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Friday, October 7, 2011

Harry's Law atones for "Sins of the Father"

     NBC's Harry's Law begins season two with a three-part episode, culminating in "Sins of the Father" this week. Harry (Kathy Bates) finally gets to court with Eric's (Alfred Molina, Law & Order: LA, Spider-Man 2) case. She argues fiercely, though a few, last minute surprises pop up. In the end, Harry plays a hunch and exposes D.A. Roseanna Remmick's (Jean Smart, 24, Samantha Who?) misconduct, spurring Judge Kirkland (Matt Servitto, Brotherhood, The Sopranos) to dismiss the case. It's only later that Harry realizes the real cold, calculating killer is Eric's daughter, Bethany (Daisy Betts, Persons Unknown).

     The Eric Sanders case is an intriguing legal mystery, recalling some of the best arcs of creator David E. Kelley's previous series, The Practice. There are twists and turns, a true villain of a prosecutor, and a fair-minded judge. There's a client that it is unclear whether he is guilty or not, and enough surprises to keep anyone interested. As such, "Sins of the Father," and the first two parts, "Hosanna Roseanna" and "There Will Be Blood," together make up a fascinating story and a strong season premiere.

    Harry's Law leaned more towards Kelley's Boston Legal than The Practice in season one, focusing on outrageous characters and situations. Considering that BL's run was much shorter than The Practice's, it may be a wise decision to pull back towards the serious. A dark, gruesome murder is not what one might expect from Harry's Law, so it certainly serves the purpose of defining the retooled show. Especially considering that the preview for episode four looks to be just as severe.

     But the show has not completely lost its fun side. The shoe store is still present, though Jenna (Brittany Snow), who runs it, has been reduced to guest star status, and is rarely seen. Instead, she has been replaced by Cassie Reynolds (Karen Olivo, Adrift in Manhattan), a serious and tough lawyer. Adam (Nate Corddry) is still around, but is less featured thus far. On the more outrageous side, Tommy Jefferson (Christopher McDonald) has been promoted to series regular, and shares office space with Harry. Which is good for Harry, because she needs him to loosen her up. Oliver Richard (Mark Valley, Boston Legal, Human Target) joins Harry for this case, and as he is a main character, probably for others. His constant insistence on repeating "Take it outside" lets him be a little goofier than his previous Kelley character, and it is nice to see him re-enter the universe.

     The biggest change in Harry's Law is a depressing one, though hopefully just temporary. While the series begins with Harry seriously depressed, she feels purpose throughout season one, helping those who truly need her. As season two begins, it is apparent right from the beginning she is back in her slump. She trudges around looking miserable, and has no fun on Eric's case. Tommy points this out to her, basically telling her that life is too short to be miserable. Thus, despite her new success, it may not be long before Harry chooses to downgrade again. Or, better yet, just reform the place she runs. It's nice to see her with staff and business, even if it comes a bit too quickly. So reappropriate the firm's resources, or give the darker cases to Oliver and Cassie. Harry has lost her spirit and she needs it back.

     That little musing takes nothing away from "Sins of the Father," in every way a brilliant, serious legal drama. Kudos to Harry's Law for producing such an engaging three-parter. Watch Harry's Law Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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