Conviction Will Disappoint Hayley Atwell Fans

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Conviction Series Premiere Plot Summary:

At the request of district attorney Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill) and after her own run-in with the law, former First Daughter Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell) takes charge of his new Conviction Integrity Unit. The unit’s first case: figuring out if a high school football star (Maurice Williams) convicted of killing his girlfriend really did.

Since I reviewed the second season of Agent Carter, it felt like my duty to review Hayley Atwell’s new show, Conviction. In a way, it’s the final chapter of her previous series, cementing it as over. It was true when we learned she had signed on for it but it’s even truer now that the pilot has aired. Is it closure? Depends on what you’re looking for.

Photo Credi: ABC/John Medland
Photo Credi: ABC/John Medland

I previously said the new fall lineup looked pretty dismal. Let me clarify that my statement was primarily meant for the broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, The CW). It sounds like there have been a few good newcomers, but I stand by what I said. Even though I like Hayley Atwell, Conviction did not strike me as a promising addition to ABC’s programming. In fact, I was disappointed when I found out what it was about and saw the trailer for it online.

Having watched the series premiere, I can say that my prior impressions were well founded. I might have felt a bit more negative about it originally but then I settled into ambivalence. This was evidently more appropriate. Conviction is a middle-of-the-road procedural that’s been a winning formula for CBS; of course, this is ABC, not CBS. These and family sitcoms are a dime a dozen. That doesn’t mean any of these aren’t ever enjoyable, but they’re the television equivalent of fast food. Production-wise, they’re not the level of easy competitions or reality shows are (the latter being the television equivalent of eating a whole pack of Oreos), but they’re pretty safe.

Photo Credit: ABC/John Medland
Photo Credit: ABC/John Medland

Hayley Atwell does a fine enough job in the role, a troubled and rebellious attorney very unlike Agent Peggy Carter. Even as someone who wasn’t able to get used to her American accent in the past, I became accustomed to it by the end of the episode. I wouldn’t think she was British if I didn’t already know she was. The rest of the acting is fine too. You might recognize Shawn Ashmore (not his identical twin, Aaron), who plays Iceman in the X-Men movies.

While the premise is somewhat different, the show falls into the same investigation routine as other procedurals, more or less. This particular case has a lot of twists and uncovered secrets. I do understand that this is fiction and that sometimes there are a lot of outrageous things that actually happen (i.e. the O.J. case), but it’s a little much in this instance. Some of the team’s backstories also make me question why they would be assigned to it. I guess it’s the writers’ way of trying to make the show compelling.

Photo Credit: ABC/John Medland
Photo Credit: ABC/John Medland

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be compelled about when it comes to Conviction. It’s lacking that extra something that makes similar shows worth watching. The characters aren’t terribly likeable or dislikeable and the idea isn’t enough of a gimmick. The only unique scenario I can think of is they learn that a person was rightfully convicted instead. Not sure that could work though. That or it leads to another trial. And I also doubt it’s interested in having a multi-episode arc of that nature.

There’s really not much else to say other than to say that Hayley Atwell can do better than this show. Maybe if they ever travel through time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ll see Peggy Carter again. That idea alone is more exciting than this show.

RATING: 6 OUT OF 10 (AVERAGE)

Conviction Airs Mondays at 10 PM on ABC

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Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in television and film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky