Murphy and the gang are back, and they're between a rock and a hard place.
After Nia's "offer" to Murphy on In the Dark Season 1 Episode 13, most of In The Dark Season 2 Episode 1 was spent boxing in Murphy, Jess, and Felix and applying enough pressure so they had no choice but to fall in line.
Between that and a new murder mystery, the season has gotten off to an intriguing start.
The premiere picked up where the finale left off with Murphy at the hospital recovering from the car accident she caused to get away from Dean.
Nia running into Murphy's mother on her way to the room with unappealing hospital food, and their seemingly pleasant exchange heightened the intensity of the situation. Whether Murphy likes it or not, Nia has immersed herself in Murphy's life, and they're inextricably connected going forward.
The series gets kudos for having their reckless, more often than not, protagonist viscerally opposed to Nia's offer. Murphy wasn't even considering it.
After everything she endured, she wanted no parts of Nia or her operation. She was as content as she could be hanging up her detective hat and never revisiting that life.
Her motives were to find out what happened to Tyson and bring his killer to justice.
For so many other works, it's contrived how the piece drags a protagonist into more trouble, and their reluctance feels more performative than genuine. It's not the case here.
Joy: Oh boy, I think a woman just hit on me?
Joy: It happens a lot. I must have a look or something.
Nia poses a threat, and Murphy knows based on her previous experience. She has a legitimate reason hoping to get from beneath Nia's reach before it happens.
Of course, Felix and Jules have changed the game for them. It was a chance that Murphy could avoid taking Nia's offer and not have any real repercussions. It was still a bold risk, but it could've worked.
Once Felix and Jess took that money, it was a wrap. Nia knew it too, which is why allowing them to keep it was a power play and showed that she has the potential to be a few steps ahead of Murphy and the gang even if we haven't yet experienced the full breadth of why she's so terrifying.
Felix: Let's weigh the pros and cons.
Jess: OK, con: do you have any idea what happens to people who launder money?
Murphy: Uh, yeah. They end up like Max.
Jess: No, way worse. You guys, I've seen Ozark. It's like really bad.
Murphy: The show?
Jess: No! What happens to people who launder money. We could die.
Felix: Fair. Now let's weigh the pros.
Murphy was reasonably upset with Felix and Jess too, and it was a refreshing change of pace from the two friends getting frustrated with how Murphy takes unnecessary risks.
It was smart to spend most of the first hour trying to get the friends to get the money back to Nia without any obligation. It heightened the stakes.
Felix succumbing to NOT being the voice of reason may prove to be interesting down the road as the season progresses. While we knew he had some issues with his familial life and how his mother perceives him, it didn't seem like a reason for him to compromise himself to appease her.
He embraced the idea of laundering money through Guiding Hope like it was as simple as adding a silent partner to the organization instead of willingly ingratiating themselves into a criminal enterprise with a killer.
Felix's new role in this is surprising and a bit jarring, but if given the option between him and Jess, it works best for him. Jess is more of an enabler of foolishness rather than an instigator of it.
But she may have her hands full. She has to deal with an impulsive Murphy, who will likely be battling several things after the recent developments of the murder investigation and this situation. But she also has to handle Felix, who is so woefully ill-equipped for the criminal life that he could cost them their lives at every turn.
On their way to deliver the bag full of money, Felix not only hit a man with his car, but he jumped right into wanting to throw some of this blood money at the man to resolve the issue. He poorly negotiated everything, too, then resorted to having Jess use her savings to make up the difference.
Joy: Please tell me you're done with all this crime stuff.
Murphy: No, I actually decided I'm going to become a detective. I'm going to put a little Sherlock Holmes hat on Pretzel, and we're going to solve murders.
Felix was something else during this hour. What that is, is yet to be determined.
Trying to give Nia the money back was better than attempting to hand it over and turn her in. Even if we're excluding the recent development with Dean, they all knew that there were dirty cops in Nia's pocket.
It was foolish of them to think they would've stood a chance, let alone survived, turning Nia over to the authorities. It had a chance of backfiring spectacularly.
And these are the type of things we can probably anticipate for the rest of the season. They're not criminal masterminds or esteemed outlaws, but rather decent people who are in over their heads.
Nia's newest second in command, Sam, was a hell of a reality check for them.
She's a baddie, and she's already terrifyingly good at it. She seems pragmatic, maybe even more so than Nia, so if she's the one who will be keeping them in line, they'd better mind their p's and q's.
Dean: Nia, it's me. I need your help.
Nia: Oh, you want my help. That's cute.
Dean: I don't understand.
Nia: You killed Tyson, who was one of my own, and you lied to me about it. This relationship was built on trust, so we don't have a relationship anymore. Don't call me again.
Dean: Wait, wait, wait. I'm sorry! I panicked. Look, you know that I am all that Chloe has, and the thought of her losing both of her parents... I did what any father would do.
Nia: Uh uh. Don't try me.
