I have been known to say I would watch anything that Hayley Atwell stars in just to get a glimpse of her, and this is what prompted my watching of the pilot of Conviction, eager to see how she will portray this new heroine.
Hayes Morrison is definitely no Peggy Carter, heroine might even be a stretch at this point as we are introduced to her in a prison cell where she was arrested for cocaine possession. Within the first few minutes of the episode we learn that Hayes is the former first daughter, her mother is currently running for senate, she was a top defense lawyer, and a professor who was fired for sleeping with her students. A strange mix of characteristics but has become almost synonymous with the complex anti-heroines that ABC has prided itself upon – from Meredith Grey to Annalise Keating to Olivia Pope.
Most of the pilot is centered around the job that Hayes is blackmailed into taking by her former advisory, Connor Wallace in order to make her possession conviction go away, as the head of a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) which has five days to work on cases whereby the imprisoned might have been wrongly convicted and to look at all angles of the case.
We meet the team assembled for her and have little hints into their personal lives and hidden secrets, we see the friction between Hayes and her politically motivated family, the sexual tension between Hayes and Connor, and of course, we got to solve a case.
The team’s first case was centered around a former high school football player who was in jail for eight years for supposedly killing his girlfriend. In a very formulaic way, we first assume he is innocent and then there is a host of evidence proving that he could be guilty and then at the very last minute, Hayes like her predecessors Gregory House and Annalise Keating saves the day with a sudden light bulb moment, and the real killer is introduced in the third act. None of this was particularly convincing either way, and the random murderer was not even foreshadowed in the slightest, in that it just felt like lazy writing instead of a case that kept us at the end of our seats.
Subpar writing seems to be the running theme of the episode as the lines seem almost unbelievable and over-the-top, all of the supporting characters are stereotypical and wooden, almost as if they are pale shadows of the supporting characters from other ensemble dramas. Even Hayes, the lead character, feels as if she’s an exaggerated version of what a complex lead character should be like.
In essence, it felt as if they tried too hard to introduce too much in the pilot, instead of focussing on certain areas and telling those stories well. The cases themselves need to have better hooks and better executions, the writing needs to improve a whole lot, and even some of the cinematography feels almost formulaic.
The show has a lot of potential, the plot is interesting especially as they are working on cases that could save wrongfully accused persons, it feels like a fictional, visual Serial mixed with Scandal; it boasts a collection of great actors and has juicy bits that could intrigue us if we cared a bit more. It is an ambitious show but does not quite achieve Shondaland-like results. Here’s hoping that the writers and producers learn from their errors and improve as the season continues.
Conviction airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC