“Maricela and the Desert” sees Lola preside over a case of a little girl with nobody and a murder with no body, while Mark and Luke head to Vegas.
This recap of All Rise Season 1, Episode 8, “Maricela and the Desert”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Lola (Simone Missick) might dance into work in All Rise Episode 8, but she certainly wasn’t dancing by the end of the day. Luckily a trying case for her means a great episode for us, and “Maricela and the Desert” might have been the season’s best, even if children unjustly separated from their parents is the lowest hanging of all the emotionally manipulable fruits.
Lola’s job was to determine if the separation of Maricela (Eva Ariel Binder) and her step-father Felix (Sebastian Sozzi) was, in fact, unjust, mostly by determining if Felix killed his missing but presumed-dead girlfriend. Emily (Jessica Camacho), still reeling from her own familial tear-up and living temporarily with her brother and his apparently evil children — when she opens a file late on, she finds “Stinky butt aunt Emily eats boogers” scrawled in crayon — is invested enough in Felix’s fate that she gets into multiple slanging matches with both Lola and her catty opposition, DDA Katie Malick (Kelly Frye).
Felix isn’t Mari’s father, so following his arrest for her mother’s murder she had been taken into foster care. By the time of “Maricela and the Desert”, he hasn’t seen her for four months, insists on doing so multiple times, and finds himself removed from the courtroom for her testimony, which implicates him. Some of this is heavy-handed, such as the social workers ordering Mari around and callously insisting she refer to Felix by his name and not as “daddy”, but most of it is effective — Jessica Camacho does great work in showing her revulsion at the idea of Mari testifying, even though she’s fit to do so, and that testimony, when it comes, is moving enough to dampen the eyes of the jury and the audience both.
Luckily, and predictably, Felix isn’t guilty. Mari’s mother, a drug addict, got a bit too high with a neighbor and overdosed; the neighbor then buried her remains and lied about the fateful night under oath by embellishing her story with Colombian slang that Felix would never have uttered. I wouldn’t say that All Rise Episode 8 ever really tries to suggest that this is any kind of twist. Felix’s innocence was always obvious; what was intriguing about the case was how it compelled the characters to behave in particular ways, from Emily challenging Lola, to Lola finding herself genuinely unsure of how best to proceed and turning to Lisa (Marg Helgenberger) for professional advice, to Lola once again having to confront her unusual upbringing in the care of a take-no-prisoners activist mother.
All this was nicely balanced in “Maricela and the Desert” by a knockabout B-plot in which Mark (Wilson Bethel) and Luke (J. Alex Brinson) ventured to Vegas in order to spring a witness who was integral to their trial of a young man thrown from a roof as part of a fraternity hazing ritual. Lola had arranged for Luke to shadow Mark so that the bailiff could get some sense of what being a prosecutor was like, but he mostly learned how to be unhinged and win at cards, which Mark was forced to do after visiting a local judge at a casino in the hopes of getting the witness released. He succeeded after a long, debauched night, but Lola’s warning about Mark and Vegas not agreeing with each proved prophetic. Whether or not the road trip has an impact on Luke’s legal career remains to be seen, but at least he got some decent advice about staying in Emily’s horizon.
All Rise Season 1, Episode 8 once again smartly matched its characters up in intriguing new ways, as well as delivering a heartstring-tugging core plot with more seriousness than usual. This show continues to impress and surprise with its flexibility in tone and highly likable characters, and if it took some shortcuts to get to its touching conclusion, I think it can be forgiven for doing so.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.