On the latest episode of Defending Jacob on Apple TV+, Jacob's (Jaeden Martell) trial was at the forefront with Neal Loguidice (Pablo Schreiber) trying the case that otherwise would have been handled by his one-time mentor, Andy Barber (Chris Evans).
Schreiber's character has seemed like the antagonist for the run of the series, and Neal going toe-to-toe in the courtroom with Andy gave Schreiber his opportunity to shine.
We had a chance to catch up with Schreiber this week to chat a bit about the penultimate episode.
As I said, on the surface, Neal is the Defending Jacob's antagonist. To that end, we don't know that much about him.
While we got a little bit of backstory during Saving Jacob Season 1 Episode 7, Schreiber has gifted the character with a much more developed history, as he does with any character he plays.
"I create a backstory for every character that I play, otherwise you ended up sort of with a shell of a person. You at least want to know basic facts and details of character history, so you can reasonably decide on behavior patterns, and how they're going to act in the future," Schreiber said.
"But, the biggest thing for me is identifying what your job is in this story."
Schreiber credits the beauty of Mark Bomback's writing as he "hides beauty and exposition in the most sophisticated way," and shares that the Supreme Court scenes that scattered throughout the series provide the story's narration and movies the plot forward.
"Ultimately you'll learn more about the Supreme Court scene and why it's happening. And it will, hopefully, fundamentally change how you have viewed the entire series once you find out why it's happening."
"So, the job is to stay out of the way.
"The job is to be simple, clear, concise, and tell the story in the most simple way possible in those scenes. And then obviously, you have the courtroom episode, where you get to kind of come to the forefront a little bit and play around. And recognizing that [Neal]'s the nemesis, obviously, of Andy, who's the protagonist.
"And my favorite thing about this series is the fact that if you look at the actual behavior that goes on in the series, Andy's behavior is far worse than Neil's. The act of taking the knife that he finds in his kid's room and disposing of it.
"As a prosecutor, that's criminal. It's completely unforgivable. But because he's our protagonist, we want to forgive that."
Schreiber continued, "And, because Neil is an impediment to Andy, the things that he does to successfully prosecute Jacob or the things that are successful in his prosecution, we look at as the actions of the antagonist. But really it's all about perspective, and how you're looking at it, and who you're following through the story.
"Neal, at the end of the day, is really a very effective prosecutor, and he's just really good at his job. And in that, obviously, is the competition factor between Andy and Neil. And so, he revels in that a little bit, and that's probably where some of the less savory elements of the character come in."
As to what's driving Neal, Shreiber believes it's relatively simple: Neal's goal is to become the next District Attorney, and if achieving that lofty goal is done at Andy's expense, Neal's not afraid to do that, even if it means using what Andy once taught him in the case against Andy's son.
"In episode seven, we see that scene where Andy is sort of showing him the ropes, mentoring him, that gives us some history between them. We realize that all of the things that Andy imparted on this guy, he's now using to prosecute his son. And so, the competition is there in terms of trying to get past him.
"But I don't believe that's why he's prosecuting Jacob as effectively or as hard as he is," Schreiber said. "I believe he's doing that because he thinks Jacob's guilty.
"And if you had read the story that Jacob wrote about the day of the murder, I don't believe anybody would have read that story and not believed that kid was guilty."
"So, he's doing his best to prosecute the person who he believes is guilty of the crime. And it just happens to be a convenient detail that that person's father is his professional competition.
"So, the human side of it is that he, unfortunately, or to his discredit, revels a little bit in the competition, in the beating of the person who used to be his mentor, and who is the father of the person who he believes is guilty of the crime.
"And I believe he feels that he went a little too far in the prosecution of the crime in the courts, and especially when Pat confesses to the crime and kills himself, I think that completely rocks Neal's world.
"He feels at that time that he was falsely convinced of Jacob's guilt and that he went too far in pushing for his conviction. And so, he takes that hard."
That stunning change, of course, laid out in the latest episode will dramatically change Neal's outlook on the case, and how that changes that will be revealed on Defending Jacob Season 1 Episode 8.
When watching the courtroom scenes, I imagined that Neal, although surely hoping to take Andy's place in the DA's office, was also prosecuting the case that Andy would have in his shoes knowing very well Andy's hands were tied as the father of the defendant.
Shreiber weighed in on that. "I think that's unspoken. Yeah. And I think that's inherent. And I think Andy admits that in episode seven, when he goes to Lynn.
"And I think he's collecting his stuff or whatever, and she asks him if he would ever consider coming back and he says, 'No, I'm done. I can't do it now after going through what I've gone through.' And he has a moment where he has an opportunity to throw Neil under the bus. And he doesn't."
"He instead takes that opportunity to commend the job that he did and say that he has a bright future and that he thinks he's a very talented prosecutor.
"And I think he learned that by being opposite him through the trial. And then watching what happens in the Supreme Court, I think he realizes that, given the opportunity, he would have done pretty much everything that Neil ended up doing.
"Which is essentially, just working hard to be an effective prosecutor. It just happens that Andy was on the wrong side of the law at that time."
We'll have more with Schreiber at the conclusion of Defending Jacob Season 1 next Friday.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.