Nia's desperate, and she doesn't have many cards on the table right now, so she's willing to put most of her eggs into this Guiding Hope basket to get back on her feet. It's not good for Murphy and the others, and they'll realize keeping the place open came with a hefty price.
Nia has an odd false air of benevolence, and something tells me that Murphy, Felix, and Jess will test it for all that it's worth until they see Nia's wicked side.
But at least if Dean was locked away and paying for Tyson's death, it would feel like something was worth it in the end.
Dean: Bailey needs to be stopped, and if you let me come back to work, I promise, I will deliver her.
Captain: Wipe the girl's phone. As far as I'm concerned, nothing was on there when I got here.
Dean: Thank you.
Captain: Just give me Nia Bailey.
Instead, the series introduced something that was a fleeting thought when it happened and made it a realistic contrivance. It's also something I'm surprised Felix missed as the former lawyer.
Illinois is a two-party consent state. Both parties need to know they're being recorded for their conversation to be admissible and sufficient evidence.
Dean didn't know that Murphy was recording him, and while a decent lawyer could fight that, the reality is that it's in the department's best interest to throw it out.
It's hard to get real justice when it involves a police officer, and there's no getting around that.
Tyson was so much more than a young black kid who dealt drugs, but that's how the department and the media would reduce him. It had the potential to be ugly.
Dean, a white cop, killing a young black teenager? It's a nightmare, and it's the type of thing the department wanted to avoid, so the Captain was damn near looking for a reason to avoid all of that, and Dean gave it to him.
Somehow, Dean reasoned that it was all Nia's fault. His willingness to shift culpability to Nia as if he didn't pull the trigger or get in bed with a criminal was sickening.
The shift he makes from soft, seemingly sweet guy to callous, ignorant jerk is almost too much to bear sometimes.
Dean has layers as an antagonist. He's a doting dad, but he's also a man with an ugly streak who had the gall to be angry at Murphy for wanting justice.
Their faceoff was such a frustrating scene in all the right ways. Dean can turn on a person on a dime, and he doesn't look or seem like that guy, he's deceptive in that regard.
And Murphy got a life lesson in what many others have sadly learned and known; justice isn't simple, and it's not fair. It's not even just.
Her panic after the fact, as she processed everything that happened in a manner that hints at some potential PTSD, was such a good scene.
For the first time ever, I feel like my life is actually worth something, and I'm not going to let Nia or anyone else take that back from me.Murphy
It also makes you sad for her. She's under Nia's control against her will, and it comes with a level of danger she couldn't anticipate.
But she's also in Dean's path. Dean now decided he can pick up the badge again and play good cop after doing despicable, unspeakable things, and now that means jamming up good people.
Dean's temerity is as upsetting as it is realistic.
He went from seeking Nia's help after killing one of her people and lying about it to doubling down on wanting to take her down. And he treated Murphy as if he had more right to be upset with her than she did with him, and that Tyson's life didn't matter.
It made you understand why Murphy's impulse was to tell Chloe the truth about her father. Of course, no good could come from that.
It wasn't about Dean, and there's no doubt it would destroy him, and Chloe is the person who would hold him accountable and resent him for the rest of his life.
But it would've destroyed Chloe. She would be collateral damage in a war that was bigger than her. Tyson lost his life over something that was bigger than him.
The truth will probably come out eventually, but Murphy couldn't be the one to ruin that girl's life, and she doesn't deserve to find out like that.
I think for now we have to do what Nia says because we don't have a choice.Murphy
Murphy promised to be friends with Chloe even though Dean conveniently told his daughter that Murphy broke his heart. The guy can't even be accountable when he's lying, can he?
So that means she and Murphy will probably spend some time together, which will get messy, now that Dean plans to take down Nia and Murphy is caught in the crosshairs.
So many pieces are in play now, and they can go in many directions.
Murphy, Felix, and Jess initially wanted to go to the police to turn over Nia, so they're prime for being used to get to Nia and build a case against her.
It also means that Murphy could end up having to work with or alongside Dean, the dirty cop who killed her best friend and made her life hell.
It also means that Dean could be gunning for Murphy not only to get to Nia but out of spite and anger, and it could make things ugly for her.
Then, of course, we haven't even factored in Darnell. He found Jules' body after getting released from jail since they dropped his charges. He's heartbroken, and he's a wild card.
The flash of another murder is kicking off the latest mystery. It's safe to say their new life laundering money for Nia isn't as simple as Felix thought, and things got bloody.
The new receptionist, Ben, is dead. Whatever happened to him, Murphy is asking somebody what they did, with blood spatter all over her face.
Oh my God! I can't believe you actually did that!Murphy
Who is Ben, and what happened in a month's time that led to his death? Who killed him?
Murphy is going to need more than nicotine gum and alcohol to cope with the clusterf*ck she's stuck in right now.
Over to you, In the Dark Fanatics. What were your thoughts on the premiere?
Who is Ben, and what do you think happened to him? How do you feel about Dean's reinstatement? Hit the comments below.
You can watch In The Dark online here via TV Fanatic!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.