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Bull - Excessive Force / Justice for Cable - Review

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Excessive Force: directed by Russell Fine / written by Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price
Justice for Cable: directed by Randy Zisk / written by Bill Chais

Excessive Force and Justice for Cable are opposite episodes for me in many ways, but both still evoked strong emotions. In Excessive Force, Bull is approached by the police commissioner to help defend a white female officer who shot an unarmed black man. Initially uninterested, he is persuaded to talk to the officer and when he learns that the plaintiff is suing the city for a minimum of $25 million, he takes the case. Not everyone at TAC is happy about that and while there were some highlights, most of this case frustrated me. I enjoyed Chunk talking to his daughter about having the “police talk” when he was a teenager, but a lot of the dialogue was heavy handed and it felt very one-sided. The police commissioner had no grasp of the political ramifications of the case, but was focused only on getting a win. The plaintiff was painful to watch. It got so bad that at one point I turned off the program and went to bed. This episode was shaping up to be one of the worst for me...until the plot twist.

By far the best thing about Excessive Force was how it completely surprised me. The plaintiff and the defendant are lovers looking for a huge payout? What? I never saw that coming, and I’m usually pretty good at spotting big plot points. Suddenly everything made sense - the one-sided discussion, the police officer being the worst defendant ever to step foot on the stand, even though she had to have been cross-examined at some point earlier in her career. The inconsistencies that bugged me the most were fixed in one fell swoop. It was a big writing gamble and for me, it mostly paid off. Mostly. The pacing was still very rough, even in the rewatch, and while I understand where they were going, I think the actress playing the police officer was too understated. I wanted to feel something for her so that the twist would be emotional as well as interesting plot development. I think that perhaps exposing the twist earlier and letting there be some fallout to the deception would have helped.

Unlike Excessive Force, which I struggled through in the beginning, I looked forward to Justice for Cable since the premiere. I, like the show’s characters, needed some closure for Cable. Add to it the superb acting from Jill Hennessey and I was already hooked. Once again, the case is not going for subtle. The TAC family learns that the bridge collapse that killed Cable was no accident as previously believed. Explosive charges were placed in a portion of the framework by terrorists working with a maintenance crew and set to go off at a certain time. For reasons that still don’t make any sense, this terrorist group wanted it to be ruled an accident but they are found and killed in Europe. End of story, right? But there’s still no closure and it unduly complicates the death. They could have made it neglect or shoddy equipment that caused the collapse but neither would produce such a thoroughly villainous defendant as John Honaker. Bull accuses Honaker of making his bank billions by allowing known terrorists to skirt the banking laws meant to combat the funding of evil.

It’s a complicated case full of intricate computer coding and boxes upon boxes of bank transactions, but in the end only two things matter: it wraps up Cable’s storyline and introduces Taylor. Like Lethal Weapon’s premiere, there was good and bad in how they dealt with the death of a main character. I liked how they started with a wake. It fit Cable’s spirit and Jill Hennessey rocked the part of the grieving mother. My only concern is that it focused mostly on Bull, although he is the one who had the least connection with Cable. This is one time when the supporting cast deserved a chance to take the lead. In particular, I would have liked to see more of Marissa’s reaction since we didn’t get to see her response to hearing about the death either. Using the case to get closure was also hit and miss for me. Since it all took place in one episode, it felt rushed. A case of this magnitude could have easily become the focus of the whole season, giving the show a serialized thread within the procedural format. Similar to shows like NCIS that often have one Big Bad they chase throughout the season while still working individual murders, I think that a slower roll out of the trial would allow for better closure and a more in-depth look at the different stages of grief. The TAC team is closer than the usual workforce and it would make sense to allow the grieving process to continue throughout the season.

The most positive aspect of the episode for me though was the introduction of Taylor. While I will miss the youth aspect and energy that Cable brought, it is more important that they didn’t simply create a carbon copy character. That never works. I like that Taylor brings her own new perspective. While the others allow Bull and his company to overwhelm their lives, Taylor will bring more of a balance. We were already seeing that in Marissa’s marriage, but Taylor’s child changes everything for her. I loved how she stressed to Bull that her child will always come first but she will still give her best to the company. She doesn’t have to be 24/7 to be an asset and her background in Homeland Security gives her access to resources that complement Marissa’s. I also liked her practical approach to problems. When Bull basically tells her that he’s going to throw her under the bus to get the results he wants, she deals with the situation at hand with ingenuity and class. I’m not sure I would want to work with him after that, but I’m sure glad that Taylor is going to be a part of this team.

Grades: C+ / B+

1. Taylor: “I’ve already discussed money and benefits and hours with Marissa.” Bull: “Hours? We don’t do hours.” Taylor: “I do, but I promise you, you and your company will be the second most important thing in my life. Second. That’s all I have to offer and I’m offering it to you.” Bull: “Sold.”
2. Bull: “I’m not gonna drop dead from a sip of whiskey.” Marissa: “You don’t know that. I might kill you.”
3. Benny: “We have a new Cable?” Marissa: “We have a temporary Taylor.”
4. Marissa: “Don’t stay here too late, and look...don’t fall asleep in your office. And don’t drink.” Bull: “Can I at least have a few friends over, have a small party? I promise to clean up. Dad said it was okay.” Marissa: “Night, John Boy.”
5. Cable’s Mom, Ellen: “I don’t suppose you’ve ever lost a child, Dr. Bull. Make it hurt.” Bull: “I’m sure gonna try.”
6. Ellen: “I told him to go duck himself.”

Screencaps by SpoilerTV and Remote Control.

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