All Rise (2019) s02e14 – Caught Up in Circles

Oh, “All Rise” isn’t anywhere near done with the season. For some reason I thought it was going fifteen. It’s going at least seventeen, which means there might be time for it to do something after the trial the cliffhanger sets up.

On the way to the cliffhanger is Simone Missick getting the most to do on the show since before she had her baby; this time she’s hearing a case against her idol, Black woman judge Charlayne Woodard, who does a great guest star turn.

Woodard is on trial for bribing an attorney—a too perfectly scummy Philip Casnoff—and is defending herself, leading to a lot of prickly situations with Missick even before Woodard decides she wants to make a statement in her own defense. It’s a nice way of doing socially distanced character drama without having to get the actors too close—Woodard from the defense table, Missick at the bench (at least until the testifying scene) and it’s easily the best the show’s been in a while. Not a long while, but a while. And it gives Missick something real to do.

The episode opens with Missick and Wilson Bethel getting to have an almost regular hangout scene, coming into work with their coffees before Ruthie Ann Miles herds Bethel out. He’s waiting to hear who’s going to be hearing his case against the sheriff’s department, which the episode drags out into an episode-long subplot just so they can have a cliffhanger. Bethel’s also got some melodrama with girlfriend Lindsey Gort, whose hidden husband subplot finally comes to light (and completely and utterly fizzles while managing to make Bethel seem like a shit).

The B plot has J. Alex Brinson worrying about how he’s hiding he committed a felony and it might all come to light in the immediate future and trying to decide if he thinks white supremacist murderer Douglas Bennett should get out on parole. Boss Reggie Lee is trying to test Black man Brinson’s dedication to restorative justice or something. It’s a decent arc for Brinson—allowing for a few cute professional conversations with Jessica Camacho, who’s otherwise got nothing to do this episode—but it doesn’t play as well as it would if the sword of Damocles weren’t hanging over him, overarching plot-wise.

Then there’s a little bit with Marg Helgenberger and Lindsay Mendez bickering about Helgenberger’s child abusing friend, which is well-intentioned but a little too thin after all the hubbub.

But Woodard’s a great guest and the trial is maybe the most TV legal interesting the show’s been in ages.

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