Thursday, April 30, 2020

For Life 1x05 Review: "Witness" (Compromises) [Contributor: Thomas]

Original Airdate: Marc 17, 2020

The last episode, "Marie," was my favorite episode of the series so far. The way the show handled time and the acting performance from Joy Bryant as Marie was Emmy-worthy. This week, we are back in present day and the story is continuing.

I’m glad we get to see more of Henry Roswell. He's the former state senator and sponsored Aaron while he was petitioning to become a lawyer. In this episode, Henry encourages Aaron to keep digging. The police file that was gifted to Aaron shows the neglect by the police but Henry warns to slow down and reminds him that there’s only one shot at asking for a retrial. Henry suggests that Aaron take a case similar to how the police department handled eyewitnesses. After winning that case, he can tie it to Maskins or O’Reilly and this would prove a pattern.

The continuity on this show I really enjoy. It’s always great to see when moments from previous episodes aren’t in a vacuum but that the characters' actions have consequences. When Aaron was representing Felonious Munk’s character, Hassan, we discovered that the guards were helping the flow of drugs into the prison. This is the complete opposite of warden Safiya Masry’s goal. With her reform-based programs, she needs the guards to buy in, which is what she reinforces to Captain Foster after a prison fight.

I like that we see she’s a woman of her word. She respects Aaron’s boundary of only telling on the guards and in turn she doesn’t stay silent but instead she confronts Smitty who is caught on camera selling smack to inmates. It’s revealed that Captain Foster, played by Glenn Fleshler, is involved in the transport of drugs into the prison population. This was shocking to me because of how he treated Aaron after he became involved in representing the neo-Nazis. It turns out that Foster is just a good actor because he is involved with Will Bill, head of the neo-Nazis. He smuggles drugs, which he passes off to Will Bill. It’s fascinating to me that he’s not in need of money; instead, it seems it’s the greed that’s motivating him. He said he paid off his mortgage, got a boat, and isn’t afraid of retiring. Again it turns out he’s bluffing because his father and sick and his father’s medical expenses aren’t cheap.

We see that Hassan is still imprisoned and it’s a reminder that actions have consequences. Even though Hassan should be a free man, he’s still imprisoned because of the judge and Aaron’s inexperience. Rafi Lopez is a prisoner who needs a new lawyer and he seems like the perfect candidate for what Aaron needs to prove in court. The problem is that Rafi needs that cosign from Hassan to prove Aaron’s straight up.

Rafi is the key to trap the D.A. but there’s a risk of those involved getting dirty in response to Aaron’s prodding. Meanwhile at home, Jasmine and Marie are aiming to track down the witnesses from Aaron’s case. We also see Maskins’ home life with his wife; he also has a son in high school who is hearing about the case from kids at school. There’s a great scene between Maskins and his wife where they discuss the perception that he’s the “racist white man putting innocent Black people away.” Again it’s great to see that Maskins isn’t just some monster but a misguided man who wants to protect himself.

We’re also introduced in this episode to Adam Yamada at O’Reilly’s son’s christening. Here we learn of Dez’s ambition of being the next Bronx D.A. after Maskins wins Attorney General. Yamada is the lawyer who Aaron is trying to go up against in the Rafi Lopez case. Four years ago a plea deal was made, and the lawyer feels Aaron has nothing. But Maskins warns not to underestimate him: “A cornered animal is always dangerous.”

Aaron gets Yamada in the courtroom under the understanding that Aaron was arguing the lineup used for Rafi’s case was invalid because the other suspects' facial hair didn’t match his client's. When the judge agrees with Yamada that this assertion is silly, Aaron reveals there were two lineups and one got tossed. The judge recoils and feels betrayed that Wallace blindsided both of them, but Aaron convinces the judge that it should be looked at which leaves Yamada hanging. Yamada is accosted by O’Reilly after the judgment is made. We, the audience, finds out this connects to O’Reilly and possibly Maskins. Yamada says that O’Reilly recommended for him to plea out and make the case go away. We see already battle lines being formed with O’Reilly feigning ignorance and Yamada realizing he himself will need a lawyer if their conversation is exposed. I like seeing O’Reilly flustered. He feels threatened now that Wallace’s case can directly affect him but Maskins stands firm not risking to bury the blame on the NYPD to save O’Reilly.

We see the ramifications of actions set up earlier in the series. It’s frustrating seeing the lack of open communication between Marie and Darius. Feelings are complicated, especially when you love an imprisoned man but also are living with a man who loves you immensely. Instead of explaining that she’s back on board helping Aaron track down witnesses, she hides lists and phone calls she makes.

After getting intel from Smitty, Masry interrogates Will Bill and tries to entice him to flip by luring him with accommodations like a private cell and a sponsored visit from his dying mother. This doesn’t bode well for Aaron’s rep because he represented Joey Knox (who was beefing with Will Bill). It looks like Aaron snitched and that could lead to him turning up dead.

One thing I do enjoy about this show is though it wasn’t immediate, the characters in the show usually are honest with each other. Marie finally explains that she lied earlier about Darius.

My favorite example of Aaron Wallace is in this episode: Aaron was so on point. He went face-to-face with his enemies and was able to hit them where it hurts. There was a deposition of Adam Yamada and Aaron quotes case law and decisions that were made that proved he was in the right. He got Yamada to admit on record that he received approval from Dez O’Reilly to go after a plea deal in not just this case, but many like it. We got to see Aaron’s swagger; he was in his element, so much so that Yamada had to plead the fifth and his lawyer recommended that they take a break.

Aaron’s victory was short-lived, however, after O’Reilly put him in a corner. They were willing to settle and Dez knows that Aaron doesn’t want to show his client but legally he had to. The offer is $100,000 and the deal is that Rafi stays imprisoned. Their fervor is not just because Aaron had them on the ropes, but that Rafi is actually guilty. Though the lineup was illegal and wrong, Rafi admitted to Hassan he committed the crime and had no remorse. Again, we see the complicated nature of prison politics as Rafi threatens Aaron if he doesn’t get him out.

The last scene in this episode features Rafi exciting the prison which is great for Aaron but terrible for society because Rafi was not remorseful and is highly likely to rob again. This is great for the audience because we see Aaron won’t always have slam dunk cases or even be on the right side as the defendant.

Quotes/Favorite Moments:

  • "I’m not just gonna get you off. I’m gonna make them suffer."
  • "I hate it, but you’re almost always right."
  • "Time to put your big boy pants on, Dez; it’s getting real."


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