‘the show is a walking contradiction’
The Lincoln Lawyer is reviewed by Jennifer AJ
A continuation of the Matthew McConaughey legal thriller (2011), The Lincoln Lawyer has returned to the crime-addled streets of Los Angeles.
Created by David E. Kelley – no stranger to lawyer shows as seen on Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal – the Netflix series continues the adaptations of Michael Connelly’s book series with an all-new cast.
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo steps into the role of Mickey Haller in place of McConaughey. The series kicks off when the mercurial attorney, still recovering from a traumatic accident, inherits a law practice from his former colleague after the latter was murdered in cold blood. The series follows his exploits with the firm’s ongoing clients, including a hot-shot tech mogul accused of murdering his wife and her lover. Chauffeured from the back of his titular Lincoln SUV, Mickey criss-crosses around LA to win cases. Meanwhile, the conspiracy behind his colleague’s murder continues to haunt Mickey and his team.
The show is what you’d call a dad show. The conflicts are pretty formulaic, with an archetypal cast of characters you’d find in every established legal drama on TV. There’s also the requisite character suffering from a traumatic event prior to the show causing some kind of emotional block. The case-of-the-week format (or, since Netflix utilizes binge drop: case-of-the-episode) makes it easy to just randomly pick an episode and not miss too much. It’s perfect for dads who just want to tune in to a comfortingly predictable watch at the end of a long day. And that’s fine - not everything needs to be Better Call Saul.
Performance wise, Garcia-Rulfo is, unfortunately, no McConaughey. There is an indelible charisma whenever the latter acts, a kind of depth and intuitive choices that translate to the screen so magnetically. The layered dimension is missing here. Garcia-Rulfo is not as convincing as a powerhouse criminal defence lawyer. The actor has one or two expressions for every situation the character goes through. It is indeed a tough decision to follow in the footsteps of one of Hollywood’s finest actors.
Becki Newton (Ugly Betty), Angus Sampson (Fargo) and Jazz Raycole (The Quad) round out the supporting cast as Mickey’s associates. They have pretty great rapports with each other despite a rather fraught beginning. It is an interesting detail that Mickey closely works with two of his ex-wives, one being Newton’s Lorna Crane; the other being Maggie McPherson, played by Neve Campbell (House of Cards). The egregiously personal connections lend the show a bit of a soap opera flair.
The rest of the show is a walking contradiction. On the one hand its atmosphere gives off mid-2000s show with the ambience, the aggressively yellow filter, and the wardrobe. On the other hand, it has a very 2020s sensibility with its social justice awareness. The latter oftentimes shows a biased view of what constitutes crime and an apparent disdain toward law enforcements. The writers apparently think it’s okay to steal from someone when the thief is under the influence of drugs and the item in question being fake. The judicial viewpoint might seem questionable, but given what’s been going on in California with the looting and petty theft, it’s probably not that much of a stretch after all.
Overall, The Lincoln Lawyer is a pretty run-of-the-mill legal show adequate for low commitment watch. It has a sleek production befitting a Netflix/David E. Kelley show, displaying the glitz and grittiness of LA in equal measure, and makes an SUV car look badass. Some of its modern sensibilities might take some viewers out of the story, but it’s pretty tolerable if you just check your brain at the door to kill time.
Published on September 22nd, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.