TNT. BOOM. There you have the best damned catch phrase in all of television folks. TNT used to know drama, now they just deliver original programming based on a single word. Whether they achieve producing shows worthy of the moniker is something to debate, but I at least believe it’s a worthy goal. Murder in the First, a crime drama that follows an egocentric billionaire who is placed on trail for a gruesome murder, certainly strives for TNT’s lofty goal, and even sometimes gets as close as Icarus to the sun, but never quite finds a home there.
Let’s start with what makes Murder in the First great. That means starting with the wonderful Tom Felton, who plays Erich Blunt, the creator and CEO of a fictional tech giant, and resident jerk. It is really incredible how well Felton is able to play the character you just want to reach though the screen and strangle, and it’s a testament to his abilities as an actor. When it’s clear a character is written to be loathed, I tend to base their success on just that, how much a downright hate them. And in Felton’s case, the answer here is — a whole hell of a lot. A villain wouldn’t be much without a couple of heroes to catch him though. And those heroes come in the form of Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson). Diggs and Robertson work well together on-screen, as they work to catch Blunt, and also each battle personal demons. But both also never really impress with their performances, delivering something that’s good, but never quite great.
Speaking of the personal battles that English and Mulligan face, they turn out to be one of the series’ most troubling aspects. English suffering from the loss of his wife, and Mulligan with being a single mother. These situation are featured heavily in the first half of the season, but then seem to be written off as we proceed to the climax of the Blunt trial. Having the focus shift is reasonable, as Blunt is clearly the main antagonist here, but I found myself wondering why we spent any time at all building up these characters personal demons, only to have them completely abandoned five episodes into the show.
On a brighter note, the show overall feels really great in the home it carves out within the season-long, murder mystery genre. It has several great plot twists, that while incredibly predictable, still serve their purpose and are fun to watch play out. And the show is able to really cultivate your desire to see the bad guy brought to justice, something any show of this nature should strive to accomplish.
Murder in the First is a solid show that I think the average TNT viewer will enjoy. As long as you’re able to accept early on that you’re never going to see some new revelation in acting or the use of plot twist in some great new way, and as long as you allow yourself to be swept up in the mystery and intrigue of it all, I can’t imagine anyone feeling the show isn’t worth the watch.