Gun control vs. gun ownership stories are hard to pull off on television.
Stories involving this hot-button issue usually end up horribly slanted, with one side being depicted as completely evil or ridiculous.
Chicago Justice Season 1 Episode 9 wasn't entirely bias-free, but it provided a fresh angle and an interesting story that made it far more powerful than most stories about gun issues.
Making the left-wing professor so rabidly anti-gun that he harassed a student who didn't share his political views was a risky move. Americans are so polarized politically that many fans of the generally liberal Dick Wolf might have been turned off.
It worked, though, because it brought up questions that aren't often addressed on television.
Mr. Malone: She did have a run-in with another group of students. There was disciplinary action, but the charges were dropped.
Antonio: What was it about?
Mr. Malone: She was part of a group on campus. The Madison Club. They talked politics and handed out pocket Constitutions. Apparently it offended some people. And why not? After all, it was written by dead white slaveowners.
For one thing, "Comma" demonstrated just how far apart people with different opinions on political issues are nowadays.
Kennedy and her father, and to some extent Stone and Jeffries too, saw liberals as ridiculously angry that previous generations didn't hold the same attitudes towards racism that 21st century people hold, while Professor Hall saw students who disagreed with his views as violent hotheads who didn't care about others' rights.
It's no wonder someone ended up dead. Both sides saw the other as evil and inhumane and themselves as righteous.
Antonio: I still don't get why you ran.
Abigail: The clanging.
Abigail: In prison there was this guard named Victor. He'd drag this metal chain across the floor.
I really wish more had been made out of Abigail's PTSD and her inability to cope with having been wrongfully imprisoned for murder.
Abigail had what appeared to be a psychotic episode while being questioned and described being unable to sleep because she heard the clanging of a prison guard dragging a chain across the floor.
Later, she was pushed to testify against her friend and did so despite her misgivings, only to be accused of murder all over again and almost pushed into another PTSD flashback as a result.
Abigail: Have you ever put someone away, Mr. Stone, who you weren't sure was 100% guilty?
Abigail: Do you think about them?
Stone: I do.
Abigail: What if I can't do it?
Stone: Then there's a chance Kennedy's killer will go unpunished.
I thought there were serious ethical questions surrounding the SA's office encouraging Abigail to testify. She clearly was unwell and had recently spent time in a mental hospital, and the prosecutors had to have known there was a risk the defense would use her past against her.
Yet she wasn't warned about this possibility and was more or less coerced into testifying. She was told that if she didn't, Kennedy's killer could go free, implying that that result would be her fault.
That kind of manipulation might convince anyone to testify, but I'd think someone with PTSD would be even more susceptible.
In any case, Abigail should have been informed of the risks to herself and was not, and to make matters worse, the defense attorney accused her loudly of having been guilty of the murder she had been acquitted of, over and over, despite multiple objections from Stone and a few orders from the judge to stop.
Then it was over and what had been done to Abigail was never mentioned again. Sure, at the end Jeffries tried to get her out of trouble with the Spanish authorities, but that was because she'd been helpful in convicting Bethany. Nobody even thought about what Abigail's help might have cost her personally or how she was doing now.
I did appreciate the way the writers touched upon the problem of whether innocent until proven guilty really works as intended, though. The SA's office mainly assumed Abigail was guilty of the previous murder, and when Dawson and Valdez disagreed they were met with misogynistic comments.
Valdez was accused of not knowing the facts and Dawson was presumed to be distracted by how sexy Abigail looked in photos taken at the time of the case.
And yet Abigail was never convicted of a crime and her PTSD stemmed from her pre-trial detention.
I enjoyed the direction the story went, but I almost wished Chicago Justice had gone the predictable route of having Abigail be accused of murder so that it could look more deeply at the problems around being falsely accused of a heinous crime.
I thought the case itself had a few weak points that Stone could have done a better job of hitting, though I enjoyed the courtroom drama.
For one thing, I was confused by Bethany's claim that she didn't know Kennedy since Professor Hall said that Bethany was a good student and Kennedy was a hothead. I guess they were in different sections of his class, but that wasn't clear to me.
In addition, Stone could have hammered Bethany harder on her claim of self-defense. She said that she knew Kennedy was going to kill her because only crazy people have guns. Stone left that weird statement alone rather than asking whether Kennedy actually threatened her or why she had pulled out the gun in the first place.
Bannon: A well regulated Militia, comma, being necessary to the security of a free State, comma, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Stone: Of all the amendments, that's not the one I'd think you'd quote in a bar.
Bannon: If it weren't for that damn second comma, we might not be here.
Stone: That and Justice Scalia.
Bannon: May he rest in peace.
Despite these weaknesses, though, I enjoyed the banter between Stone and the opposing attorney.
One of my favorite aspects of this show is that the prosecutors and defense attorneys almost always put aside their differences to have a drink when all is said and done. For them, their passionate arguments in court don't translate to anger in their personal lives, and I always find that interesting.
Veteran actor Richard Masur is always great to watch, too, and I loved how he broke the 2nd Amendment down for Stone at the bar. His courtroom tactics annoyed me because he seemed overly aggressive, but I still loved watching him.
I wish, though, that Stone would stop with the 11th-hour questioning that leads to a confession on the stand. The Perry Mason routine is getting old and it doesn't really fit a serious drama of this caliber.
What did you think of "Comma?" Did you think the drama came naturally from the characters, or did you feel like the politics were too heavy-handed? Did anyone surprise you during this episode?
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can watch Chicago Justice online if you missed anything.