Let’s meet the Conviction Integrity Unit.
In a nutshell, Hayes Morrison (Haley Atwell - Agent Carter) is a former first daughter, not so reformed bad girl and a brilliant lawyer. After a night partying, Hayes is blackmailed to head up the newly formed Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) by DA Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill - Under the Dome) so she doesn’t hurt her mom’s senate run. ADA Sam Spencer (Shawn Ashmore - The Following), paralegal Tess Larson (Emily Kinney - The Walking Dead), forensics expert Frankie Cruz (Manny Montana - Graceland), and lead investigator Maxine Bowen (Merrin Dungey - Once Upon a Time) round out the team.
But, unlike other crime-solving television dramas, the team on Conviction aims to exonerate people of crimes and prove their innocence.
Like all procedural dramas, there’s a case of the week, and Conviction is no different. This week’s case is Odell Dwyer, a high school football player convicted of murdering his then girlfriend, Anna Ramos, eight years earlier. Odell has no alibi, and Anna's journal entries show her fear of him.
The Conviction team has five days to prove otherwise.
Only it’s hard to be a team when the person leading it has zero interest in her job. Hayes’ disinterest pits her against her team and gives us zero reason to root for her.
Maxine calls out Hayes about an evidence bag she found in the trash. Hayes shockingly outs herself to her team and lets them know she took the job because of a cocaine bust.
With the evidence not going the way the team hopes, Hayes suggests dropping the case in favor of another "good-looking Black poster boy." Enter Odell’s mom. Oops. Odell’s mom threatens to go to the press and Hayes’ mom if the CIU drops the case, which they don't.
When the few leads the CIU has don’t pan out, and they discover Odell wanted to buy a gun from his steroid dealer, Hayes tries getting herself fired by pretending to snort cocaine in front of Wallace. Apparently, the two have a romantic past, and we’ll be watching that play out against the backdrop of the cases.
Hayes attends her mother’s fundraiser and learns that her mom orchestrated her deal. Clearly, she has some emotional baggage concerning her parents, and growing up in the public eye didn’t help their relationship. Her mom tells Hayes that she loves her and that she believes her, and we finally see the first chink in Hayes’ armor.
Her mom’s pep talk must’ve done some good because it leads Hayes to visit Odell for the first time -- something Frankie called her out on earlier. Odell owns up to his mistakes and insists he just needs a chance and that she is that chance.
The first real break in the case comes when Hayes and Maxine pay a visit to Officer McNally’s ex-wife in search of his notes from the original eyewitness statement. He’s uncooperative, to say the least, and lights the files on fire. The team loses out on the eyewitness but learns the person who linked Odell to the crime scene was fired for evidence contamination.
The team now focuses on who Anna was writing about in her journal if it wasn’t Odell. Another possible angle is to see if the time of her death was correct or not.
Hayes notices the same man in several photos taken at the Ramos family home. His name is Hector Esparia -- initials HE -- and could be the “he” Anna wrote about in her journal.
Hayes and Maxine look for Esparia and, instead, find his scared ex-girlfriend, and she shows them a gun she found and hid from Hector. Meanwhile, Frankie and Tess use a dead pig (ew!) to prove Anna died after dark, not before dark like the police earlier claimed.
Odell’s conviction is vacated, and he’s released from prison and tearfully reunites with his mother.
Hayes seems to come around by the end of the episode. She no longer sees her job as her prison but as a way to earn respect and warns Wallace that she’s coming after his cases, too.
As with most ensembles, we learn about everyone but the main character in bits and pieces. What we know about the team so far is that Frankie has a boyfriend in prison; Tess witnessed the murder and rape of her aunt, and her testimony ultimately proved the person convinced was innocent; nothing personal was learned about Sam or Maxine, but she did blackmail McNally into retiring by using video footage of him burning files.
It’s a very light How to Get Away with Murder minus the murder. Unfortunately, it’s also missing the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat. But, we all need an easy show to watch, something that won’t consume us throughout the week with never-ending speculations, and it's a likable show with an equally likable cast.
There were a few bumps in the pilot, and, now that Hayes is on board with her job, we’re hoping her character mellows out a bit while keeping her sarcastic. Time will tell if Hayes and Wallace have that thin line between love and hate chemistry.
Tune in next week to see Hayes make good on her promise to go after one of Wallace’s cases.