Presumed Innocent – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

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Presumed Innocent Episode 1 begins with Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor, talking to a jury and espousing the duties of a prosecutor and the jury. We then see Rusty playing baseball with his son at home when he gets a call from a man named Raymond. He gets some disturbing news. He tells his wife Barbara that a woman named Carolyn Polhemus was murdered.

Rusty drives to the scene of the crime, Carolyn’s house. He sees a woman’s corpse, tied up with ropes in a compromising position. Back at the office, Raymond, the District Attorney, puts Rusty in charge of the investigation. He gets it over Tommy Molto and Nico Della Guardia, the latter of which is running an election against Raymond at the moment. Rusty kicks off the investigation immediately and asks for the lab results to come directly to him.

At home, Barbara hears a news report of Carolyn’s death. She was, like Rusty, a prosecutor. Barbara then sees Rusty watching the news, where Nico is already talking about protection for prosecutors and comforts him. But she says she can’t come to the memorial. At the memorial, Raymond accuses Nilo of using Carolyn’s murder for political gain.

While the event takes place, Rusty learns from Raymond that Carolyn had a son. The news affects him enough that he has to leave. Later, Raymond asks about the case and Rusty tells him about a possible connection with one of the cases Carolyn had prosecuted.

Back home, Rusty looks through the photos and autopsy report. The next day he visits Kumagai, the medical examiner nicknamed Painless, who has a penchant for being rude. He says there were no signs of sexual assault.

We then see flashes of the Bunny Davis court case, where Carolyn accuses Liam Reynolds of drugging and tying up a 26-year-old girl named Bunny Davis. The girl was tied in the same way Carolyn was. Tommy Molto informs Nico about the connection.

Rusty and his colleague Rigo wait by a prison, where they have come to visit Liam Reynolds. Rusty says Liam could have hired someone outside to do it. Rigo mentions that Carolyn must have been killed by a fire poker since hers was missing. They meet Liam, who says Carolyn ruined his life but doesn’t reveal much else.

Raymond tells the press that Carolyn put away a lot of bad people and one of them could have wanted revenge. Nico tells the press that if he’s elected, he’ll make sure people are safe. Rusty meanwhile meets with Carolyn’s ex-husband. He says they didn’t really keep in touch and he doesn’t know much about her personal life. Rusty is also introduced to Michael, Carolyn’s son.

Rusty gives his team, all of whom worked with Carolyn, an encouraging speech. They discuss the pathology report and Tommy Molto calls him out for being incompetent while Rusty accuses him of leaking everything to Nico.

Later, Rusty ends up in front of the press and passionately advocates for Raymond while calling Nico out for just stalling, hence being nicknamed Delay. At home, Barbara worries about Rusty taking on the case. What happens if they find out that Rusty and Carolyn were having an affair? Rusty says he has to do this to ensure Raymond gets re-elected. Barbara, however, thinks that this could break them.

We then see Rusty swimming, intercut with scenes of his affair with Carolyn. The scene shifts to a therapist’s office where Rusty discusses his affair. He says that while his life with Barbara was filled with worries, things with Carolyn were pure. He then mentions how he always felt Carolyn was drawn to his power and not just him. A flashback shows the two of them sitting at a bar and beginning to touch each other. Rusty tells his therapist that in bed, Carolyn would keep asking, “Does Barbara do this for you?”

Sometime later, Nico Della Guardia wins the election for state’s attorney. Rusty and his family watch his speech and Rusty says that Tommy Molto is now chief deputy prosecutor, not him. He might need to look for a new job. At night, Rusty thanks Barbara for sticking with him. Barbara says she’s doing it to preserve their family. But she warns that Rusty needs to stop having feelings for Carolyn.

The next morning, Rigo greets Rusty at work. He then finds Raymond and they reluctantly go in for a meeting with Nico and Tommy. Nico says that Rusty’s caseload will go to Tommy and they begin to talk about Carolyn’s case. Tommy reveals that Rusty’s fingerprints were found in Carolyn’s bedroom and asks whether they were romantically involved.

Rusty says their personal relationship is not relevant to the case, which is pretty much an admission at that point. Tommy then throws up another bomb at the end of Episode 1 of Presumed Innocent — Carolyn was pregnant. 

The Episode Review

Episode 1 of Presumed Innocent is a bit of a mixed bag. At first, the episode just jumps into the world of Rusty Sabich, involving a colleague’s brutal murder, a related case from the past, and a tense election race in Chicago. Through a quick succession of scenes, snappily edited together, we are taken through an ensemble of different characters and their positions. It’s a lot to take in and then all of a sudden, the pace shifts. As Rusty and his wife deal with Carolyn’s death and his affair, things abruptly slow down.

The lens shifts from an intense, legal drama to the sensuous and torrid affair with Carolyn. The episode leaves the fast-moving activity behind and suddenly dives into the psychology of Rusty and Carolyn. All this only to abruptly shift back again and throw Rusty into a whirlwind where his secret comes out. Jake Gyllenhaal is certainly bringing Rusty to life but the show’s writing and editing could use with some stability.


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