Of all those forces through which we must navigate during the ebb and flow of our daily lives, none is more persistently prevalent than the power of manipulation. Storytelling, for example, depends on it. Advertisers bombard us with it. Journalists and politicians, actors and ministers, magicians and salespeople: all are manipulators by profession, each conspiring to change our behavior or redirect our attention.
And then there are the lawyers.
Here I will make a confession, unprompted by Brenda Leigh Johnson's bag of tricks. Because I'm so fascinated with the concept of justice, I once thought very seriously about being a lawyer myself. And if I had been able to concentrate on class during my college years, if I had shown even the slightest aptitude for university study, I might well have followed up on this ambition. But though I found the demands of the legal profession too burdensome to practice professionally, the study of its inner workings has proven to be a consuming, lifetime interest.
Justice is an abstract system, like the free market, for example, or religion. To exist, these abstract systems first require that people believe in them. We cannot touch them, or see them, or hear them speak aloud. The abstract system functions outside the realm of our senses, it's creation entirely an act of human faith, willed into being by our desire to resolve, somehow, the incomprehensible.
All abstract systems, since they deal with the unknowable, are vulnerable to manipulation. Withdraw the foundations of faith and markets swoon. Religions crumble. And justice - that delicate balance of laws and arguments and due process governing our country - the method whereby our civilization deals with the redress of irrecoverable injury - justice is prone to corruption. A great lawyer defending heinous criminals against the wrath of society, an attorney whose appointed task requires him to demand that justice blindly weigh the scales as carefully as possible before determining the tipping point, can either force the justice system to do its very best, or turn the whole abstract concept on its head.
When Deputy Chief Johnson and the Major Crimes Division descend on a nighttime street in a middle-class neighborhood, they seek a dangerous predator. And they succeed. After that, Brenda confronts an even more fearsome adversary, one whose capacity for manipulating the justice system is every bit as powerful as her own. The deadly duel that ensues represents a disturbing challenge to our ideas of right and wrong. It is not enough to know what happened, as Pope reminded Brenda last week, the legal system has a scared obligation to prove it, even in the face of the profane. Truth and justice are not synonymous.
I cannot end this without mentioning that though this is one of our darker episodes, and so a departure from much of what we have done in our little mini-season, I am extremely proud of this Monday night's show, directed by Rick Wallace (who also was behind the camera for "Cherry Bomb" and "Critical Missing," among many others), and written by Michael Alimo. Our special guest star, Billy Burke, mesmerizes as a lawyer whose single-minded pursuit of the evidence attempts to thwart the justice system at every bend and turn. And while admitting we are about to enter a shadowy world, I don't apologize for the tone: some stories are better when told in the dark.