It’s J. Alex Brinson’s first murder trial—as a public defender—and he’s up against jogging pal and former mentor Wilson Bethel, and Simone Missick’s their judge. I like how at some point, “All Rise” just stopped worrying about Bethel and Missick being besties and let her hear his cases. Missick, of course, was Brinson’s judge when he was a bailiff and also a mentor. So lots of personal pressures. Plus, his client, Geoffrey Owens, doesn’t seem not guilty and is antagonistic over Brinson not thinking he’s not guilty.
While the courtroom bickering sometimes goes unrealistically (for the characters) over the top—Brinson and Bethel bickering, then Brinson talking back to Missick—it’s a good showcase for Brinson. First, he’s got the client he thinks is guilty and his struggling to defend him, then he gets new information and thinks maybe the guy’s innocent, which just makes things more complicated. Especially when Bethel takes him out for beers and a warning, though when Brinson accuses Bethel of playing mind games with opposing council… it’s not like they didn’t work together all of last season, and Bethel never, ever did that thing.
Missick gets two subplots. She’s still trying to reconcile with now-former clerk, Ruthie Ann Miles, including making her work in her old courtroom for Missick (which makes no sense since Miles’s new boss is around). Then at home, Mr. Mom husband, Christian Keyes, is getting involved in couponing and bulk discounts, which is concerning. It’s a reasonably funny subplot, with Keyes very willing to be the butt of the joke.
The other main plot is Jessica Camacho trying to get client Tina Ivlev reunited with her kids. Ivlev storming into social services demanding to see them doesn’t help. They eventually end up in front of family court judge Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson in a straight dramatic part). It’s not a particularly big plot for Camacho, who also gets to hang out with Brinson for a scene and then moves into Lindsey Gort’s offices just because there’s a spare desk in a throwaway scene (maybe it’ll be important later). But it’s keeping Camacho’s plot line going, and it’s a good one.
Then Lindsay Mendez’s victim’s advocate for the Brinson case, which has the victim’s son, McCarrie McCausland, demanding the LAPD police Black neighborhoods more. The show does have a conversation about that subject—with new chief judge Roger Guenveur Smith showing up for the first time since the season premiere and doing much better than in that episode. It’s a little much (they’re eventually going to give Missick a “not all cops” t-shirt), but it’s not as bad as it initially threatens.
Lots of good acting, particularly from Brinson, Owens, and Missick. Rob Greenlea’s direction’s okay, though combined with the script (credited to Corey Moore), the pacing’s a little off.