In “For Life,” rather than be yet another courtroom drama where the cases seem to only matter that episode, we get a show in which each case is a building block for the future.

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In “For Life,” rather than be yet another courtroom drama where the cases seem to only matter that episode, we get a show in which each case is a building block for the future.

Created By Hank Steinberg
Directed By George Tillman, Jr.
Written By Hank Steinberg
Aired (ABC) 2/12/2020
Genre(s) Crime, Drama
Introduced This Episode
Aaron Nicholas Pinnock
Dez O’Reilly Erik Jensen
Glen Maskins Boris McGiver
Marie Joy Bryant
Jasmine Tyla Harris
Safiya Indira Varma
Anya Mary Stuart Masterson

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Plot Overview

Aaron, nine years before the start of the series, ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and due to him not taking a plea deal that would have gotten him 13 years, he got life in prison. But, knowing he was wrongfully accused, and trying to make a way out of no way, Aaron studied for the bar and passed in Vermont. From there, he got it transferred to New York, thanks to an unseen character, former state senator, and public defender Henry Roswell, and now he is trying cases to build his credibility and work on his own case. One which aims to take down ADA Dez O’Reilly and Glen Maskins.

Alongside that, there is Aaron’s ex, Marie, raising their daughter, Jasmine, who we learn is pregnant at the end of the episode. Also, the warden, Safiya, who is helping Aaron, we learn her wife, Anya, is going against Glen Maskins for the role of Attorney General for the state of New York. Making it so Aaron’s case, and the cases he takes on, are part of a much bigger thing than his pursuit of freedom.



It Has Purpose

While, like most shows, “For Life” could easily drag out Aaron getting out of jail or continue once he gets out, right now, it is in that perfect place. He is hungry, we know there is a goal, and it is a lofty one. The kind you know will take more than one season, and that’s fine. For you can see the show has a purpose and an end game set in place rather than an ellipsis that could allow it to go on forever.

The Family Aspect

Aside from seeing a wrongfully convicted Black man defend himself and likely get out with time, another important aspect is that he is doing this to be there for his daughter and his Black girlfriend who would have been his wife. Now, I know there is always the push for making things universal and relatable to all, but there is just something about the imagery and what drives Aaron beyond, naturally, not wanting to be in jail, that drives the need to commit to the show.

On The Fence

Aaron Bending The Law To His Will

In the episode, Aaron has a note forged to help the case he is on, and while there is a part of you which appreciates him making a way out of no way, there is also the need to question if illegal activities are the only way he can win? For the long game here is to weaken and embarrass O’Reilly and Maskins. However, working with white power advocates, and showing him getting lucky, like when he got that confession, that isn’t going to help things in the long run.

Feeling Iffy About The Political Aspect

But what also won’t help the show is the political aspect. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful driving force that will show an aspect to the prison industrial complex and how it works. However, there is a need to worry that Glen, like Anya, through Safiya, will be humanized in such a way that doesn’t hold him fully accountable, nor O’Reilly. Rather, in an attempt to seem fair, it will bring up the concept of compromise, doing what needs to be done for progress, and ultimately, that conversation could butt heads with Aaron’s goal and overly complicate things.

Making it so, ultimately, in trying to say a lot, the show could potentially drown itself by trying to show all sides, humanize each piece, and make Aaron out to be this person who is justifiably angry but using others as fodder so he has a chance in hell to make it out of prison. Ultimately bringing about the idea that in his journey out, he’ll be a hero but once the goal is accomplished, he might be no better than the men he wanted to take down.


First Impression: Optimistic

“For Life” has far more going for it than potentially against it, and as long as it doesn’t drag things out nor rush the process, it should be fine. However, it is in finding that balance between Aaron’s story and those who are either for or against him and what they bring, that will determine the long term value and the longevity of the show. For Aaron’s story deserve to be seen to the end but the theatrics and politics and how the politicians are fleshed out, could make a show with a lot of heart be revealed to not have a heart of flesh but one of metal.


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It Has Purpose - 90%
The Family Aspect - 89%
Aaron Bending The Law To His Will - 75%
Feeling Iffy About The Political Aspect - 74%


"For Life," as long as it doesn't overstay its welcome nor rush the process, could be one of ABC most interesting dramas in a long time.

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