A few weeks ago we reviewed the first episodes of Sky Witness’s slate of new American dramas: For the People, 9-1-1, and Instinct. I’ve stuck with all three, for (mostly) better and (occasionally) worse, so I’m going to report back on each of them as their respective seasons end.
First to finish is For the People, which as it happens is my favourite of the three shows by some distance. I called the season-opener the quickest 40-45 minutes of the week, and the other nine episodes have successfully repeated the formula: two or three interesting and/or entertaining Cases of the Week; Hope Davis (Jill, head of the public defenders’ office) and Ben Shenkman (Roger, assistant US attorney) as the grown-ups in the room; and their youthful staff members firing off smart triple-speed dialogue at each other. Particular credit has to be given here to Susannah Flood as novice prosecutor Kate Littlejohn; her line readings, laced with delectable and withering scorn, have been to die for throughout. In fairness, though, all of the six young leads – Flood, Regé-Jean Page as the appalling Leonard, Ben Rappaport as Seth, Britt Robertson as Sandra, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Allison, and Wesam Keesh as Jay – have been fresh and fun and very watchable. In turn, my worry after the first episode – that the characters wouldn’t be sufficiently distinguishable – has proved to be unfounded. I even started to care about them. Apart from Leonard.
This episode was typical, and typically good. In Case 1 Jay defends a parent accused of having MDMA in her car in order to sell it to kids at a tony private school. All is not as it seems and, unusually, Kate works with him to undermine her own case. In Case 2 Sandra acts for a Chinese-American scientist accused of espionage, something of a callback to the first episode in which she unsuccessfully defended a young man accused of terrorism. I was engaged by both. Meantime Leonard is told by his politician mother that the post of Texas Attorney-General is his if he wants it – pray for Texas – and Allison is courted by the wine-tasting dude from an earlier episode.
If there is a criticism to be made of For the People – and I’m really not sure that it’s a problem at all – it’s perhaps that the show is all surface and no feeling; it doesn’t always give the impression that the characters have uncharted depths. As it happens, though, in this final episode the emotional punches landed. Most importantly of all, at the start of the episode Jill and Roger slept together, and you guys I am SO HERE for that ship. On top of that Seth declared his love for Allison, who instead chose wine dude; Kate broke down after telling Leonard that she would miss him if he moved to Texas; and Sandra finally managed to get partial redemption for the case she lost in the first episode. Soundtracking the episode’s final scenes with Radiohead’s ‘True Love Waits’, a track which isn’t just good, isn’t just great, but has a genuine and statable claim to be The Best Record Ever Made, ensured that at least one viewer had something in his eye, and will happily return for season 2.