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Bull - The Missing Piece - Review + POLL





Directed by Stacey K. Black
Written by Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka




In what may be the most terrifying episode yet, Bull defends a doctor accused of murder, who claims he’s never even met the victim. In and of itself, this is unremarkable in a crime show. After all, most people claim their innocence when accused of anything, much less murder. The problem lies in the twist. In most procedurals, there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence while the detectives look for something more concrete. However, here, there is zero circumstantial evidence against Dr. Harper. He’s a suburban dad and well-respected Midtown pediatrician. He has no police record and nothing ties him to the dead Bronx drug dealer. Nothing except his DNA. It’s a 100% match to tissue found under the victim’s nails. Case closed? The team must find a viable alternative explanation for why their client’s DNA was found on the victim or lose the trial because in a post-CSI world, a vast majority of people believe that DNA is the ultimate evidence.


What follows is an interesting philosophical debate. Is science or instinct more reliable, more valuable? Can DNA ever be misinterpreted? Is it possible for science to send an innocent man to jail or is that man not as innocent as first impressions make him seem? Bull is looking for jurors who “go with their gut” when making decisions, and the show asks the same of its audience. It makes its case by citing examples of when DNA evidence got it wrong or at least was misinterpreted. In one case, DNA is linked to multiple crimes throughout Europe. Turns out that DNA belongs to a Latvian woman who works in a cotton swab factory. Her DNA gets mixed in with a batch of swabs that forensic investigators are using in their investigations. Instead of having a mass murderer on their hands, they have some questionable factory sanitary procedures. Ew. Danny also researches DNA migration, which simply says that our DNA is everywhere through the millions of skin cells we shed. Those cells are then transferred to others through the common things we touch. Neither situation is likely to sway a jury though.


Things get even more muddled as new circumstantial evidence comes to light. Dr. Harper admits that he had an oxycodone addiction, although he still maintains his innocence. Then the ADA calls his friend and neighbor, Dr. Parsons, to the stand. Although he is reluctant to put his friend in a bad light, Parsons does admit to subscribing opiates to Harper 3 times before cutting him off. He is also forced to corroborate that oxycodone abuse is generally a gateway to heroin addiction. There’s the circumstantial evidence and tie to the victim that the prosecutor was missing. Things get even worse for Harper, when the drug dealer’s son testifies against him. Let’s just say that the outcome looks bleak. So much so that Bull asks for a plea bargain and strongly urges Harper to take it. It’s here where the audience is asked to weigh their own beliefs. The story has so far been sympathetic to Dr. Harper, but evidence is piling up. Are first instincts correct or is this a clever tale told by a master manipulator?


Frankly, they could have heightened this part of the story more in the writing and acting as well as in the episode placement. You can see both Bull and the lead attorney’s growing frustration with the case, but coming on the heels of the Excessive Force episode, it is hard to believe that they would go for a client twist like that again so soon. In the end, what could have been an intriguing unreliable narrator storyline turns more into a cautionary tale on the American justice system’s overreliance on DNA and science. It also rushes to a soap opera-ish end that is highly unsatisfactory. An unknown murderous identical twin? Really? That and lab mix-up were the first things that came to mind. I would have liked a bit more ingenuity on the part of the writers. Plus, killing off said twin is over the top. I realize that they want to keep the TAC team the heroes and thus don’t want them to be the reason a murderer is free, but I could have done without the wrap-up. That’s what fanfiction is for.



Highlights:

The best part of the episode for me is the guest acting of Jeremiah Burkett, who plays Dr. Michael Harper. It’s a challenging role because he needs to make the character charming but still come off as a genuine family man, to be competent and smart while still baffled about his circumstances. Like the show itself claims, he’s instantly likeable and sells the character’s innocence well. This is particularly true when he’s confronted with all the evidence against him and realizes that his legacy will no longer be all the kids he helped or his family but the label of murderer . His speech about being a man of science but not being able to believe that science because he knows the truth is hard-hitting and poignant.

