Right up until the ending, which resolves Tory Kittles’s recent professional turmoil story arc–two racist white cops kidnapped him and tortured him because they thought he was just a mouthy Black guy, not a Black cop—this episode’s one of the best “Equalizer” episodes.
It’s also something of a “gimme” episode, just because of the structure. Lorraine Toussaint is on a jury where the evidence doesn’t make sense, and it certainly seems like the cops are railroading a Black defendant (RJ Brown). Brown’s accused of raping and murdering a white woman. The episode comes real close to talking about systematic racism (especially for CBS), and there are numerous “gotcha” moments where the white jurors catch themselves being a little racist. It’s always unintentional and without actual malice, but the moments are there. Toussaint’s great and rarely gets enough to do on the show, so having her be the de facto client this episode is excellent.
Of course, Toussaint doesn’t know Queen Latifah’s investigating the case. Latifah knows Toussaint’s not happy with the evidence or the prosecutor’s case; Latifah tells sidekicks Adam Goldberg and Liza Lapira (neither of whom gets much to do) Toussaint wouldn’t have complained if she didn’t want Latifah to do something. Still, it’s never actually made clear Toussaint had that motive. So while Latifah’s trying to figure out if Brown did it, Toussaint’s playing 12 Angry Men with the other jurors.
Sam Pearson, James Adam Lim, Rosa Arredondo, and John Bedford Lloyd are prominent other jurors. Pearson and Lim are more sympathetic to Toussaint; Arredondo and Lloyd are the most antithetic. Lloyd’s better playing the whole jerk than the conflicted one, but Toussaint keeps their exchanges rolling even when his resolve starts slipping.
Kittles helps Latifah out with the investigation, seemingly setting him up for one future plot arc only to flush it for another incredibly problematic one. At least he’s not leaving the show. And hopefully, he and Latifah get to keep being cute together going forward. But it’s a letdown, especially after all the time the episode spends setting him up for something else.
Laya DeLeon Hayes has a mostly offscreen subplot about Latifah feeling bad Hayes has to lie about her mom being “The Equalizer” (to her dad, Latifah’s ex-husband). Unfortunately, given the show seemed to be setting the ex up as a permanent foil, the arc plays reductive. Similar to Kittles’s whole thing.
Nitpicking about future plotlines and multi-episode arcs aside, it’s a strong episode. It’s a Toussaint one. How could it not be?