The advertisements of NBC’s latest legal drama The Firm plastered John Grisham’s name all over the place, as the hour-long drama (well, the premiere was two) is based off of his novel of the same name. However, the television series is a sequel to the novel and takes place a decade after the plot of Grisham’s work.
Ten years ago, Mitchell Y. McDeere (Josh Lucas) was an up-and-coming lawyer who exposed the firm that just hired him as a front for the Chicago mob. What a stand-up guy, right? Now, a decade later the sequel begins with two men in suits chasing Mitch on land and water through Washington, D.C.
The double-episode title, “Pilot/Chapter Two,” likely means each week we’ll see a different chapter in a long-running Grisham novel. Either this is to entice fans of serialized television into believing the creator and writers have everything planned, or it’s to sell this series as a Grisham novel and hope fans of his works will come pouring over to NBC on Sunday nights.
Either way, I’m a fan of the premise. However, I feel like the two-hour premiere came off more like a made-for-TV movie and not an exhilarating debut for a legal series. It’s a good start, and it preps the series as a thriller and even includes two confusing conversations which lead to a white screen and tell us we’ve jumped back six weeks in time. Then we jump back a decade to discover a sequence of events that led to the McDeeres going into the Witness Protection Program.
So how are McDeere, his wife and his daughter (Molly Parker and Natasha Calis) using their real names? He chose to leave the program after the mob boss he put away for life dies. The dumb move proves dumber when Mitch discovers the mob boss’ son is in his mid-twenties and looking for revenge. But without that single decision to come out of the program, the entire series would have no driving force. So, while it might be easy to attack the farfetched decision, let’s excuse it and enjoy the ride.
The ten-minute introduction to the series was perplexing, and it set the tone for the entire two hours that followed. While it wasn’t completely captivating, it did grab my attention. That’s when the problems that crop up with any sequel started to ooze from the seams. Since this is a series sequel and not a film sequel, the problems are leaking slowly and enough to notice, but they are fixable.
The Firm tries to take the focus away from the obvious plot of the McDeeres fearing for their lives and turns the pilot into a procedural. Mitch gets involved with a young murderer, and we get to see a fleshed out characterization much like we would in the opening chapter of a book.
I’m not entirely sure where the series is going. I wanted it to be predictable, but in the end I felt the episode played more like a miniseries than anything else. It will take time to expose all of the different angles the show will take. We’ve seen Mitch sort of join a sketchy law firm, a dead mob boss’ son tracking Mitch and an upset father put a $10,000 hit out on a 14-year-old.
At the end the show flashes us back to the opening chase sequence, which launches us into a much-anticipated storyline. We’re technically two episodes in and have barely just scratched the surface.