Proven Innocent did it again!
I'm not just talking about the win Maddie and Easy got in court, either.
Proven Innocent Season 1 Episode 3 presented another scathing critique of the criminal justice system, deepened the mystery about Rosemary's death, and upped the stakes thanks to Bellow pulling a dirty political trick -- all without being preachy, boring, or contrived.
I was attracted to this show because I'm passionate about criminal justice reform, but I fell in love with the characters.
I think Easy's backstory is my favorite subplot.
Easy: Looking for this? [holds up ID] Carlos Gomez. You were gonna use a fake ID?
Michael: This guy gave it to me.
Easy: If you got caught, you'd be arrested, thrown into the system. Life as you know it would change, son.
Michael: I wasn't gonna -
Easy: You don't get it, do you? As a black boy living in Chicago, you got a target on your back every time you walk out that door. So now you're grounded.
Michael: What? For how long?
Easy: You can't see that far into the future.
Easy fights passionately for innocent people because he couldn't save himself when he was a 14-year-old kid left to his own devices while his parents worked 24/7.
I love how his story has unfolded gradually. He was introduced merely as a brilliant lawyer who helped save Maddie, then on Proven Innocent Season 1 Episode 2, we learned that his wife is unhappy and that there's a ton of stress at home.
His conflict with Michael added another layer to an already complex story involving race, Chicago politics, and the longing to make the world a better place.
I especially loved Easy's visit to a therapist, which was a clever way of slipping in some of this backstory while also moving the plot forward.
It spoke volumes that his wife didn't know he was seeing a therapist and that he was aware that he wasn't handling his anger well.
I also thought it was interesting that he said his parents were always working when he was 14. He feared Michael going down the same path he went down, yet he didn't see that he was putting work before family the same way his parents did.
I laughed at Michael's reaction to Easy's declaration of love.
Michael's under-reaction was so typical of a kid his age and so out of proportion to the amount of energy it took for Easy to say anything positive at all.
Easy: I want you to know that no matter what, I love you. And I'm not going anywhere.
Michael: Cool. I'm gonna have some ice cream. Want some?
The look on Easy's face made me think he was REALLY biting his tongue when Michael ate the ice cream out of the container instead of getting a bowl, but it was even more delicious (if you'll excuse the pun) that that encounter gave Easy what he needed for a powerful closing argument!
I was glad that this case addressed the tactics cops often use to get a confession out of suspects.
Bellows' worldview is very simple: guilty people confess and innocent ones keep their mouths shut. But it's not nearly that simple in real life.
People really do confess for all sorts of reasons other than guilt, and people who can't afford private attorneys or who are not familiar with their rights are vulnerable to false promises that they will get to go home if they just confess.
From the safety of our living rooms, it's easy to see that that kind of promise makes no sense -- why would the cops let someone go if he confesses?
But when someone is scared and tired, it's not so obvious. And it's especially unconscionable to do it to a kid who has such little experience of the world and believes strongly in fighting the good fight and helping put the bad guys away.
William loved comic books and spoke the language of superhero stories. He thought he was being a hero by turning over the gun, and instead he ended up in jail for five years. The team did a great job of driving that point home throughout his trial.
Maddie: How old were you in this photo?
Maddie: 14 years old and the cops questioned you for 14 hours. Did they tell you if you confessed you could go home?
William: Yes. I wanted to go home. It was the only place I felt safe. My auntie, she bought me drafting paper, pencils...
Maddie: What else did the cops say?
William: That I could trust them. That they needed my help. That I could be a hero. I showed them the gun, I told them about Rabbit... heroes are the good guys! I didn't shoot nobody. I was a good guy. I was tired. I wanted to go home.
I'm glad that Easy relented and let William testify.
Nothing else could have convinced that jury that he was telling the truth, especially not while Bellows was trying to get them to focus on how terrible a crime this was rather than on whether William was responsible for it.
What'd everyone think of that dirty little trick Bellows played, though?
I don't know what's in his proposed legislation, but a bill that limits the ability to exonerate convicted criminals sounds scary to me. Bellows wants to spin it as helpful to victims, but if it means it's impossible to exonerate an innocent person, how does that help victims?
I'd think that punishing the wrong person for a crime does nothing for anyone. The victims don't really get justice if their loved one's killer is wandering around free while some other person is behind bars for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or not having the resources to fight the system.
And to be clear: Proven Innocent shows that it's not just Bellows. His bullying and trying to force confessions out of people that he believes are guilty whether it's true or not doesn't help, but he couldn't do it without the help of a system that reinforces his behavior.
He needs cops who believe suspects are guilty and don't mind bending the rules and judges that rule in his favor even when he's being patently unfair in order to perpetuate injustice.
And worst of all, all of these people, including Bellows himself, believe they are totally in the right and are serving justice when they're doing the opposite.
Anyway, I thought it was a super low blow to use Rosemary's murder as the impetus for this awful bill Bellows wants to get through Congress, and it's worse that he's doing it now to try to bury the fact that he's convicted a ton of innocent people of crimes they didn't commit!
I'm glad that at least Rosemary's father sees the truth about this whole thing and isn't on board. I hope that Mr. Lynch sabotages this campaign somehow.
Maddie's date: So how is the trial going?
Maddie: Every time I see Bellows i want to jam a pen in his eye.
I don't know what to make of Maddie's date with this reporter. Does the guy intend to screw her over for the sake of a story or not? I can't tell if he's falling in love with her for real or what.
I hope that he is and that he ends up screwing over his boss instead. That editor or whatever he is doesn't seem to be much better than Bellows and won't be happy if the story is that Maddie is 100% innocent.
I'm growing to really like Maddie and I don't want to see her get her heart broken, either.
There's too much evidence against Levi, so I'm banking on it turning out to be a giant red herring.
It was predictable, in retrospect, that "Jim" turned out to be Levi. Evidence is mounting like crazy against him and while it seems way too easy for that to be the answer, I just don't know.
Levi's just showing up at Maddie's apartment was creepy and their exchange was weird. I hope that it turns out to be a lot of nothing, but will it?
What did you think, Proven Innocent fanatics? Did Bellows go too far with his political stunt? Did the case of the week capture your attention? And does anyone think there's a chance in hell Levi's guilty?
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can watch Proven Innocent online if you missed anything!
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.