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Murder in the First - Out of the Shadows + Bruja Blanca - Double Review: "Conspiracy"

Well, I'd like to start off this double review by apologising for not being able to get coverage up sooner. I wasn't able to watch the Out of the Shadows episode until later last week, and then a short period with limited internet access prevented me getting as many reviews written as I would have liked, so I thought It would probably be best if I covered Out of the Shadows & this week's episode, Bruja Blanca in one go. So I guess this is better late than never, right? It's also important to note that I wrote these reviews after finishing the episode, before moving onto the next one, as opposed to writing both at once, just to clear things up.

Out of the Shadows

Out of the Shadows was a marked improvement on the previous episodes of Murder in the First even if it's still stuck with some of its problems, like the decision to throw in random characters left right and centre, for example, the introduction of Mario Siletti's family. He's the DA who's responsible for the Dustin Maker case in case you've forgotten, which has provided one of the dullest storylines of the season so far and I just wish they'd get it over and done with already. We don't really have much need to introduce the family and they're something that we could have done without, especially when this episode also falls into the trap of doing something else that Murder In The First has liked to do a lot this season, and that's bring characters in, leave them alone for a few episodes and then drop them back into the loop again when they're suddenly important. The character in question is the stripper named Alyssa who happens to be Molk's girlfriend, and as it turns out, also Junior's contact in the Union, who's too afraid to talk about them to Hildy, who in turn learned about the existence of the Union from Junior, after she just sorted out his problem with the Union by handing them the debt that he needed, apparently getting the money through the legal channels. Will this be something that the show will revisit in the future? Or has the "all legal" comment smoothed things over for now? Regardless, I felt like the problem with Junior's debts was smoothed over far too quickly, so I'm hoping there's some leftover fallout there to deal with in the future. Anyway, that led us back around to the Hildy/Alyssa confrontation which allowed for some nice revelations that helped speed the show forward a bit.

Hildy wasn't the only one investigating the Union, as Raffi's starting to get suspicious about her Commander, Michael Criolla, who has just put her off a task force when she's so close to getting the results that she needs to take down Sugar. Naturally, Raffi's annoyed at this transfer especially when she learns that she's the only one being punished by Criolla, and not even her partner's being transferred. She then goes to tell Sugar more information about his dead sister, whose funeral kicked off the episode. Apparently Criolla and Sugar aren't on the best of terms and Criolla was the one who got Raffi's sister arrested on trumped up charges, which may or may not have led up to her death. Sugar, armed with new information, goes to visit Andy Chan the following day, but war with the police isn't what Chan wants, and it's something that's understandable in his position.

We also saw that, in a pretty big moment, Criolla was arrested following the discovery of the murder weapon that had killed Sarah Tran and the fact that he was the one who had brought the burner phone that was used to contact with Brian Tran, thanks to the help of Kami and some camera footage. However, before any real developments could happen with Criolla behind bars, he was gunned down by his lawyer in what made a pretty effective impact. Killing off Criolla was an interesting strategy for the show especially as it introduces seemingly another antagonist so quickly after mopping up the old one. Criolla did his best to try and plead when he was arrested though, and wasn't going down without a fight, threatening that with one phonecall he could have their careers ended. However, Koto and Hildy were having none of it - Koto of course was determined to bus Criolla with a the quote "Let’s arrest this scumbag while he is still in the building" being his exact words. Their victory seemed to be short lived though, as the lawyer may well be a new (another?) threat introduced that will hopefully be the final target of the remaining episodes of the season for the characters to face. Criolla didn't recgonise her so I'm not 100% sure that she's actually part of the Union, but regardless, there was a lot of mystery there. Hopefully the show can handle it well.

Oh, and the Dustin Maker case continued. The courtroom drama between Siletti and Jamie Nelson, whilst not exactly unwatchable, wasn't particularly exciting either, detracting from the far more interesting Union plot. Unless they're somehow related (which given what we've seen in Murder In The First in the past, wouldn't actually be that big of a surprise), there isn't really much point in continuing this B-Story as we're still not invested in Dustin Maker and don't really care what happens to him. Just get this over and done with already, or give us a reason to care.

