[29 November 2012]
NBC’s The Firm was cancelled after only one 22-episode season. The show is a continuation of John Grisham’s popular novel of the same name and takes up with the story of Mitch McDeere and his family, ten years after the conclusion of the novel. The Mafia boss put in jail by McDeere has died. Emerging from witness protection, the McDeeres are excited to begin a new life away from hiding. The show chronicles the family’s struggles to adjust to life away from the watchful eyes of Federal Marshalls.
As with any Grisham work, the series’ story arch was largely constructed around a major legal conspiracy. The legal author served as one of the show’s executive producers and was central to the creation of the storyline. The newly released DVD set of the first season showcases all 22 fast-paced episodes with a few bonus features revolving around the show’s development and characters tacked onto the final disc.
On the whole, The Firm is a solid show. Producer-developer Lukas Reiter has succeeded in his goal to create what he calls a legal thriller. Moving away from the legal drama genre, Reiter presents viewers with a story that is driven by suspense and high action. From the opening chase scene in the first episode to the building-jumping antics in the last episode—will Mitch survive? Now we’ll never know!—the series fulfills its early promises to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
Josh Lucas and Molly Parker are at the heart of the series as husband-wife team Mitch and Abby McDeere. Mitch is a lawyer with serious moral convictions; Abby is a schoolteacher who contributes to the lawyerly shoptalk that colors the couple’s Washington D.C.-area home. Callum Keith Rennie play’s Mitch’s older brother Ray and is joined by Juliette Lewis in the role of Tammy, Ray’s long-time girlfriend. Rennie’s character is perhaps the most closely played in the whole series. Ray is that combination of compelling and foreboding that legal drama fans just love. The cast is rounded out by a talented young Natasha Calis playing the role of Claire McDeere, Mitch and Abby’s ten-year-old daughter.
Tricia Helfer (as lawyer Alex Clark), Shaun Majumder (as Mitch’s reluctant lawyer friend Andrew Palmer) and Martin Donovan (as bad guy Kevin Stack) feature prominently in the show’s first 16 episodes. The initial storyline revolves around a mysterious series of murders and a brand-new conspiracy that is classic Grisham. Mitch is plunged into the drama when he takes on the case of Sarah Holt, a young woman accused of murdering an elderly woman in her sleep. Kinross & Clark, the firm involved in the massive murder cover up, quickly recruit McDeere with the intention of using him as a pawn. Of course, they bite off just a little bit more than they can chew by taking on the passionate lawyer—and the rest of his family.
The show experiences a noticeable slowing after the resolution of the initial story arch in chapter 16. The next three episodes largely chronicle struggles between Mitch and Abby following her traumatic kidnapping by bad guy Kevin Stack and his thugs. Abby takes Claire to visit her rich parents, from whom she is estranged. She shares a lingering kiss and almost-affair with a psychiatrist. This part of the story disappears entirely after episode 19, leaving us to wonder if Abby ever plans on telling Mitch about it. The family drama aspect of the series adds little to the storyline but is in step with the habit of inserting marital problems into otherwise elegant police procedurals and legal dramas. The story picks up again after Abby comes back home but is never quite the same.
Over the course of its last four episodes, The Firm once again gained the momentum that made it so compelling in the first place. The new storyline revolves around an accused rapist and murderer who just happens to be a friend of gangster Joey Morolto Jr. Of course, Joey Morolto Sr. was the Mafia boss sent to jail by McDeere’s testimony in the 1993 film version of The Firm and the reason that the McDeeres spent ten years in witness protection. The season ends just when the story has kicked into high gear. Unfortunately, viewers will never know whether McDeere gets the bad guy or not.
Viewers who were frustrated by NBC’s erratic scheduling of the series will be able to enjoy the show’s initial story arch in a whole new way on DVD. Viewed over the course of a few days instead of in unpredictable installments, the show’s storyline becomes both leaner and stronger. It’s easier to see the connections between the at-home banter of the McDeeres and the legal drama unfolding at Mitch’s new law office, Kinross & Clark. Watching the angel-of-death drama unfold in a guilty pleasure session of back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes is a great way to spend a lazy weekend, too.
The bonus features included on the disc may be disappointing to viewers who tuned in for the five-minute preview of the show presented during Superbowl Sunday. Aside from the sneak peek, the bonus features are comprised almost entirely of cast interviews and lackluster behind-the-scenes footage. In an interview with John Grisham, the author talks about the development of his best-selling book and the storyline of the new show.
Like the actors and producers interviewed on the disc, the author seems particularly committed to proving to loyal Tom Cruise fans that this version of The Firm is just as good as the original film. This theme arises repeatedly in the bonus features. It seems a bit heavy-handed but well-intentioned, especially given NBC’s decision to cancel the show. Actress Juliette Lewis’s interview is the most compelling of all and is a must-see for avid fans of the show. Unfortunately, no wrap-up commentary about where the show might have gone is included in the interview with creator Lukas Reiter. This single tidbit of information would have significantly increased the enjoyability of the bonus features.