The red herring in the middle of the episode was fantastic too. I really did expect the Grand Central Station explanation to pan out. I liked the idea that hard work could save the day, especially since it involved Danny and Taylor working together. Color me surprised when he turned out to be a she and to have no bearing on the case at all. I actually think I would have liked this explanation for the DNA transfer better than the identical twin ending.



Issues:

First off, I admit that everything I know about the law, I learned from Law & Order so please comment below if I’m wrong, but there are a lot of things about the trial itself that seems off to me. I’m not even talking about the magic of TV law where tests come back in an hour and someone can go from crime to indictment to trial in the course of a week. That I expect. Off the cuff lawyering I do not. I’m not even sure why the prosecution would take this case to court before thoroughly investigating the situation. What is the rush? I get that DNA evidence is powerful (and the theme is that we shouldn’t rely on just one factor), but there are enough significant factors to warrant slowing down. That brings me to the second issue - all the surprise witnesses. Why in the world were they surprises? Either the prosecutor jumped the gun and lucked into the whole prescription addiction thing right when he needed it most or the defense should have had prior notice of the neighbor testifying. Same with the kid. It’s hard for me to believe that the defense has adequate time to prepare for a rebuttal when they don’t even know about the witness until a few minutes before court is in session. Shouldn’t someone have called out the prosecutor for this during the trial? I would have loved to see someone wipe that irritating smirk off his face.



Most Scary:

Call me an old-fashioned optimist, but I’d like to believe that there are still some ethics in the legal system these days and not just a bunch of loopholes where one side out-sleazes the next. TV law, not so much. From Law and Order’s winning at all cost prosecutors to How to Get Away with Murder’s outright illegal actions, it’s hard to root for any side. In this episode, the prosecution was particularly egregious. Pretending to be a customer of the genetic testing company, while genius, left a very bad taste in my mouth. I love genealogy and originally planned to do a family kit but my mother balked at it. She didn’t want her medical information out there and available to be sold off to others. At first that sounded way too conspiracy theory for me, but this episode added a whole new level of sinister. Technology is increasing daily but laws are often years behind it so things like genetic testing do open up a plethora of ways to invade people’s privacy. Let’s just say that I don’t think Ancestry.com is sponsoring this episode.



Episode Awards:

Best Scene / Best Speech - Dr. Harper’s “I’m me” speech
Best Character Interaction - Dr. Harper and his wife
Biggest Save - Marissa looking for adoption records
Worst Decision - Marissa puts the alcohol on the table in front of Bull instead of pouring a glass and removing it from the table
Most Troubling - the police could use those genealogy kits to accuse people of crimes
Most Smug / Most Irritating - the ADA who plays fast and loose with the rules and is gleeful about it
The “Say What?” Award - the lawyer asks for alcohol at a work meeting instead of the drink offered. Who does that?
The “Facepalm” Award - Bull is cyberstalking his newly married ex. Absolutely nothing good can come of this. Stop being creepy.



Quotes:
1. Bull: “Let’s not forget about freewill. Our DNA is not our destiny. We can change it piece by piece, choice by choice, if we’re strong enough, which you were.”
2. Bull: “You didn’t lie to a suspect. You lied to a public corporation.” ADA: “It has no effect on the legitimacy of the evidence.” Benny: “It doesn’t say a whole hell of a lot about the integrity of the DA’s office.” Bull: “Kind of hard not to wonder what other rules you’d be willing to break.”
3. Benny: “She just told you that?” Chunk: “I’m like a human can opener. People spend time with me and they can’t help themselves.”
4. Bull: “Words lie. Body language doesn’t.”
5. Benny: “You know, just because a person abused a prescription drug, that doesn’t make him a killer.” Bull: “No, the DNA makes him a killer.”
6. Wife: “He’s a pediatrician. He makes kids feel better when they’re sick. He comforts them when they’re scared. That’s who he is.”
7. Danny: “I want you in my lifeboat, baby.”






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