With Agent Carter no longer on air Haley Atwell has moved into the spotlight role of Hayes Morrison on the upcoming series Conviction. The New York DA sets up a small team to spend five days looking over convictions to see if they should hold up, a re-trial be called, or the conviction itself be vacated. Also starring Shawn Ashmore and Eddie Cahill the recipe for a good show are all there, so how does the pilot hold up?
Following in the footsteps of most successful law programs every member of the team has more to their story than we are initially shown. Frankie, their forensics expert, has done a stint in prison. Tess Larson, the doe eyed rookie, is dealing with her own issues of accidentally sending the wrong man to prison years ago. Hayes Morrison herself was the daughter of a former president and has had a long history of public tabloid style embarrassments. Sadly, none of these layers actually adds complexity. Everyone is just an archetype with a single limiting factor.
Really that's too bad because unlike the Law and Order programs which dealt with cases, Conviction centers more around the team of characters. In order for that to work those characters need to be complex and varied and frankly, these ones aren't. Everyone has their role and, for the pilot at least, no one shows any potential for growth beyond those roles.
I do like that the point of their unit is not to overturn convictions, merely to assess them. As such it opens the doors for various different outcomes per episode. This doesn't have to be a show where the good guys 'win' all the time and there is ample room to explore grey areas. Haley Atwell is a monumental talent and she can really make this show special if given the chance.
The problem is that by all appearances that isn't what we're getting. The story beats and characters all feel and act like part of a tired by the book crime drama of which we are getting a slew of now that CSI and its various spin offs are off the air. The cliché's exist for a reason but there have been so many shows like this one already and the first episode has done little to make this one stand out. Hopefully it will improve but let's be real, this is network TV. Cookie Cutter is the default setting.