Murder in the First Season 1 Review “Pilot”

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“Murder in the First” is the latest from über-producer Steven Bochco, best-known for his cop shows, like “NYPD Blue” and “Hill Street Blues.” This one follows in the footsteps of a personal favorite of mine, “Murder One,” which ran for two seasons. The main idea of that show, and this one as well, is to follow one case for the entirety of a season. At the time “Murder One” aired, it was ever-so-slightly ahead of its time and ended up abandoning the concept after viewers didn’t cotton to the idea, eking along for another, less-satisfying season. Hopefully, “Murder in the First” will fare better.

Thus far, the show feels a bit like the last season of “Damages,” only more from the cops’ POV. Basically, as with that show, it revolves around a computer genius accused of murder, only here, it’s more of a Mark Zuckerberg-type than the one on “Damages,” who was more of a Julian Assange-type. As with Zuckerberg, the character here, Erich Blunt, is more of an enfant terrible, or what we here in America would call a raging D-bag. So, naturally he’s played by Tom Felton, who had the honor of playing the douche-iest character this side of Joffrey on “Game of Thrones”- Draco Malfoy, of “Harry Potter” fame.

I kind of feel bad for the guy getting so typecast, but he does it well, so maybe he enjoys playing bad. For what I understand, that tends to be more fun, anyway, but I can’t imagine it doesn’t make people look at you sideways IRL, so that can’t be too fun for Mr. Felton, all things considered. Hopefully, he’s got a strong friend-base, because his character here is pretty awful, giving old friends the shaft- like Jeffrey Leonard, who (allegedly) helped him write the code that made his name- and paying a flight attendant, Cindy, to be his “girlfriend,” and then generally abusing and smacking her around.

Indeed, it’s the latter’s murder that sets off things in earnest on the show, after an initial murder of a druggie that turns out to be Blunt’s father. Needless to say, if you know your cop/lawyer shows, you know it’s rarely the most obvious person that did it, and clearly, we’re meant to consider Blunt as the most likely to have done it. For that reason alone, it’s probably not him, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they split the difference, having one suspect responsible for one crime and another for the other. Given Blunt’s persona, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he were framed for one, if not both of the crimes as well.

As it stands, it’s way too early in the show to take a stand on anything, especially with the latter murder of Cindy occurring in the final minutes of the show. We just don’t have enough information to do anything but make an educated guess at this point. So, let’s do that, with what we know so far.

Aside from Blunt, likely suspects include pilot Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber, former star of “Wings,” in another clever bit of casting), who seemed a bit too prepared for finding Cindy’s body. I mean, someone not showing up for work when you knew they were fighting and upset with the person they work for isn’t exactly grounds to go to their house to seek them out, much less having the landlord let you in. That’s a bit on the nose for my liking, and he didn’t seem all that surprised, either. The preview for next week also seems to imply he and Cindy had a previous relationship of the romantic variety, so that doesn’t exactly make him look less guilty.

There’s also the possibility that Blunt’s competitor, Leonard, hired someone to kill either Cindy and/or Blunt’s father. That seems like a bit of overkill, though, so if that turns out to be true at all, I’m guessing it will be a half-truth, as in Leonard hired someone to kill one, but not the other.

Another possibility is Blunt’s wily attorney, David Hertzberg (Richard Schiff, of “The West Wing” fame), who seems pretty cavalier about the charges leveled at his client more often than not, though he at least had the sense to get Blunt to make up with Cindy after Blunt fired her and generally abused her in front of a host of people. (On a side note, I loved the scene where he and Blunt met with Leonard and his lawyer to discuss the lawsuit of the latter against the former and Blunt was his usual douchy self and stormed out, and without missing a beat, Hertzberg was all like: “Do you guys validate parking?” LOL.)

Finally, thus far, there’s the decidedly disgruntled parents of the prostitute who was involved with the first murder victim, Kevin Neyers, aka Blunt’s dad. Said prostitute was also Blunt’s mother, and Kevin was trying to blackmail him over both pieces of information, which Blunt claimed he could care less about. Maybe so, but the fact that both of his parents, themselves both criminals, died under shady circumstances doesn’t bode well for Blunt, either. Clearly, the father wasn’t over losing his daughter, either, so that’s a definite possibility.

That’s about it for now, but it’s a good start. Beyond that, the lead cops were solidly cast, with Taye Diggs (“Private Practice”) playing a detective with a temper, Terry, whose wife is ill with pancreatic cancer. Assuming that phone call at the end was to inform him his wife died, which is what it looked like, he may end up going even more off the rails as things move forward. I liked the way they communicated everything you needed to know without actually saying anything: when that phone rang, you just knew what had happened.

A major draw for me was the presence of Kathleen Robertson, as Terry’s partner, Hildy. Robertson has been doing solid, underappreciated work in everything from “Bates Motel” and “Boss” to a nifty turn as the Wicked Witch of the West in the “Wizard of Oz”-remake, “Tin Man,” aka the one with Zooey Deschanel as Dorothy. I’ve always thought she was sexy, and remember watching her as a kid in the George Lucas-produced “Maniac Mansion” back in the day. She plays a single divorcee, with a cute kid (Mimi Kirkland), and a possibly deadbeat ex given that call she got early on in the episode. The dynamic between her and her partner is solid and refreshingly not (yet) of the will-they-or-won’t-they variety.

All in all, a solid premiere, but we’ll see how things play out. If the pilot is any indication, it should be perfect summer-worthy viewing and a good match with “Major Crimes.” I’m in.

What did you think of “Murder in the First”? Who are your early suspects? What do you think really happened? Any cast member you’re particularly fond of? Are you a fan of Bochco’s work? Sound off below and I’ll see you next week!