The best things in life are often unexpected. At least, that’s what So Help Me Todd 1×09 “Swipe Wright” would suggest. Of course, catastrophes are often unexpected, as well. Even when you should totally be able to see them coming, as happens with one plot this week. The also toes a bit of a line when it comes to legal ethics, but nobody is watching the series to learn how to be an ethical lawyer (or boundary-recognizing mother), right? I certainly hope not.
A Matter of Ethics
As everyone who’s ever seen a legal show can attest, attorneys have certain duties to their clients. Including the duty to advocate for their clients’ interests and not, you know, for the other side. It’s why criminal defense attorneys don’t ever stand up in court and say, “Yeah, my client is totally guilty, so don’t waste your time.” At least, they don’t outside of Hollywood.
So Help Me Todd toed as close as they could come to that line this week, with Margaret and Todd essentially working for the other side as much as for their actual client. They ended up on just this side of ethical responsibilities by making clear that the villain was a bad actor from inside the company, and exposing him was therefore protecting the company’s interests. In the real world, I’m not entirely convinced an ethics investigation wouldn’t be considered, at the very least. But this is television, and everything works out in TV land.
And frankly, it’s actually kind of nice to see Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden) and Todd (Skylar Astin) work with a defendant who isn’t quite innocent this week. Yes, we all enjoy a good Perry Mason-esque legal drama, where you know the attorneys are fighting for the wrongly accused underdog. But – in civil and criminal law – you can’t always defend clients you know to be innocent with absolute certainty. At least not if you want to pay your bills. (And if you’ve ever seen an attorney’s student loan balance, they need to pay their bills. Trust me on this.)
In this episode, of course, who’s guilty and who’s innocent is a slightly grey area. Of course, if the inventor of what sounds like the worst dating app ever had her code stolen and was then frozen out of the company – and the profits, you want to root for her. However, Margaret (and Todd) can’t really fight for the evil corporate overlord. So in a sense, the company is a victim too. Thus the bad actor discussed above. Of course, they don’t necessarily know that going in. It’s easy enough for Todd to fight for the side of right, whichever side that might be. His PI license isn’t on the line if he unearths evidence that hurts his client. Margaret doesn’t have that luxury, so seeing her figure out how to pursue justice and not get disbarred was interesting.
Looking for Love…
That said. While she’s a very ethical attorney, as a mother…well… That’s somewhat more debatable. As the episode revolves around a dating app, Francey (Rosa Arredondo) signs her up for the app in question. For “research.” Also because she may still be wearing her wedding ring, but that marriage can’t be saved, so she might as well start looking, right? While perusing the app, Margaret comes across a profile that she’s convinced is her daughter, Allison (Madeline Wise). Her married daughter. Which is its own ethical quagmire.
Not one to leave well enough alone, Margaret decides to go snooping about Allison’s home while she and her husband are out of town. While there, she can’t help herself. She not only has to criticize her daughter’s new back splash (which is totally on-brand for her), but she has to go so far as to rearrange Allison’s furniture to the way she deems best.
Look. I don’t like infidelity storylines. They just aren’t my bag. And I’m certainly not defending this one, if that’s where the story plans to go. But to the extent that Allison told Todd that she’d signed up for the dating app because she was curious to know what it would feel like to make a choice for herself for a change…that, I can totally understand for her character. She’s not even able to make the decision where she wants to put a dresser. I have no problem believing that she feels like her entire life was dictated to her by her mother.
Which, of course, means she should be drawing some hard boundaries and exacting consequences if those boundaries are crossed. Sorry, not if. When. There’s no doubt they will be crossed, given who Margaret is. The answer isn’t to sign up for a dating app and maybe possibly flirt with the idea of infidelity. Allison’s flirting with the idea of nuking her own life, and there are some things she should know you can’t recover from. Some disasters in life are unexpected, but the consequences of her possibly actions now – even insofar as signing up for the app in the first place – are entirely foreseeable.
That said, given who Margaret is, it’s a little surprising that she ultimately decided to stay hands-off on the thought her daughter might be contemplating infidelity. The only reason I’ll even consider buying that from her character is because I’m pretty sure it won’t last. She’s just not the type to stay in the back seat on anything when it comes to her children. Not even in their personal lives.
…In All the Wrong Places
There’s one other reason she might have decided to stay hands-off on the Allison issue this week. Her attention is somewhat divided, as she might be flirting with a new romance of her own. During her dating app “research” perusal, she came across the profile of her opposing counsel, Gus (Jeffrey Nordling). In his previous appearance on the series (“Corduroy Briefs” ), I thought there might be some sparks between the two. This episode confirmed that feeling.
In the real world, this relationship would likely end in disaster. Margaret and Gus aren’t just opposites. They are diametrically opposed. She can’t even stand for her daughter to put her blanket on the bed in the “wrong” way. Dealing with someone who always looks like they rolled out of bed in their suit and wandered into court almost by accident would drive her up the wall. And Gus doesn’t seem like the type of person who would enjoy having someone else try to dictate his life.
But, again…this is television. In TV land, opposites attract and rarely end in attempted murder. Okay, all joking aside, there’s nothing saying that the show is setting Gus up to be Margaret’s Forever person. He may be less of Mr. Right than Mr. Right Now. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, sometimes Mr. Right Now is exactly what you need. And if a relationship with Gus helps Margaret unclench and relax a bit? I’m all for it.