This episode is series story editor Mellori Velasquez’s first episode as the credited writer. And, wow, either she’s really and at the dialogue or they went exceptionally cheap on the supporting cast. For example, Chelsea Rendon’s murder trial defendant. There’s no reason Rendon should be bad and she certainly seems earnest in her performance, but it’s not a good one. The dialogue between Rendon and her lawyer Jessica Camacho, where Camacho tries to empathize with Rendon over being Latinx and in the system (Camacho, big reveal, was in juvie for a bit as a teen), is painful and then made worse by the scenes going on a line or two too long. So maybe director Michael M. Robin’s fault too.
Then again, with Carlos Miranda as the prosecutor on Rendon’s case? He’s just plain bad. He’s got terrible dialogue but he’s also bad.
As the episode, with its plots for almost the entire regular cast—save Lindsay Mendez and Ruthie Ann Miles, of course—started to wind down, I got thinking about how they’ve managed to make “All Rise” a melodrama without making it particularly soapy. This episode’s got Simone Missick dealing with the Rendon trial, which doesn’t require much from her, as well as the perceived fallout from her mom, L. Scott Caldwell, talking about the racism in the criminal justice system. The subplot—which introduces Brent Jennings as Missick’s peacemaker father—culminates in Caldwell and Missick yelling at each other about how Caldwell basically thinks Missick’s a sell-out. The show positions Missick as surrounded by White people evaluating her as a Black woman judge, with Missick’s reaction often being filtered for that audience (as well as the White audience of the show). This scene with Caldwell could’ve been something.
And it’s not. In fact, the show goes on to walk it all back so they can get to a happy ending for the episode.
Also happy ending for the Wilson Bethel subplot with dad Tony Denison. I was thrilled to see Denison in the pilot’s opening credits but they’ve completely wasted him. Even this episode, presumably his last for a while, doesn’t give him anything to do. Velasquez’s forte is not the parents of grown children in the legal field.
Bethel’s case is at least effective, if manipulative, as he tries to get justice for an older woman possibly suffering from dementia (a decent enough Debra Mooney).
Throw in fourth-billed bailiff-turned-lawyer-to-be J. Alex Brinson interviewing for clerkships, Denison’s defense attorney Lindsey Gort flirting a little more seriously than usual with Bethel, and it’s a packed episode.
Maybe the most significant development is Bethel and Missick getting into an argument, which Velasquez cops out on almost immediately, but it’s at least interesting.
“All Rise” really seems to want credit for humanizing prison inmates and people with dementia; it’s a TV drama equivalent of “Please clap.”