The legal thriller’s major flaw is that it can easily get bogged down by minutiae. There are a lot of moving aspects to a lawsuit, particularly in the phases before it reaches the courtroom, which is the most exciting, cinematic part. Sometimes, the lead-up to the big trial scene we’re all waiting for can feel leaden; the challenge is to make a bunch of men looking at paper somehow feel electrifying.

Luckily for us, and unluckily for Rusty Sabich, tension abounds here since there is seemingly no end to the amount of information he has hidden or lied about over his relationship with Carolyn. As “Discovery” opens, Rusty is stabbing furiously at his phone. His wife, Barbara, comes out to ask him what’s going on, and after showing her a mysterious text, he admits to having visited Carolyn on the night of her murder, which makes him look very, very bad. Meanwhile, Raymond is having dreams that Rusty killed Carolyn. Lorraine is worried about his well-being, as she should be, judging by his now-we’re-really-screwed resignation when Rusty tells him about his whereabouts on the night of the murder. Whether or not he’s a murderer, Rusty is addicted to looking like one. His lies look like the truth, and his truths all look like lies!

Tabloid journalists follow Barbara to her job at an art gallery, where her boss puts her on one of those you’re-fired-but-not-really “leaves,” the same kind Molto put Rusty in. She could’ve been much nicer about it, but no matter because Barbara finds someone else to be compassionate toward her, all right: a beautiful, young bartender who is nice and makes martinis, which is exactly what she needs in her life. After being encouraged to pursue him by Lorraine, she asks, “Are you seriously suggesting I engage in a little extramarital revenge sex with a bartender I just met?” Yes, Barbara! That’s what I would suggest, at least. Lorraine is a more responsible friend who says all she is suggesting is that Barbara take care of herself.

As Rigo seizes every opportunity to tear Molto a new one in the P.A. office even though she’s technically off the case, Rusty meets with his anonymous caller. It’s pouring rain in Chicago as he arrives at the agreed-upon location, an abandoned warehouse. This sequence is one of the show’s strongest so far — the shots are wider and the camera is more stable, which, coupled with the clandestine aspect of the meeting, is enough to put us on the edge of our seat. Crouched in a corner, his face obstructed by his hair, is Michael, Carolyn’s teenage son (!), who has pictures and videos of Rusty at his mother’s house the night of her murder. Rusty doesn’t take this very well, to put it mildly. Michael’s fury is of a piece with his innocence: He doesn’t realize the photographs implicate him as well. If he was there to take the pictures, that means Rusty wasn’t the only one there that night.

Michael has already handed these pictures over to the police and spoken with Molto and Della Guardia, who, in keeping with their slimy-weasley disposition, have been holding off on sharing this evidence with Raymond and Rusty until the last possible minute. At their status conference with Judge Lyttle, where we are also introduced to Mya Winslow, the assistant lawyer Raymond has brought in, we learn that Molto and Della Guardia are also charging Rusty with obstruction of justice. To make their case, they are calling both Raymond and Dr. Rush, Rusty’s therapist, as witnesses — summoning Dr. Rush is especially bad for Rusty not only because of doctor-patient privilege, which may give the appearance of information withholding, but also because she clearly hates his guts. Not until Raymond brings up Michael’s pictures does Molto admit to having them, which ticks off Judge Lyttle.

If the story is intent on having us doubt Rusty — more and more, it looks like he might actually have committed this murder — it is also determined to clear his image as a father. At home, he sets dinner on the table, the second time in this episode he’s been shown doing domestic chores: We see him pack his kids’ lunches that same morning. So far, the dinner table at the Sabiches’ has functioned as a family church of sorts; it’s where sins are confessed. Jaden wants to know what evidence the prosecution has, and Rusty tells them, with unnerving firmness, that Carolyn’s DNA is all over his car, his DNA is all over her house, he was obsessed with her (which is clear from their texts), and she was pregnant with his child. Not to mention that he would have known how to make it look as if Liam had done it since he was one of the lawyers on the Davis case. “All the evidence, no matter how circumstantial, points to me,” he explains.

