The series premiere of Conviction, starring Hayley Atwell (from the criminally underrated and dearly departed Agent Carter), arrives at just the right time with the right mix of ingredients: A disaffected former First Daughter with a brilliant legal mind and a penchant for partying; a former First Lady running for office (sound familiar?) who wants to keep secret her daughter’s wild-child ways; and an always-compelling premise that centers on a ragtag legal team investigating old (and, possibly, wrongfully resolved) criminal cases.
In other words, it’s got everything — a strong female lead, a talented supporting cast, political intrigue, criminal justice, and (already!) the makings of a will-they-or-won’t-they romance or two. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Allow me to introduce you to the key characters now taking up residence on your TV in the Monday Castle timeslot:
Meet the Players
- Hayes Morrison: We meet the aforementioned former First Daughter, played by Atwell, as she’s sitting in a jail cell. Well, she’s actually stretching and dancing a bit, like she hasn’t got a care in the world despite being busted for cocaine possession. You definitely get the feeling this isn’t her first visit. Hayes is beautiful and brilliant with an attitude to match, Conviction‘s equivalent of Scandal‘s Olivia Pope. She’s soon visited by a mystery man in an expensive suit, who turns out to be…
- D.A. Conner Wallace: My first thought upon seeing Eddie Cahill (CSI: NY) is that the dude has AGED, and not well. By the end of the episode, though, I once again had googly eyes for the guy formerly known as Tag (a name I never quite understood, tbh) who stole Rachel Green’s heart on Friends. Anyway, Cahill plays Wallace, a D.A. with political aspirations who cuts Hayes a deal. In exchange for her taking a job as head of NYC’s new Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), he won’t press charges and her arrest won’t be splashed all over the news. Their quick and (somewhat) flirty banter reveals the two have faced off in court many times, though their past probably goes deeper than that. But what’s a girl to do when faced with the prospect of prison or being blackmailed into a job she doesn’t want? She goes to work with Conner’s pre-assembled legal team at the CIU, including…
- Sam Spencer: Shawn Ashmore is apparently doomed to play characters who are ever the sidekick and never quite the leader, but he’s less thrilled to follow Hayes than he was to be Kevin Bacon’s no. 2 on The Following. All we really know about Sam is he was supposed to lead the CIU, but Conner bumped him in favor of Hayes. He convinces Sam to stay on with the promise he’ll be rewarded for his loyalty when makes a run for mayor in a few years. In fact, Hayes had accused Conner of creating the CIU to sell himself as a compassionate, electable leader.
- Maxine Bohen: The CIU’s lead investigator introduces herself by telling Hayes she didn’t vote for her father. “Neither did I,” Hayes replies, and this could be the beginning of a beautiful (and at times, acrimonious) friendship. Maxine’s the hardened, no-nonsense veteran of the bunch.
- Tess Larson: The Walking Dead‘s Emily Kinney plays the newbie paralegal who’s quick to spout off helpful statistics about eyewitness testimony — apparently, cross-race identification is especially problematic. She seems eager to prove herself, and we later learn she once gave testimony in a case that was later overturned on DNA evidence. Like Hayes, she seems to want some redemption of her own for her role in putting an innocent man in jail.
- Franklin “Frankie” Cruz: Manny Montana (Graceland) is in charge of forensics at the CIU, and he’s also an ex-con who spent time in prison for an undisclosed crime (Hayes outs him when she spots his old prison tattoos). Frankie’s own criminal past seems to influence his willingness to side with the defendant in the CIU’s first case, and we also get some pretty cool scenes in which he reenacts the crime in an attempt to disprove the prosecution’s timeline.
NEXT: Was justice already served in the CIU’s first case?