Overall Episode Verdict: B+
+Criolla's arrest and subsequent shooting.
+The focus on the Union case.
+Junior coming clean to Hildy.
+The mystery gets deeper.
-Even more new characters.
-Bringing back old characters when they're suddenly relevant to the plot again after abandoning them for several episodes.

Bruja Blanca

The second of the two episodes, entitled Bruja Blanca, took things down a notch for a more routine episode where the contract killer who offed Criolla was the main target of the SFPD who were meanwhile under their own internal investigation following the shooting of Criolla and their lapse in security. It wasn't especially anything new, and throughout the episode, it quickly became apparent that the show was still trying to put the pieces in place even if there are only three episodes left in the season. It doesn't really need to take movements away from the main plot yet the show seems intent on doing so, and maybe this season might have been better off if we'd have kept it at the ten episode mark like the first, and ditched the school shootout, no matter how powerful it was, to reign its focus in on the conspiracy story. It would have given the show a solid direction and would have made the second season a lot more interesting as a result, even if without it, it still manages to be a decent hour of entertainment each week.

The McCormick-Mulligan family was thrust to the forefront this week in one of Bruja Blanca's most important moments, as the time came for Junior to pay his debt, which Hildy had called in. This allowed us to be filled in with some information on how the Union works, as Hildy makes it her main job to take it down. If we didn't before, we certainly know now the direction that the show is going to take for the rest of the season, and that is the Union. The Union is the more interesting plot and as as a result we don't really care about the Dustin Maker case, and haven't for a while. Yes, English was dragged into the courtroom to testify against Dustin Maker this week, but it never really mattered much with the main focus of this section being mainly on the relationship between English and Raffi. Divorce papers for Jamie were also served this week following her determination to stay on the Dustin Maker case, but again, this doesn't have the impact as it should have had as we're not really invested in her character.

The third section of this week's episode saw English in the spotlight as he has a talk with Sugar, who is one of the suspects in Criollas's death as Criolla killed his sister. We now know Sugar's real name, Anthony, but again, this wasn't really worth the time that could have been spent elsewhere. The audience, much like English, knows that Sugar's not the primary suspect, so this could have been avoided, and even if Sugar may have been arrested, it's for a different murder, in Chinatown, and with Junior the arresting offer. However, The good news for Sugar is that he's not going to meet the same fate that Criolla did (which is good, because Mo McRae is arguably one of the best actors in this show), and he's released on bail for $10m. In the aftermath, Cascade then got a note from the Union, who demanded that he paid by Friday, but was held off paying it back straight away by Hildy, which should no doubt lead into some interesting scenes in the week to come. But for now, these were pretty much all the major developments happening in Bruja Blanca, unless I missed anything.

So whilst there were some developments in the latest episode, there was never really enough there which as a result meant that Bruja Blanca took a considerable step down from Out of the Shadows in terms of quality as the season draws to a close, even if it wasn't exactly a bad episode and still managed to be watchable. The show itself is still taking its time to get to where it wants to go, so hopefully, this is something that will happen sooner rather than later given the short amount of time that we have left in the season. There's still enough episodes left there to give us that gang-war they were teasing us as well as a clash with the Union, and it's quickly becoming clear that what happens in the final few episodes of the season will determine whether or not Season 2 was better than its predecessor. At the moment, it's Season 1 that has the slight edge, but we'll have to wait and see if there are any surprises left in store.

Overall Episode Verdict: C-
+Sugar's arrest.
+McCormick-Mulligan family drama.
-The show is still taking its time to get where it wants to go.
-Courtroom drama.

Now that's out of the way, what did you think of these two episodes? Which of the two did you enjoy the most? Are you happy with the direction that Season 2 is going in or do you just want it to end? Let me know in the comments below, and check out the next episode of Murder in the First on TNT next Monday at 10/9c.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The 100, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Black Sails, Childhoods End, Da Vinci's Demons, Hell on Wheels, The Knick, Manhattan, Murder in the First and Veep for Spoiler TV as well as books, films and games for his own blog The Fictional Hangout and contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic.
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