“The Necessity Defense” does a fine job of showcasing the advantages of this second season having freed Aaron, capably juggling multiple personal and professional storylines.
This recap of For Life season 2, episode 3, “The Necessity Defense”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I must admit, I was skeptical of how For Life would work with Aaron Wallace freed from prison, and the first couple of episodes of the second season, while perfectly respectable, didn’t necessarily do away with all my concerns. Luckily, “The Necessity Defense” was a pretty ideal example of how the show can work as a legal and a family drama, exploring systemic issues, the transition of long-time inmates back into civilian life, and the navigation of personal and professional responsibilities within a framework of great uncertainty and intense observation. It was a very solid outing.
The case of the week, given to Aaron by Spencer, concerned Alice, a school teacher who was facing twenty-five years in prison for pulling a gun on the healthcare providers who made her deathly-ill son wait on treatment for several hours for reasons that quickly turn out to have been predicated on racial stereotypes and assumptions. Having swerved public hospitals in the Bronx for a private, more upscale facility in the hope of receiving better care, Alice almost inadvertently doomed her son by seeking help in an environment more likely to inherently mistrust them.
Quickly, the case stopped being about Alice and became an indictment of a racially-biased healthcare system within which Black people are assumed to have a higher pain threshold and a greater propensity for drug addiction – Aaron wheeled out examples in court of similar issues to build his case, as well as following a trail of cash being funneled from grants into private hospitals rather than the public ones in the underprivileged communities such grants are purported to serve.
As well as Aaron makes his case, though, “The Necessity Defense” is wise to not retreat to the comforting climes of a happy ending. Alice, despite the circumstances, committed a crime, and before a jury of her “peers” assembled from the lily-white neighborhood in which the crime was committed, she would be found guilty of it. Her only option is to take a deal from the D.A. of five years inside, which with good behavior will become four, and Aaron opens up about his own experiences in prison to convince her to take the deal, despite the fact that Spencer would obviously prefer to offer her up as a martyr. This scene highlights what makes Aaron such an effective lawyer, and also that despite the fact his relationship with Spencer will never be anything other than contentious, they’re fighting for the same cause.
You have wonder if this entire season is going to be more about the fight for that cause rather than a fight against Aaron specifically, as the first season was, since in For Life season 2, episode 3, Aaron also seems to be assembling a coterie of allies in his fight against a lopsided justice system. Spencer isn’t his friend, but can provide him with cases and resources; Henry is a stalwart like-minded ally; even Aaron’s parole officer, Scotty, is framed in a different way in this episode, sitting in on a case and making little secret of the fact he’s a Black man being manipulated by his position into dragging down another Black man who is trying to better not just himself but the system. Aaron’s first hire in this episode is Charlotte, a white but extremely woke and motivated law student who has taken a gap year to work with Aaron for free, and his daughter Jasmine continues to hover around his office essentially advertising her father’s work on social media. She’s also the only person thus far to pick up on his obviously on-going adjustment to civilian life.
Aaron’s relationship with Marie is more complicated. As a healthcare worker, she doesn’t see Alice’s case as being as clear-cut as Aaron does, and she’s insistent that the lone wolf approach he had in prison isn’t going to work now that he’s living under her roof. It’s easy to imagine her being a bit needy and demanding in insisting that Aaron essentially ask her permission to take on certain cases, but I didn’t read the situation in that way; couples are supposed to share things, and since the very beginning of the first season, Aaron hasn’t been shy about involving Marie in his work. He’s entitled to the deciding vote, but she’s entitled to contribute to his decision-making, especially since, thanks to his curfew, he’s going to be conducting a lot of his investigating within the confines of the house.
The real lingering problem is Darius, since his specter and his clothes still haunt that house, and it’s something that neither Aaron nor Marie seem all that interested in addressing, preferring instead to just carry on as though the intervening years didn’t happen. You don’t need a relationship counselor to tell you that’s probably a bad idea, especially since Aaron is not-so-subtly grappling with the fact that Marie didn’t wait for him in the way that Alice’s husband insists he’ll wait for her. In fact, she put his stuff into storage and moved his best friend into the family home. As we saw last season, this wasn’t a rash decision, but it was still a decision that hasn’t been properly discussed yet.
This is all genuinely interesting material, and “The Necessity Defense” does a very respectable job of juggling it all. I might have had my suspicions about the show’s radical departure from its first season, but I’m very much coming around to the idea that this new clutch of episodes might even be a distinct improvement. Time will tell. At least Aaron’s got a lot more of it to himself now.
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