Posted by: Author | May 14, 2020

“For Life”- a Review

I’ve been watching the show “For Life” on ABC and the season finale was on Tuesday night. It was a tough show to watch in many ways. The way the prisoners were treated was one of those hard parts, but even worse, to me, was the way the legal authorities used their positions for their own gain as well as to keep convicted felons in more than just lockdown, but in a state of perpetual anxiety and helplessness.

It’s my understanding this show is based on the real life situation of Isaac Wright, Jr. who did study law and eventually get admitted to the bar. He also has helped free many wrongfully convicted men. When I researched him, I learned that the prosecutor on his case- Nicholas Bissell- was eventually arrested, tried, and convicted for corruption and for engaging in unethical conduct and obtaining tainted verdicts using coerced testimony. The coward/bully then killed himself.  I guess he knew he couldn’t handle prison like so many he sent there.

When I first started watching the show, I felt like all the villains (the corrections officers and prosecutors) were one dimensional with not one redeeming quality. The new warden (a good person) wanted to reform the prison but was thwarted at every turn by the powers that be. The prior warden was an ass, the man running for attorney general was unethical and a jerk, the prosecutor under him assigned to the protagonist’s case was evil and scowled all the time. One of the corrections officers was running drugs into the facility and got away with it for far too long. I don’t know where they got the actors to play these roles, but they did a good job on casting as they all had smug, unkind, and mean facial expressions. They made my blood boil.

It almost seems as if the villains were caricatures of people- taking all the bad and not one good thing about any of them. When I realized the real prosecutor in Mr. Wright’s case went to prison for his conduct, I could see where the writers of the episodes thought this was the way to represent the characters. But is anyone truly wicked all the time? With no redeeming qualities at all? They were shown as such here- I think the viewer is savvy enough to have fully fleshed out characters in a show that has so much to say about the judicial system. It would have been better- in my humble opinion- to make all the characters as fully rounded as the new warden, the hero, and his friends and family. It would make for a more nuanced show.

And the poor protagonist. What can I say? I got so upset watching how he was treated and the extent the above villains set out to destroy him. He couldn’t catch one break. They plotted and schemed to deny him due process at every turn. As a lawyer, it eventually annoyed me as it made me wonder what the hell was so important about ONE man to have all these people risk their careers to keep him down and in prison. It started to make no sense.

But I kept watching. It was compelling in a way that made me sick. I’ve been part of the legal community for many, many years and I know there’s a lot of corruption in places but this over the top series was a bit nauseating. I had to turn the channel many times or fast forward past parts because the pure, unadulterated evil emanating from some of the characters (with no explanation of why keeping one man down was so vital) made me mad, both for the character in prison as well as for the way the show portrayed almost everyone in a position of authority as one-note evil.

Then we come to the last episode of the season.  I was hoping for more closure but I see they are wanting to stretch this series out for at least another season. The main thing that annoyed me about this last episode- besides the evil attorney general making a speech about the protagonist in a church-!!!- is the protagonist’s daughter went into labor at the penultimate moment before he was going to court. He was told about it and he asked if going into labor five weeks early was safe. The response? “Oh that’s normal for first pregnancies.”  Um. No. It’s not. It’s actually pretty alarming. Babies need lung development and that’s the last thing to happen- even one extra day in utero can mean a lot with the lungs. It made me wonder if her labor was tossed in as one more moment of angst (in a show filled with angst and unfairness for this protagonist) for him- then to be told it’s all okay, it’s normal-  it seemed a bit overkill to me. Oh, and when they showed the baby, they said he weighed like 7 lbs, 9 ounces. My, my. Five weeks early and weighs as much as my grandson did and he was nine days late. I know that’s a petty nitpick, but by that time, I was over the whole thing.

Not sure I’ll watch the next season as this show is excellent and has a lot to say, but it causes me to have minor conniptions. I’m rooting for the prisoners to get back the warden that cared, for the protagonist to get out of prison and the evil villains to get their due, but I don’t think I can deal with more shenanigans from the characters in positions of authority. They truly make me want to get inside the television and smack them.


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