The courtroom, as it should be, is the draw. Written by Kelley and Ted Humphrey, the early episodes follow a pattern, whereby Haller cleans through smaller, seemingly unwinnable cases involving normal, cash-strapped clients accused of small offenses intertwined with the major throughline, the Elliott trial. The combination serves two purposes: In the minor proceedings we witness Haller’s quick, observational skills and his overwhelming charm (in one instance, he bluffs a flash drive as evidence to clear his client). With Elliott, the bigger headache, Haller’s insecurities rise to the surface, especially as Elliott seems intent on handing his attorney the worst cards possible. The later episodes then meld McPherson’s dogged pursuit of a wealthy human trafficking suspect and Haller’s quest to rebuild his family. Each storyline allows the defense attorney’s smug gruff to fade, while grounded elements spring forward.
Nearly every component of this legal drama—including its lovable characters, fascinating cases, gleeful fourth-wall breaks by Haller explains his strategy, whiz-bang pacing, and bright, clean cinematography—makes for easily digestible episodes, especially as Gorham and Campbell play larger roles. The two add dependable, workmanlike melodramatic beats to otherwise subdued characters, while the series cleverly maneuvers for an anti-police (Haller doesn’t trust them at all) bent, and openly talks about addiction and recovery. The show also has enough backstories—Lorna’s desire to return to law school, Angus’ debt to his former gang, and a case, from long ago, that continues to gnaw at Haller—to not only create a sturdy standalone season, but leave enough breadcrumbs for a possible second season.
If one component of “The Lincoln Lawyer” leaves you uneasy, it’s how some of the dialogue was clearly written by barely online writers. Elliott worries about winning the court of public opinion, namely Twitter, and Haller’s daughter complains about the “woke police” (people aghast at her father defending a wealthy, potential murderer). These play like bids for relevance, but arrive at such jarring spaces, they’re akin to stray lines left over from multiple revisions rather than a cohesive take. Even so, between Garcia-Rulfo’s attuned performance, the sharp legal wordplay, and the courtroom gamesmanship (every court scene delivers a spike of adrenaline), “The Lincoln Lawyer” is a clear streaming win that could’ve easily played just as well on network television.
Ten episodes screened for review.