Michael Hayes (1997) s01e16 – Under Color of Law

“Michael Hayes 4.0” continues with zero emphasis on David Caruso’s character, other than his potential as a righteous savior. And writers Ray Hartung and John Romano (it may be Romano’s best episode or maybe second best, but it’s aces compared to his usual) find a great place for him to save—upstate New York cop Brian Wimmer pulls over a young woman, rapes and murders her, gets away with it because he’s a fucking cop. Only the prosecuting attorney (an in-it-too-little Jenny O’Hara) knows it’s just the kind of wrong Caruso will want to right, even if the Attorney General of the United States is behind rapist, murderer cops.

Caruso hangs around the office most of the time, bickering with Peter Outerbridge (who wants to suck up to the Attorney General because white man) and getting updates on the case from Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Rebecca Rigg, who do all the legwork for the first half of the episode, until it’s time for Caruso to menace the truth out of the lying witnesses for Wimmer.

The biggest change—other than brief backstory about Caruso turning in a father figure when he was a teen for hurting people (is it supposed to scream Catholic priest?)—is the Attorney General no longer being an offscreen, implied Janet Reno, and rather Holland Taylor as a Mrs. Big type villain who just wants the system to prevail. Taylor’s not great playing an advocate of white supremacy, but kind of kudos to a show acknowledging it in 1998?

There’s some good acting in the guest stars: David Dukes as the victim’s father, Cynthia Ettinger as one of the witnesses, Phill Lewis as the Black cop who stands by racist Wimmer because small towns right. Sadly, Kyle Howard’s terrible as Ettinger’s teenage son. Wimmer’s great. Not sure it’s a compliment.

There are way too many poorly realized flashbacks—Lou Antonio’s direction is fine but bad flashbacks are one of the few things “Hayes” has kept going since jump; they make sense given star witness Howard certainly wouldn’t have been able to appropriately convey in exposition dumps, but they’re still poorly realized. “Hayes” flashbacks are black and white shaky cam.

It’s definitely better than I was expecting from new show runners Michael Pressman and Michael S. Chernuchin, even if it’s exploitative as hell and fairly thin. Bringing Taylor in has the whiff of defeat and Outerbridge being outright “raped murder victims deserve it,” which sets him up as a sub-villain now….

“Hayes”’s finite future is no doubt going to be bumpy.

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