Kyle suggests that if Rusty were to take a plea bargain, he would face a reduced sentence rather than potentially spend the rest of his life in prison. This freaks Rusty out so much that it made me wonder if the kid — who, as Barbara reminds him, is a child whose entire life has suddenly become unrecognizable — is on to something. But it’s genuinely moving when Kyle apologizes to his father and they recognize how scary the situation is for all of them. The show could do with more of this kind of moment: Part of the tragedy of Rusty’s involvement in this case is that it exceeds the boundaries of his own personal and professional life to splatter on the people he loves most, who don’t deserve this pain. Compared with the vague, lustful love he had for Carolyn, these moments of domestic conflict feel much more real and urgent.

I mentioned earlier that I’d like to know more about where Molto gets his horrific attitude, and the following scene, which places him across from Della Guardia in a bar booth, seems to acknowledge that curiosity. The rivalry between Della Guardia and Raymond makes sense since they’re political opponents, but it’s harder to figure out what river feeds the well of pure hatred that Molto has for Rusty. Della Guardia suggests they drop the obstruction-of-justice charge to avoid looking like they have it out for Rusty irrationally (they do). Molto protests the idea, and even Della Guardia is moved to comment on what he calls his narcissistic and persecution complexes, the combination of which he calls a “duplex.” As he continues to point out Molto’s flaws in a tone I would never use with any of my friends, he mentions that the first thing Molto said when he was made chief deputy was “The girls are sure gonna like me now.” This makes me think that maybe the reason Molto hates Rusty so badly is that he’s butthurt because of Carolyn; his demeanor reeks of the juvenile cruelty of rejected men. That’s just a theory. We’ll see. In any case, the bar scene ends with Della Guardia reminding Molto to focus on facts and evidence rather than himself.

By the time Raymond tasks Mya with building out Rusty’s narrative for a potential testimony, I’m hungry for some facts and evidence myself. What did happen between Rusty and Carolyn? Can Rusty stand behind a single cogent narrative?

I have to admit I found it a little disappointing that, as Rusty talks about what he loved most about Carolyn, her most remarkable quality was her “maternal instinct,” the care with which she treated children. Representing kids who have been through unspeakable trauma, she is gentle and kind, the opposite of the sexy, tough woman she is underneath Rusty in various rooms, offices, and floors. If we knew her better, we might see how these two sides of her come together to make a complete person, but as she’s presented in fits and starts, the show seems to suggest that her compassion is surprising, as if a woman can’t be both ambitious and kind.

Mya is the first to push the questions about their emotional, rather than carnal, attachment, and as the episode moves toward its end, it’s the emotional side of Rusty that lingers. Looking through her house with Raymond, he remembers Carolyn with genuine sweetness and longing. In moments like these, though he has managed to create a holy mess for himself, I start believing Rusty again and want him to find out the truth. Well, truth may not be the exact word; Raymond wants him to drop the notion of the second sperm sample in the Davis case, warning him that bringing up the possibility of another suspect means delivering one. But Rusty doesn’t care. What he needs is someone to accuse, a direction to point his finger.

To Rusty’s credit, when we hear him talking to Carolyn over the phone, he sounds desperate and insistent but not unlike a regular annoying ex-boyfriend. After rifling through a random assortment of empty boxes of Apple products for his iPad, Rusty finally gets to see the photos and videos Michael took; they too point to an ordinary enough interaction. Rusty and Carolyn are even laughing in some of them. You may think with some relief that things are looking up for Rusty, but they get a lot, lot worse. The last picture in the packet shows Kyle riding his bicycle toward Carolyn’s house. We’re two for two on sons making bad decisions here … they take after their fathers.

• Before Rusty gets to Michael’s pictures, we briefly see Barbara at Kyle’s baseball game, where a woman we haven’t seen before gives her a weird look. What could that be about?

• I do find myself wishing Rusty’s flashback memories of Carolyn were more organized somehow; they don’t seem to follow any consistent pattern. It makes sense that he would remember their moments together when he’s at her house, and in that case, those snippets are effective in heightening the emotional tension of the scene. But at other times, they seem to interrupt rather than intensify the tension — for example, when, at the very beginning of the episode, we are in and out of the memory of when they confess their love for each other. I wish we could spend more time in that moment. It is so pivotal to any relationship!

• I like the way the show does its own thing with the material from the novel rather than rely on it too heavily. By setting the story in the present, it can throw obstacles in Rusty’s way that wouldn’t have existed in 1986 — for example, a foreboding text on his phone. Put side by side, the three versions of Presumed Innocent differ widely, both in their approach to the story and in the sequence of events. I’m familiar with the film and the novel and still have no clue where this version is going!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *