TV Review - Murder in the First

Tom Felton steals the show as a sexy, computer
genius and defendant in "Murder in the First"
It's like a Law & Order story stretched over a dozen or so episodes. Typically, a Law & Order hour is split in half. The first half-hour is about the cops finding the murder suspect and arresting him. The second half-hour is about the lawyers putting that suspect on trial. This series takes that first half-hour and spreads it over three episodes. The series then takes that second half-hour and spreads it over the rest of the seven episodes.

Taye Diggs (Ally McBeal and Private Practice) stars as Terry English, a homicide inspector for the San Francisco Police Department. He's recovering from the death of his wife who recently passed away due to pancreatic cancer. He's obviously dealing with grief and being on the rebound. He also has some anger issues, occasionally lashing out.

Kathleen Robertson (Beverly Hills, 90210 and Bates Motel) co-stars as Hildy Mulligan, a homicide inspector for San Francisco as well. She's actually English's partner. She's a single mom who shares custody with her ex-husband who is a former alcoholic and is in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The X-Files, the implication is that there is something romantic between English and Mulligan. Unlike the aforementioned shows, the romance here is acted upon. Dick Wolf and Chris Carter never had to go there because they had more stories to tell.

Creators Steven Bochco (L.A. Law and NYPD Blue) and Eric Lodal don't have any more stories to tell. Therefore, once the show switches its focus to the trial, it invariably leaves the two inspectors with not much to do. Bochco and Lodal decided to create and play out the romantic angle to keep the characters viable.

Tom Felton (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) co-stars as Erich Blunt, a combination of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, except he's blonde, more arrogant and more of a hothead. He certainly has a moment that's almost right out of The Social Network (2010) where another programmer accuses Blunt of stealing computer code. Blunt is aggressively sexual, which gets him into trouble.

Blunt is the young man on trial for murder. The end of the first episode has the death of a pregnant flight attendant named Cindy Strauss. Cindy worked for Blunt and they were having an affair. Along the way, evidence for and against Blunt being the killer piles up.

While Diggs and Robertson are great actors, Tom Felton really steals the show. Watching his character think he's untouchable at first and then go to being a humble and scared defendant who practically has to beg for the best lawyer is great. James Cromwell (Six Feet Under and 24) plays Warren Daniels, the pinnacle of criminal defense attorneys. The scenes that Felton has with Cromwell and the scenes that pivot around Cromwell's character prove how good Felton is.

I also enjoyed Felton's scenes with Robertson. It's doubtful anything sexual would occur between Blunt and Mulligan. They kissed, but it wasn't what one would think. Felton has such great chemistry and raw appeal that even though narrative-wise it's impossible or highly improbable, Felton's power makes you want it because his character wants it.

Felton and the trial suck all the oxygen out the room, but some of the machinations with Mulligan is fairly interesting. The random scene in Episode 3 that reveals Mulligan's boss Lt. Koto, played by Ian Anthony Dale (The Event and Hawaii Five-O), and District Attorney Perez, played by Nicole Ari Parker (Soul Food and Revolution), are hooking up went nowhere. Maybe later episodes will do more, but it just felt like too much.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 10PM on TNT.


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