The Justices and Injustices of “Conviction”
There’s been plenty of new shows introduced this Fall. One of these new shows, one that’s less-discussed, is ABC’s Conviction, starring Hayley Atwell (best known as Agent Peggy Carter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) as the no-fucks-given, party-girl daughter of a former President and talented defense attorney with an affinity for bucking systems of any kind. After getting arrested for cocaine possession, she’s offered a job to head up the newly-formed Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) by District Attorney, Conner Wallace, in exchange for her charges being swept under the rug.
The CIU itself is an interesting concept, especially in a time where the flaws of the justice system are becoming increasingly exposed and magnified, and there’s a likable team of people with various skills and backgrounds led by a charming lead. There’s quite a few things to like about Conviction, but there are also flaws that are so glaring they almost overpower the good.
The Wrong: That Arbitrary 5-Day Deadline
In between some scenes in the first episode of the show, there were these cool shots of yellow evidence number tags as a reminder of the number of days remaining for the team to solve the case. They were cool the first time, but after seeing it multiple times throughout each of the five episodes that have aired so far, they’ve gotten very repetitive very quickly, and seem very forced.
You know what else seems forced? That 5-day deadline. Let’s talk about it. Did I miss the explanation about why there’s a 5-day deadline for cases that the team picks on whim? These cases have all been closed, nobody is assigning the team their cases, so why is there a deadline and where does it even come from? It makes no sense. But hey, at least they got those cool evidence-number-tags-as-number-of-days-reminder shots.
What makes it even more odd is that none of the characters even remotely acknowledge the deadline. There’s no “we only have 1 day left” or “if only we had more time”; the deadline seems to only exist for the audience as a cheap trick to build-up tension, except it’s poorly executed and takes away from aspects of the show that are genuinely good.
The Good: Using The Cases To Talk About Real Issues
Procedurals are at their best when the show uses the cases as a way to address real-world issues, and not just as plot. Five episodes into Conviction, the cases of the week have done this. Yes, they are still used to further plot, but they also spark meta-commentary on real issues. So far, the show has commented on race and optics, sexual assault, terrorism, corruption, motherhood and special needs children, and, most recently, privilege.
In last week’s episode, entitled “Mother’s Little Burden”, Hayes (Atwell) is forced to sit through an interview after her cocaine possession arrest is exposed. After a brief attempt to act honest and contrite, at the request of her flamboyant brother, she drops the act and uses herself as an example of privilege and how those who have it, and power, can unfairly get away with a lot. It’s one of the best moments of the show to date, and you can already see the impact it may have on the rest of the season.
For the most part, Conviction is great. Hayley Atwell is great, the commentary on real-world issues is interesting, and the concept of the show is a nice spin on the usual crime-fighting procedural. However, some of the flaws are becoming a sideshow and they, unfortunately, do the show no justice.