Despite the lackluster writing and execution of Agent Carter, I have always liked Hayley Atwell, even when her character of Peggy Carter was written like a superior misandrist loon.
So when I saw the first ad for Conviction, my first thought was "Oh good, she's gotten work."
Sadly, my second thought was "Oh dear God, not the Innocence project. Haven't they already screwed up this concept in four different TV shows? Haven't they sucked every single time?"
But, just to see what Atwell was up to, I was willing to at least give it a shot.
Atwell is playing Hayes Morrison, a former first daughter, law school professor, and general basket case and screw up. Imagine if Chelsea Clinton was perfectly aware that her parents were vile, soul-sucking leaches, and grew up with sex and drug scandals of her own.
When Hayes is caught with drugs on her person, she's blackmailed into working the Conviction Integrity Unit for NYC. Her job? To judge whether or not convictions should be upheld or vacated. And no, it's not the innocence project: in fact, in three episodes, they've had 5 convicts investigated, and two of them stayed in prison. (For the record, I should note that CIUs really do exist.)
Hayes is given four people for her team: a forensics expert, a cop, a lawyer who's a reject from the innocence project, and a lawyer from the DA's office.
And why Hayes? Because when she's not imploding like Bara Dur at the end of Return of the King, she's actually quite brilliant. Also, her mother, the former First Lady, is running for Senate again, and the District Attorney would really like the Senator's support. And yes, that's one of the reasons this premise works -- no one here is filled with (self)righteous fervor about the poor innocents languishing in jail. They don't know who's innocent or guilty when they start, and in some cases, Hayes is the only one who wants to audit some of the specific cases.
The lack of pretension is one of the reasons the show works.. The second is that this show doesn't fall into patterns. She picks the first convict because she cynically declares "He's a handsome minority poster boy. The press will eat it up." The second case she selects because it is a case prosecuted by the current DA.
But the primary reason this works is Hayley Atwell, and how Hayes Morrison is written. She is brilliant, and she is also self destructive. But she holds her own against her mother and the DA, and against all of her team, none of whom seem to like her. They've taken all of the self righteous preening of every innocence project variant and replaced it with a cynical reverse murder mystery.
Let's give this a 4 out of five stars. It's better than Bull. But not a must see show.