Murder in the First review: Mark’s suicide note solved

When Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) takes the stand to give her testimony in this week’s Murder in the First, she never loses her cool, even in the face of Daniels’ (James Cromwell) increasingly insulting questions. She’s got a rational explanation for everything.

The same can’t be said for the way English (Taye Diggs) goes about forcing a confession about Mark Strauss’ death from Ivana West (Bess Rous). She didn’t kill him, but she’s still responsible for his death, and she even orchestrated it in the hopes that it would expedite the results of the trial, freeing Erich (Tom Felton) up to return to work.

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Rous plays her big monologue like an unraveling Disney villain, all crazy eyes and unnerving laughter, to the point where it was actually fun to watch her spiral out. It was the most entertaining thing that happened all night. Ivana caught up with Mark at a bar, plied him with alcohol, encouraged him to bring her back to his apartment and then dispassionately watched him choke to death on his own vomit after ingesting too many pills. Afterward, she used the opportunity to fake the suicide note that took responsibility for Cindy’s death… which Ivana would have emailed to the media instantly, if only Mark had internet access in his apartment.

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It was an extremely “and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” moment, a reveal that wasn’t helped by the way English figured out she was the culprit — a tiny grammatical quirk that he found in one of Ivana’s emails that was replicated in the fake suicide note. It’s also a little hard to swallow that a noted tech genius like Ivana would have simply left the note on the laptop in the hopes that the police would draw the laziest possible conclusion from it. Mark didn’t have internet in his apartment? In 2014? That’s the optimal time to steal free Wi-Fi from the nearest Starbucks.

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Apparently, she hasn’t figured out how badly Mulligan, English and DA Perez really want to nail Erich for the crime. It was a thin stretch of credibility.

Week after week, this show’s treatment of women is getting a little harder to swallow. A rape victim is harassed and harangued by Daniels on the witness stand, accused of faking her story for monetary gain. Mulligan’s qualifications are called into question in specific, sexist ways, and, as always, week after week, Cindy’s character is maligned, the implication always being that if she hadn’t had all that sex, maybe she wouldn’t have wound up quite so dead.

All these things may have their roots in reality, but it would be nice if the show went out of its way to point out that this goes beyond Daniels defending his client to the best of his ability. This is a symptomatic problem in the way our justice system works, and we’d love to see a point made of that instead of just constantly badgering all the female witnesses without any real takeaway from it.

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