The Firm's Early Verdict: Not Worth the Retainer Fee

What do you think your life would be like after 10 years of hiding from the mob? I ask because the question deals with one of the central character motivations of new NBC legal thriller The Firm, based on the famous John Grisham novel. You’d probably be tired of running, with a desire to finally put down some roots -- especially if you had a kid. Apparently you might even think it’s been so long, maybe the mob will have forgotten all about you. I mean, all you did was destroy one the most profitable facets of its organization and put the Boss in prison (where he eventually died). No biggie. But I’ll get to that later.

The Firm's two-hour series premiere, which debuted Sunday (subsequent episodes will air on Thursdays starting this week), began with a typical pilot-esque cold opening: The main character, Mitchell McDeere (Josh Lucas), running for his life from would-be harm-doers through the tourist attractions of Washington, D.C. (even knocking a tour guide down in the process -- those guys never get any respect). Mitch cleverly evaded his pursuers by running across a pond in front of the Capitol, ruining his shoes in the process (I guess bad guys have more respect for their attire?), and hopping onto a truck. He then called his wife *cue the camera panorama* Abby (the beautiful Molly Parker) from pay phone (?), telling her, “It’s happening again.” He pleaded with her to go to their prearranged emergency plan spot, but before he could meet her, he would have to see “somebody who knows the truth.” It was all quite intentionally vague, but we soon found out the guy Mitch had to see was mixed up in the murder of a woman and the conspiracy that surrounds it. All this had something to do with Mitch’s client, but before Mitch can get any more info, there was an unceremonious knock on the door -- the bad guys had tracked him down! The client was none too pleased about this development and thought it better to check out early.

If you're not a Grisham fan, the opening might have left you a little confused. But the convolution was quickly cleared up with the aid of a few grayish-blue-tinged revisionist flashbacks. We learned that 10 years have elapsed since the time of the novel/movie, which ended with Mitch handing his mob-controlled firm over to the Feds on a silver platter. And even though Mitch was warned by the FBI that the mob boss’s son could put another hit out on him, he decided to come out of hiding to set up his own practice in Washington, D.C. (brilliant move).

After only a few months, Mitch was struggling. Even with the help of his faithful secretary/assistant, Tammy Hemphill, and his P.I. brother, Ray McDeere (BSG alum Callum Keith Rennie), he was barely getting by. This left him open to an offer by his lawyer basketball buddy, Andrew Palmer, to join his glamorous, affluent firm of Kinross and Clark. To everybody who has read the book or seen the movie, were you getting a strange sense of déjà vu at this moment? Mitch probably should have figured out by now that accepting an amazing offer from a firm that's too good to be true is not the best idea. But hey, The Firm is the name of the show, so what are you gonna do? During their visit, the McDeeres were charmed by Kinross and Clark's progressive architectural design and of course the managing partner, Alex Clark (Tricia Helfer -- BSG reunion, baby!)

As Mitch mulled over this very appealing offer, he had his own case to deal with: That of a 14-year-old boy accused of murdering a schoolmate. But I’m not going to delve into detail, because it felt like a recycled storyline I've seen dozens of times on other legal dramas. Mitch was forced to wrest with moralistic compromises, while in the end upholding his integrity -- blah blah blah. Not riveting stuff.

Near the end of the episode, after a big settlement he was counting on fell through, Mitch agreed to form an association with Kinross and Clark. Cut to a darkened boardroom with the seedy partners -- it’s amazing what a change of lighting can do! They discussed the REAL reason they hired Mitch. If at this point you were saying, “What! The firm is corrupt? I never would have guessed!” you are probably the only one. We discovered the only reason Kinross and Clark hired Mitch had to do with a case he was assigned earlier in the episode. The client was Sarah Holt, and she was charged with murdering a 71-year-old woman in her sleep. Apparently there's more to it than we know, because the partners seemed pretty freaked out by the possibility of Mitch getting to the bottom of it. They decided to give Mitch the CIA treatment: bugs in his phones, computers, and copy machines, with 24/7 surveillance on the side (I’m getting that déjà vu feeling again). But here’s the kicker: The client they were trying to protect (along with themselves) was none other than... the guy from the opening scene!

To be quite honest, the premiere really dragged at times. And Mitch’s decision to leave witness protection was nothing short of baffling. Here we have an intelligent lawyer who finished at the top of his Harvard class deciding to open up a law practice in the nation’s capital, while using his real name! He has seen firsthand what the mob is capable of, but thinks 10 years is enough time. What’s that axiom? Oh yeah, "The mafia never forgets." Mitch should read less tort reform texts and more Mario Puzo. Compared to legal dramas like The Good Wife and Damages, The Firm seems somewhat bland and derivative. Keeping in mind this was only the premiere, I suppose liking this show may depend on how much you enjoy watching legal procedurals, but for an opening argument, I found the premiere lacking.


Questions:

... Look really closely at the first picture. Does anyone else think that is a stunt double? (If so, Tom Cruise, Josh Lucas is not!)

... What’s the deal with Sarah Holt? And how could her case land the firm’s partners in prison?

... To the fans of the book and movie, were you a little disappointed?

... How many of you plan to tune in this Thursday for the next episode?


Ed. note: You may have noticed the new-to-TV.com byline on this story. Well, it only SEEMS new: Michael Robertson is perhaps better-known around these parts as one Arch_Angel88, commenter extraordinaire. He's been so funny and insightful over the last several months that we've asked him to give writing a shot. Let's all congratulate Michael on his first post!

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