“All Rise” had some late first season (no pun) rises the Coronavirus shutdown seemingly stalled or hurt. For example, after witnessing cops lying about assaulting people, D.A. Wilson Bethel seemed ready to leave for the other side—possibly with Ryan Michelle Bathe, a newly introduced third Musketeer for Bethel and Simone Missick. With the Zoom-only season finale, however, it all became about Bethel and annoying girlfriend Lindsey Gort while Bethel seemingly forgetting realizing the cops are bad, actually.
Season two picks up some time after the Zoom-fueled season finale, with Bethel getting a promotion and ready to go in the D.A.’s office, no longer troubled by the fascists he enables, and Missick getting some bad news on the phone. Before they can talk about the bad news, they go out into the George Floyd protests and Missick gets a gun pointed in her face by a white cop and Bethel bootlicks.
I might not be remembering the exact order because there are a lot of flashbacks, but I think all of those events play out before the present action. The present action is four months later and it’s socially distanced Rona courthouse. Earnest public defender Jessica Camacho tells everyone to wear their masks—it’s the fucking cops who aren’t, obviously—and we quickly catch up with the rest of the cast.
At this point, it might’ve first become clear what a boon Rona’s going to be for some television because all of a sudden things have to get more imaginative, not just in plotting, but also the direction. For whatever reason, “All Rise” just seems to work better with people standing far apart.
The show makes a very big swing—a shockingly big swing, big enough I really hope they wrote it before August because it sure looks like they’re doing the Kenosha white boy murderer but toned down to a baseball bat swinging incident. But “All Rise” just came back and end of August is maybe enough time.
So Bethel is prosecuting the case, Missick is hearing the case, Bathe is defending the thug (Tyler Barnhardt), while her partner—Gort—handles the parents, Joel Gretsch and Robyn Lively. Gretsch clearly dislikes the Black women while Lively just seems to be an out-of-it white lady.
Except Missick has been avoiding Bethel for the four months since the protest–we also learn Camacho and boyfriend J. Alex Brinson have been taking a break since that night too—and basically “All Rise,” save Missick, has just become about who’s currently dating who, who used to date who, and why it causes drama and hot goss. Plus as socially progressive content as CBS is going to let them do. They made sure to get a Black woman writer, Denitria Harris-Lawrence, which at least gives it some backbone.
The episode’s got a “not a surprise” surprise with Missick (she’s pregnant and they’re hiding it for most of the episode to the point of cruelty), but also some exceptional dramatic moments for her. She’s outstanding enough to distract from whether “All Rise” really ought to be flexing this hard considering it retconned Bethel to be seemingly unaware of institutionalized racism (his best friends have always been Black women but he apparently never listened to them when they talked about racism) and has brought in Samantha Marie Ware as Missick’s hip, “BLM” law clerk who’s there to remind Missick she’s Black enough even though she’s still a judge.
I am not sure there’s ever a situation where a CBS show is going to be Black enough for Ware’s character, but “All Rise” certainly is not. Like, Ware gets the job because Helgenberger likes the look of her—young, Black, with long dyed braids—and the scene just plays like Helgenberger doesn’t care who gets the job as long as they look edgy? Or, at least, CBS’s version of edgy.
Camacho’s got a good arc. Ruthie Ann Miles is around without much to do, which is fine since they start kind of making fun of her being a Rona prepper. Lindsay Mendez’s a sounding board for Camacho. Audrey Corsa and Gort are in the main cast now but Bathe is still a guest star. Sadly Corsa and Gort don’t add up to even a half Bathe.
But even with the weird character backtracks on Bethel and a contrived script, Missick’s fantastic once she gets to be fantastic and the cliffhanger is decidedly effective.
It would just be nice if “All Rise” didn’t feel like it needed 2020 to find its footing.