Murder in the First Season 1 Review “Punch Drunk”

Murder in the First (TNT) episode 4 Burning Woman (3)

At long last, it was murder trial time on “Murder in the First,” and, as expected, it was Blunt that was fully in the crosshairs of the court in “Punch Drunk.” I think we all know by now that it’s not likely that Blunt actually did it, but at the same time, some of the stuff that went down on this episode made him look guiltier than ever, so who knows? To wit, the episode ended with Mark Strauss getting reamed in court before committing a dubious-looking suicide, complete with a confessional note saying he did it, left conveniently on his computer for all to see. Can you say frame job?

Even worse, it happened just before his tryst partner, Dr. Smoot, was about to testify on his behalf and clear his name. Note that this was a development that entirely caught Blunt’s lawyer, Daniels, off-guard. Clearly, in orchestrating this hoax, he didn’t make room for the fact that Strauss’ alibi might actually be, you know, real. Now that frame job might not be so effective, if, one assumes, the prosecution goes through with having Dr. Smoot confirm that she was, in fact, with Strauss at the time of the murder. But will the frame-up cause a mistrial in the process? Hard to say, but things have certainly gotten interesting.

I will say that, this new wrinkle notwithstanding, Blunt has certainly gotten his money’s worth out of Daniels thus far, as he’s knocked down one witness after another, going above and beyond the call of duty in almost every case. Yes, the DNA expert managed to get by him and stick to her guns without being discredited, but beyond that, it wasn’t pretty, and with the new evidence at hand of Strauss’ death, things are still looking bright for Blunt. But again, there’s Dr. Smoot to contend with. Will she go through with her testimony? Or will Blunt’s people take her out, too- or at least, pay her off? I certainly wouldn’t put it past them.

Other developments: Wilkerson almost had a divorce in the bag before he hauled off and punched his wife at the meeting between he and his wife’s respective lawyers, including Hertzberg, who kept Blunt’s promise that he’d have Wilkerson’s back if he had his. Will this development also go towards screwing up Blunt’s defense?

Meanwhile, after Hildy’s ex apologizes to Terry for a fight he started back in the day over jealousy as part of his amends-making process of sobriety, Terry did the same to Chris Walton, the man who confessed to killing Blunt’s father, Kevin Neyers, and who Terry manhandled in the interrogation room previously. Walton thanked him and admitted that he only plead guilty because he knew he’d be found guilty with so many cards stacked against him.

I always thought that confession was a bit convenient, and thought that Walton might have been paid off to take the fall, but his explanation made more sense: he confessed because what was the point of trying to make a case for himself when he looked so guilty and would almost certainly have been railroaded in court anyway? But that also means that Neyers’ killer is still out there, and it’s up to Terry- and one assumes, Hildy- to figure out who really did it.

So, a highly enjoyable episode all around, as far as I was concerned. I love me some trial drama, and James Cromwell really brought it in the courtroom scenes. His defense lawyer managed to be charming, condescending, tough and vicious all at once, like Jimmy Stewart and Al Pacino all rolled up into one formidable package. Also great was new cast member and longtime character actor Jon Polito as the judge, probably best-known for his work with the Coen Brothers (i.e. “Barton Fink,” “Miller’s Crossing”). I just about died when he told Daniels: “Obnoxious is not a legal objection.” Well played, judge! That was also priceless when Strauss looked up at the judge cluelessly, and asked if he needed a lawyer after Daniels demolished him in court. Love it.

“True Blood” and “Dexter”-vet Courtney Ford also cropped up as Daniel’s co-counsel on the defense, but she didn’t have much to do as of yet, though I laughed when she smirked after Daniels gave Blunt a dressing down in the car after he flipped out on the way to court. Hopefully, she’ll have more to do on the next episode.

So, a highly enjoyable episode all around. I love a juicy courtroom drama, so I was firmly onboard for this installment, which only lagged here and there with some seemingly extraneous stuff with Terry and Hildy and her ex, assumingly just to keep them in the show’s loop. Granted, it yielded the fact that Walton was innocent of the crime he confessed to, but most of it felt shoehorned in order to give Terry and Hildy something to do.

Not that I don’t like the characters and the actors playing them- I do- just that, when a courtroom sequence starts, I hate to see it interrupted, and this one was, pretty regularly. Beyond that, though, the courtroom stuff was compelling enough to more than make up for it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things go next week, as both the offense and the defense were thrown a loop by the Strauss/Smoot thing.

What did you think of “Murder in the First” this week? Did you see Strauss’ death coming? Or the frame job? Will Wilkerson’s temper cause a ripple effect that helps bring Blunt down in the end? Will the prosecution be able to prove Strauss’ death was not a suicide? Will the defense be able to get Blunt off, whether he did it or not? Did Blunt actually do it? Or did he hire someone to? What about Walton? Was that Blunt, too? Give your testimony below and I’ll see you next week!