deeper problems in their relationship. All of it simply must be accepted in the name of family. These bonds have to overcome any pain and trauma in the past because the people are related. That doesn't make any of them inherently good. People have plenty to say about the way Jax conducts herself. She can't control everything. Brayden's speech at the charity event works because he spoke from the heart. Jax couldn't speak on his behalf. He needs to do the work to prove to the world he is innocent. Guilty people continue to linger around him. Now, the suspicion moves to his wife, Sarah. Apparently, she sent some concerning emails to Kaleesha. If those are released, it would look incredibly damning. Of course, it's all very vague. It may be nothing more than a red herring just like the shady cousin was. That appears to be the ambition of the storytelling right now. It presents these twists that could amount to something major. The heart and meaning get lost along the way. That's tragic because the central figure is deserving of so much more than the one-dimensional storytelling that is increasingly becoming present. Jax isn't perfect. Her complexities inform all of these dynamics in ways that should build on each other. That then can showcase how she excels at each of these roles even during the complications.