After Sunday's thorough two-hour premiere, The Firm arrives on its regular date and time with another piece that sheds more light on its heroes. Satisfaction from it likely depends on what element you were watching for. It was light on the conspiracy, but strong on character, which the show has already proven is its strong suit.
In case you missed it last time, we get another look at Martin committing suicide off the hotel balcony. Now we also get to see Mitch making a very narrow escape from said hotel room, taking more than one painful leap of his own. Unfortunately, the quick exit means that he's left behind his briefcase.
We flash backward again, and it's five weeks earlier instead of six, with Mitch meeting the high-powered Russell Strickland and his son Brian. His girlfriend has allegedly been missing for three days, but in reality he accidentally hit her with his car following an argument and hid her body. "You have to tell your father. You have to tell Amy's family. They deserve to know what happened," Mitch urges the kid but he doesn't want to hear it. Mitch's hands are tied due to attorney-client privilege, but that doesn't stop him from vowing to "make the right thing happen," because we already know from last week that's who he is.
Before he can get very far, however, he hears that someone walked into a local police precinct and confessed to Amy's murder. That someone isn't Brian, but a very creepy guy by the name of Calvin Parker (Brian Markinson) who wants to chastize Mitch's "table manners." However, Ray disproves Calvin's claims by finding the body right where Brian said it was, which means that Mitch needs Brian to free Calvin, who is innocent no matter how mental he is. Unfortunately, Brian has gone missing.
It's up to Ray to do some digging and find out what makes the head case tick, and he and Mitch find a wall full of newspaper clippings about missing girls in Calvin's apartment. Ray chafes when the rules get in his way, which is probably not the last time we'll see that happen. Mitch is able to cast doubt on Calvin's confession, even as Calvin tells a courtroom that he needs to be stopped.
Another McDeere family meeting around the dinner table probes into Calvin's past, namely the former private school he once attended. Based on Calvin's statement that he buried his victims in a red room, Mitch and Ray end up in the school's music room, where they find corpses in the floor. Tammy makes an anonymous call to 911 to lead police to the school, and Calvin gets nailed for not one, not two but six bodies, none of them Amy's. Brian is eventually located, in need of a serious pep talk from Mitch. "This will not be okay until you face it," Mitch tells him, promising to be with him every step of the way in doing so.
Back to the mysterious Sarah Holt case, which is making Martin twitchy. "I hardly knew her," Sarah says of the woman she's accused of murdering. Did she kill the elderly woman to steal her expensive pendant? Well, someone smothered the woman. Alex wants Sarah's laptop, ordering Andrew to fetch it. Five weeks later, Andrew is the second person Mitch calls about the incident at the hotel, but he hesitates when Andrew asks him where he is.
Having very well established its characters and world last time, The Firm comes up with a third episode that fits with what we previously know about Mitch McDeere and his family. It's completely unsurprising to see Mitch want to do the right thing even if he's legally bound to keep his mouth shut, or for Ray and Mitch to have differing approaches about how to conduct business, or for Mitch to have a weak stomach at the sight of the dead bodies. We know the choices they'll make in this episode because we learned who they were before, more than the basic development of most pilots.
That leads us into something that, like the double-episode premiere, isn't necessarily novel but is pretty darn watchable. A freaked-out rich kid isn't new, and there wasn't really that much suspense about whether or not Calvin's confession was valid, given that he couldn't identify where Amy's body was located. The suspense came from if, and how, Mitch was going to get Calvin off the hook and Brian on the hook without torpedoing his career, and that was executed pretty well.
There's an interesting area where he's willing to step outside the lines of his profession to do what is morally right, but has his own apparent code of operation, because he won't go quite as far as his brother. I'm sure this won't be the last time we see them butt heads and it's honestly interesting when they do, because we can see both sides of the argument and at least for me, it's as if I'm comparing the two myself through those characters.
There's a subplot about Abby dealing with a cheating student, but it's fairly basic, and just doesn't have the same impact as the main storyline. Abby functions much better when she's helping Mitch, Ray and Tammy with their case; she proves that she really is her husband's equal. I know that she needs storylines like this to give her a life of her own, outside of the firm, but I hope that later ones are a bit more interesting.
With "Chapter Three," The Firm doesn't busy itself too much with its mythology, and instead continues to develop its characters and their philosophies. We'll see how the structure plays out: are we going to see more mythology next week to make up for the lack of it this time? Will we continue to get more flashforwards each week with additional pieces of that opening scene? I have no idea, but I'm still genuinely interested in who these people are and what makes them tick.
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.