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Murder in the First review: The trial begins

This week’s episode of Murder in the First ended the same way it began: bookended with surprises and startling turns.

The first was the time jump. When we last left our characters, Erich (Tom Felton) had turned up at the home of Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) and her daughter, promising that when he was eventually found innocent, he’d come to collect a second date with her. This week, however, we open with a six-month flash forward to the first day of the trial. Things have sped along, leaving Erich tense and snappish now that the moment of truth has finally arrived, but lawyer Daniels (James Cromwell) is as cool and collected as ever.

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Nothing’s progressed on the romantic front with Mulligan and English (Taye Diggs) in the past six months, either, although we learn that English has gotten a little quick to use force instead of simply showing his badge to solve problems. Mulligan gently reminds him of a fistfight he got into with her ex-husband a few years ago, pointing out that this has become a bit of a pattern. English refuses to believe it until he sits down with said ex himself, who’s on the ninth step of his AA program and wants to make amends with English.

The apology he believes he owes? Seems he spent a lot of time spent wondering if English wanted to steal his wife. English’s incredibly close bond with Mulligan has not gone unnoticed, although it’s like this has just occurred to English for the first time. Until his wife passed away of cancer in the pilot, he was married, and by all indications, it was a happy marriage. We see him visibly struggling with the question of what, exactly, his feelings for Mulligan are, and how long they’ve existed.

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In the wake of all that, the trial seems strangely removed, almost as though it belongs on another show entirely, until the final moments of the episode. Mark Strauss was called to testify on behalf of the prosecution, but his violent streak, massive drinking problem and tempestuous relationship with deceased Cindy have clearly cast him in a negative light with the jury. In fact, by the time Daniels is finished cross-examining Mark and shredding his alibi to pieces, Mark looks like the most likely suspect.

Though the audience knows his alibi is airtight, it doesn’t matter. There’s been a shade of reasonable doubt cast on him, and before the prosecution can prove his alibi is actually solid, we come to the final surprise of the episode: Mulligan and English are called in to inspect another dead body relating to the Blunt trial. This time? It’s Mark, who’s overdosed on pills and alcohol.

And he’s left a note confessing to murdering Cindy on his laptop. Did he write it himself? Was it planted there after his suicide… if it was, in fact, a suicide? It’s the first real mystery that Murder in the First has provided us with, and we’re looking forward to getting answers.

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As far as the identity of Cindy’s real killer goes, our money is still on pilot Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber), whose divorce mediation session with his estranged wife ended with him physically attacking her. He certainly had a motive for wanting Cindy dead, and now we see that he’s got the violent streak for it as well.

Murder in the First airs Mondays on TNT at 10/9c.

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