The Lincoln Lawyer, a new legal drama from Netflix, at least manages to be enjoyable despite having an uninteresting main character, up to three usually uninteresting parallel plotlines, and no noteworthy viewpoint on the 2022 criminal justice system.
However, if The Lincoln Lawyer had been available on Amazon, it might have actually been the Bosch semi-spinoff. The Lincoln Lawyer, however, would have simply been compared to Goliath by creator David E. Kelley, a murkier, more complex series exploring comparable ground, if it had aired on Amazon.
The Lincoln Lawyer’s Spark Moments
The consistently feisty Newton, the reliably gruff Sampson, and Lisa Gay Hamilton, who steals scenes in both this and The Dropout as a judge severely overseeing Mickey’s legal comeback, provide the majority of the show’s excitement.
Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine is quite good as the detective written into the show to replace Harry Bosch from the book, even though he has no human characteristics at all, only an uncanny ability to show up at important moments when the program remembers he’s there at all.
The Lincoln Lawyer’s Cast Characters
The Lincoln Lawyer, produced by Kelley and Ted Humphrey (The Good Wife), is based on the same Michael Connelly novel series that gave rise to the outstanding Matthew McConaughey film of the same name.
Mickey Haller, Harry Bosch’s half-brother on the page but not relevant here because Amazon owns Harry Bosch, is played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.
Mickey is a very successful defense lawyer, but the series picks up with him coming off of a year during which he had a near-death experience while surfing, developed a painkiller addiction, and almost gave up law altogether.
The series takes its loose plot structure from Connelly’s The Brass Verdict. His mojo has been affected by this, but not his ability to make payments on a hilltop property that offers a minimal amount of real estate porn but pales in contrast to the main character’s home on Bosch.
After that, a former coworker is killed and Mickey inherits his practice. Since they both require an income, this is thrilling for Mickey’s ex-wife and legal assistant Lorna (Becki Newton), and their chief investigator Cisco (Angus Sampson).
They both want Mickey to break out of his rut, so it’s encouraging for Mickey’s other ex-wife Maggie (Neve Campbell), a determined prosecutor, and their teenage daughter Hayley (Krista Warner).
The Lincoln Lawyer’s Tedious 10 Episodes
In this case, it’s rather simple to explain why a show like The Lincoln Lawyer doesn’t work, in contrast to other situations when it can be difficult.
Although the murder case that spans the first season’s ten episodes is tedious and organized like the A-plot in too many Dick Wolf procedurals to list, Gorham, a stalwart decent guy, is relishing playing a character with greater potential for evil.
The writers entirely overlook setting up any stakes or specific people, so Maggie’s case basically shambles along until it ultimately connects with Mickey’s case over the course of the majority of the season.
Then there is Mickey’s cases-of-the-week, which seem to be a holdover from a development phase that began at CBS. These cases merely serve to establish linkages and plot devices that will help Mickey escape similar situations in the future.
The Lincoln Lawyer’s Attraction Is Courtroom
As it should be, the courtroom is the main attraction. Written by Kelley and Ted Humphrey, the early episodes follow a pattern in which Haller successfully resolves lesser, seemingly hopeless cases involving common, cash-strapped clients charged with minor charges while weaving in and out of the Elliott trial, the main plot line.
The mixture does two things: We see Haller’s acute observing abilities and his tremendous charisma in the minor events (in one instance, he bluffs a flash drive as evidence to clear his client).
Haller’s anxieties arise with Elliott, the bigger headache, especially given that Elliott seemed determined to deal his lawyer the worst cards possible.
Later episodes combine Haller’s effort to rebuild his family with McPherson’s relentless pursuit of a wealthy human trafficking suspect. Each plot thread permits the arrogant grump of the defense attorney to recede as grounded components advance.
The Lincoln Lawyer’s Scripting Reviews
If “The Lincoln Lawyer” has one aspect that makes you uneasy, it’s the fact that some of the languages were obviously written by merely online authors.
Haller’s daughter criticizes the “woke police,” and Elliott frets about winning in the court of public opinion, notably Twitter (people aghast at her father defending a wealthy, potential murderer).
These come off as attempts to be relevant, but because they end up in such startling places, they seem to stray lines from many versions rather than a unified approach.
The Lincoln Lawyer is a definite streaming winner that would have worked just as well on network television thanks to Garcia-well-honed Rulfo’s performance, the shrewd legal jargon, and the courtroom gamesmanship (every court scene offers a surge in adrenaline).
The Lincoln Lawyer’s Plotline Summary
As Gorham and Campbell take on larger roles, nearly every aspect of this courtroom drama—including its endearing characters, intriguing cases, hilarious fourth-wall breaks by Haller explaining his strategy, whiz-bang speed, and bright, clear cinematography—makes for easily ingestible episodes.
The two give normally muted characters reliable, workmanlike melodramatic beats, while the show deftly moves for an anti-police slant (Haller doesn’t trust them at all), and openly discusses addiction and rehabilitation.
The series also has enough backstories—the desire of Lorna to go back to law school, Angus’ debt to his old gang, and an old case that still bothers Haller—to both build a solid standalone season and leave enough trail for a potential second season.
The Lincoln Lawyer still has a following, and if the TV reviewer segment of that following might prefer it if it were gritty or more ethically complex, a larger slice probably won’t care.
If the pedigree suggests The Lincoln Lawyer should be much better than it is, so much the worse for those of us who care about such things.
What’s being aspired to here is only rudimentary pot-boiling, the movie moves along at a quick clip, and offers the occasional surprise and one or two likable supporting performances.