I’m just going to assume the first OWN episode of “All Rise” was some kind of “new network” pilot. Because this episode’s not just a lot better, it doesn’t even feel like that episode. Maybe because there’s not constant, overblown music. But also… Wilson Bethel’s got a goatee in this episode, and Simone Missick’s hair’s different; it feels like the first real episode after a pilot. And it’s in better shape, thank goodness.
The show’s leaning into humor and heart. The case is a severe one—star hockey player Zane Holtz and Instagram influencer Olivia Rose Keegan were having consensual rough sex, and then he assaulted her. There’s not a lot of opportunity for lightness, so the episode goes front-heavy with the humor beats. During the actual trial, the show relies on young assistant D.A. Ronak Gandhi for the relief. It’s not exactly comic relief, but Gandhi’s an affable character. He’s a millennial wunderkind ADA who thinks Bethel’s (professionally) incredible and surprised to discover the courtroom is one big friends group.
Keegan’s good, Holtz’s scary, but there’s a disconnect when it comes to Lindsey Gort. She’s defending Holtz against fiancé Bethel, while Samantha Marie Ware is mortified at what defense attorneys do. Gort acts like it’s nothing, humanizing her through Bethel later on. But it’s impossible to blame her—it’s the script. Credited to Gina Gold and Aurorae Khoo, it directly raises questions from Ware to Gort, then ignores them all, but with Gort doing all the avoiding.
It’s a strange oversight, especially when so much of the rest of the episode is about professional… well, development. J. Alex Brinson and Bethel talk professional talk, Brinson talks professional talk with Jessica Camacho (also romance subplot check-in but some professional talk), Missick gets to talk with other judge Patricia Rae; lots of shop talk for everyone. But Ware’s left hanging.
Camacho’s whole plot line in this episode is professional too. She’s trying to get her holistic law practice going. It’s a fairly good setup for a season arc for her. More immediately, Missick’s got a professional subplot of her own with her assistant, Ruthie Ann Miles, throwing a wrench in their friendship. So it’s a whole bunch of professional storylines.
But not Gort. It keeps the character one note. Defining her through Bethel’s even worse.
It’s mostly a good episode. Bethel shares space with Gandhi well—he’s very complementary to the guest star—but he doesn’t get anything much of his own. Missick’s got some decent moments, but the Miles subplot feels (not otherwise unsuccessfully) shoehorned in. Camacho’s got the best arc.
Lindsay Mendez also has some good moments; she’s Keegan’s victim’s rights advocate.
It’s a little breezy at times, but the show at least feels like “All Rise” again and not some weird restaged version with the same cast.