Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Common Law brings a "Gun!" to the party

Freshman series Common Law brings its first season to an end with "Gun!" Travis (Michael Ealy) and Wes (Warren Kole) come to their senses, realizing that they need Dr. Ryan's (Sonya Walger) help after their new therapist (Ed Begley Jr.) has them going through his ex-wife's tax returns. To get back in her good graces, they finally open up about the events that led them to counseling, and with her guidance, they do something about the situation.

I stopped watching Common Law early in the season when I realized that, sadly, this series was destined to be more procedural than the direction most USA shows are moving towards. Every week, there's a case, and that's the main focus. And while the therapy aspect lends a certain original twist to the proceedings, there just isn't enough long-term story here to keep it interesting.

This is not the case with "Gun!" The last hour of the season is compelling and rich. Not only do we get flashbacks to where Travis and Wes were when they met, and what brought them to the point of Wes pulling a gun on Travis, but we also get to see them at their best. Whether in the past or present, these two have each other's backs, and are smarter than most everyone around them.

Unfortunately, this does not mean the show is improving upon my original assessment. An episode like "Gun!" can't be replicated week after week. Because of the conceit of the show, Common Law is destined to remain a case of the week affair. And while the guys will continue to grow with Dr. Ryan, especially now that they're voluntarily seeking her help and actively participating in their treatment, this does not lend itself to any big, sweeping arcs.

There is something to be said for character development. Many of the best shows on television concentrate on that. The problem isn't the therapy, which is actually quite illuminating, but that too much screen time is given over to Wes and Travis doing police work. Maybe they do it a little better than just about anyone else could, but that's just demonstrating skills, not revealing personality. So Common Law fails in this.

Even Mike (Jack McGee), who viewers learn something important about in this episode, gets the shaft because Common Law does not allow the characters to discuss his situation. Mike was kicked out of his house? Why? He did the therapy, and has become less angry. What's going on? I know it's a busy hour, but why tease this if it's not going to be expounded upon? This character deserves more.

Still, it's impossible not get a bit choked up when Wes and Travis do finally take down the group who killed their friend, Paek Man (Kelvin Yu). The music is pitch perfect, and the action is wonderfully orchestrated. As far as cop dramas go, this one is done right, and definitely is no less than deserving than others currently on the air. Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) makes a great villain. It all comes together just as it should, and there is a happy ending.

What if Wes and Travis hadn't solved the case so easily? At one point in "Gun!" it looks like Paek Man's killer will get away with it, and the partners will be separated. Why not pursue that for a few episodes next season, with the two working alone, investigating, then eventually teaming up again, off the job, to bring down their foe? Would that not make a far more interesting TV show than them saving the day in half an episode and restoring things to status quo?

Oh, well. Common Law isn't the first series, nor will it be the last, to squander potential in favor of formula. Let's just hope that they can figure out a way to do more episodes like "Gun!" and make stories last longer than forty-two minutes. Otherwise, thanks for this finale, but I've seen enough, and there's no reason to tune in very often in the future. Should there be a future.

Common Law has not yet been renewed for a second season.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my new website, JeromeWetzel.com First published on TheTVKing 

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