Monday, May 11, 2020

For Life 1x06 Review: "Burner" (A New Face) [Contributor: Thomas]

50 Cent Talks His 'For Life' Debut As Cassius Dawkins

Original Airdate: March 24, 2020

This is the halfway point of the first season of For Life. We’re following Aaron Wallace who has been incarcerated for the past nine years. He recently has received a breakthrough though and is now in possession of his confidential police file.

Aaron begins searching through his police file and finds a gem: the cops had a confidential informant outside of his assumed friends. Whoever this person was, their identity wasn’t shared with Aaron or his lawyer which gives hope of proving corruption of the police department. Aaron shares the breakthrough with Marie, but can’t really talk because guards are near.

From this episode’s title, I assumed that the plot would be centered around Aaron’s cell phone — his lifeline he’s used to speak to Marie has always been a risk because as prison rep, he’s supposed to be approve reproach. If caught, this could seriously hinder his chance to make a case for his release since the phone is contraband that was smuggled in and is illegally held.

We, the audience, learn more about Captain Foster and see more of his motivation and operation in the drug smuggling of Bellmore. In a meeting with the supplier, he fronts like he really doesn’t need this hustle. His house is paid off and he even has a boat, but he’s risking his livelihood which he believes means he should get more of the money. The supplier has done his homework though and knows Foster can’t back out because Foster’s father has a bad heart and the medical bills can easily pile up.

He’s able to transport the drugs through containers he brings sirloins into the prison for during “Steak Day.” This is evidence of Bellmore’s way of doing things being different from other prisons.
Foster is grateful that this “time-honored tradition” is one thing she hasn’t messed up with her reforms. There’s conflict which unexpectedly leads to tension between Masry and her wife, Anya Harrison. Harrison is running against Maskins for Attorney General of New York and Masry’s progressive views are causing potential endorsers like the CO’s union to withdraw their support. Masry is looking to reduce prisons as they reduce the crime in the prison population.

Masry’s reforms are written in a comprehensive proposal which is given to the prison board. Maskins gets his hands on it through a board member who details a scheme to put her plans to the state by transferring level four inmates to Bellmore — including a particularly difficult inmate played by 50 Cent.

I love that 50 Cent has made a career of positioning himself with respected stars of the film industry.
Because of his production companies, G-Unit Film & Television and Cheetah Films, he’s been able to act alongside Academy Award winners like Robert DeNiro and box office star Bruce Willis. This opportunity to play Cassius Dawkins is no different. He brings a realism to the role that is needed in this series. His character is known as a nuisance and his previous wardens were glad to not have to deal with him anymore.

Immediately Cassius has not only a presence and a swagger, but he also is heavily connected. Through Bobby, played by Hassan Johnson, we see that he’s all about business. Cassius is already setting up a nefarious plan, priming Bobby for players in this game while Aaron and Jamal look discouraged. The freedoms Bellmore gives may be ruined by Cassius’ upheaval.

I can’t believe Aaron is already in front of a judge pleading his case against the D.A. O’Reilly is his opposition and plans to invalidate the new evidence by asking how Aaron got a hold of a confidential police file. Aaron restates that it was from an anonymous whistleblower who was afraid of reprisal so Aaron destroyed the envelope it came in. He tells the judge that a career confidential informant was used to gain a warrant for the club he owned, but this wasn’t revealed during the trial. He wants to know his name, why he wasn’t able to cross examine him, and if they held a Darden hearing. The judge backs him up asking if they did in fact have a Darden hearing.

The next scene we see, Maskins is not happy, threatening that the NYPD needs to find the leak who gave Aaron the confidential police file. They try to make it about how he got the file and not about what’s in it. This leads to drama between Hassan and Aaron after O’Reilly calls Hassan’s brother Officer Newcombe to the stand. Under threat of perjury, Newcombe lies for Aaron, which is exactly the type of drama Newcombe and Hassan sought to avoid when getting involved with him.

Outside of prison Earl, Marie’s dad, surprises the family by coming over. After the pleasantries, slowly Earl makes his intentions known: he has never liked Aaron and felt that he was holding Marie back. Earl encourages Darius to propose to Marie, going as far as to gift him the ring Marie’s mother had. Through this exchange, the audience learns Aaron never actually signed the divorce papers Marie presented him with so they’re still technically married. And that leaves Darius on the outside dating a woman who loves him but is still with her husband.

Back on the yard, Aaron is in a bind because he trusted the wrong people. Cassius learns from Bobby that Aaron has a burner phone and intimidates him into letting him make a phone call. This immediately backfires because Aaron witnesses Cassius Dawkins send people to threaten Captain Foster. Aaron is advised to use Cassius as a buffer for protection, and Cassius explicitly states that Aaron’s burner now belongs to him and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Meanwhile, I like learning more about Brooklyn’s D.A. Anya Harrison. She cares, inquiring about why four max inmates are coming into Bellmore. Masry and Anya worry about the prison board possibly putting her “soft” approach to the test. Anya and Safiya have a confrontation on Masry’s position and reforms. The COs are worried that they’ll have fewer jobs because of Masry’s assertion that there needs to be less prisons, not more. In my opinion this demonstrates the complicated relationship between those who are trying to reform prisons and those who want to abolish prisons. Anya promises that when she’s elected she can go beyond the reforms Masry has implemented but encourages Safiya to soften her way so that she can become Attorney General.

In the judge’s chamber, O’Reilly and Aaron are each making their case on whether or not the department effectively did their job. It’s revealed that the department cut corners and the judge admits they “played fast and loose”... but they had ample evidence to have a warrant issued without the knowledge from the confidential informant. Angelo Torres was a confidential informant paid by the NYPD. He was the manager of the club, a key witness in Wallace’s trail, and “he was on their payroll the whole time.” Aaron wants the opportunity to cross-examine him and wants access to extensive records on his time as a C.I. Apparently there’s the prospect that though Aaron didn’t get the search warrant thrown out, the department may be the hook for possibly a Brady violation.

Later in the episode, after Earl has a tense conversation with his daughter about her future, he goes to the prison where he’s face-to-face with Aaron. What starts as an earnest plea for Aaron to let Marie go turns into a confrontation where Earl rails on Aaron as being selfish and he storms out. I could see James McDaniel being nominated for an Emmy for an Outstanding Guest Actor. His performance was breathtaking and his emotion was fully conveyed through the screen.

The last scene in the episode is two armed men dressed in black next to Officer Foster’s family.
As the captain tries to plead, they silence him by raising their guns and telling him that Cassius Dawkins has a proposition.

Quotes/Favorite Moments:

  • “If you test us and mistake our humanity for weakness, you will be dealt with.”
  • “One thing I know, one thing I always knew, was that he was devoted to me and Jazz. So I’m not gonna turn my back on him. Even if it makes my life harder, even if it brings me pain, I will never turn my back on him. So I’m sorry, but that’s how you raised me.”
  • ”I believe in everything you’re doing. I do. And if I’m elected ... I’m gonna push for all of these kinds of reforms in a more comprehensive way than what you can do right now from there. But to do that, I got to get elected first.”


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