My, my, how far we’ve come. This premiere season of Bull has been a heady rush of new characters, insights, relationships, and environments. We, the viewers, have discovered a whole new perspective on the courtroom procedure, been enthralled by the intricacies of jury selection, and learned to throw around terms likeÂ voir dire and “mirror jury”.
Most of all, we’ve become fans of the T.A.C. team: Marissa, the gentle but firm guiding hand; Benny, the affable yet vulnerable legal eagle; Danny, our investigative superstar; Chunk, the powerhouse of fashion and compassion; and Cable, our queen of the deep dive, mistress of the interwebs, goddess of the vast and infinite digital spaces. At the helm, Dr. Jason Bull leads them with insight, humour, and a very human sense of justice.
Well, at least he did until this last mini-arc of episodes. From “Bullets”, through “Secrets”, to end in this “Deception”, we’ve seen a distinct departure from the show’s early pacing, style, and direction. The season finale takes Bull to Miami to assist J.P. Nunnelly once again. And although we’ve seen the team out of New York City before (“Callisto” and “Light My Fire“), in those instances, the entire team was still involved in the case. This time, Cable and Chunk are present but don’t get a single line at all and I think Chunk is only in one scene.
The case begins with the incredibly humiliating arrest of Cecilia Novak (Stacey Roca, Ladies of Letters) by the D.E.A. during her son’s birthday party in front of the children and their parents. Her brother, Leo (Evan Leone, Feed the Beast) promises that he’ll take care of this for her.
Enter J.P. and the T.A.C. team, or to be more precise, J.P. and Bull, since she whisks him down to Florida in a private jet (to the tune of “Fly Me To the Moon” which gets reprised a lot in the episode) while Marissa, Benny, and Danny get to follow on a commercial flight. Obviously, J.P. doesn’t see T.A.C. as a team, choosing to review the case only with Bull.
Laying out the facts of the case against Cecilia, J.P. sounds pretty desperate to convince Bull that, although it’s obvious the drugs are real and drug dealers, Leo in particular, are in the picture, Cecilia is innocent. Twice, she explicitly states that Cecilia had nothing to do with the drugs found in her home but when Bull pushes her the admit that she and her firm are being paid by drug traffickers to represent Cecilia, she pleads the Fifth.
With Bull dead set against working for drug dealers, J.P. pleads for him to just meet Cecilia, laying out some personal vulnerability by admitting she’s unsure she’ll be able to handle the case herself. Bull agrees reluctantly and makes some ridiculously saccharine comment about J.P.’s face. The dynamic between these two is all over the place and, honestly, it gets pretty hard to watch.
Touching down in Miami, they meet with Cecilia and Leo and then J.P.’s colleague, Gary Sharp (Charlie Semine, Braindead) who oozes a very distinct type of mob lawyer vibe. Bull connects with the team who are spooked that they’ve arrived in the middle of a deadly drug war. (Just to note: J.P. seems to bring a high body count with her cases, three dead in Dirty Little Secrets bombing, and seven in the streets of Miami from the cartel war here.)
In a long scene of exposition by the pool, J.P. reveals to Bull that she took the case because she was offered the chance to buy out of her firm and set up her own. Bull throws out another line about her face and she plays it into her apology for not being fully transparent about the reasons for bringing him and T.A.C. to Miami. Cue the “Fly Me to the Moon” music again.
Jury selection has a new twist. Because of the cartel war, no one is willing to serve on the jury for the trial of a drug dealer’s sister. Judge McFarlane (John Bolger, General Hospital) orders an anonymous jury with a screen enclosing the jury box, forcing Bull and the team to try to profile them based purely on voices. It’s pretty sketchy technique and the mirror jury they assemble could be nothing but a fun-house reflection of who they actually are.
When the U.S. Attorney offers Cecilia a deal if she’ll answer questions about her brother, she and J.P. refuse but Bull encourages them to accept it, possibly because he knows jury selection was a bit of a crap-shoot. This upsets Cecilia and J.P. dismisses him, demoting him to “Mister” Bull. Cecilia spells out her loyalty to her brother and leaves Bull and J.P. alone where J.P. tears into him and even slaps him (wth?) when he points out that saving Cecilia’s life seems at odds with her game plan.
Despite the episode being primarily Bull and J.P. focused, the team is still chugging along with Benny and Danny questioning an informant about the cartels and Marissa having the recording of an anonymous tip analyzed. As has become the norm since partnering with J.P., the team seems to be outpacing Bull on the info game. They piece together how the drugs got to Cecilia’s as well as who tipped the D.E.A. off on their own and then Bull gets filled in by Marissa. All this leads to a little more “benevolent deception” on the part of Bull in order to help Cecilia broker a deal that won’t land her in witness protection.
They have to deceive J.P. first of all and she’s suspicious of what Bull does when he isn’t in her company apparently. She lies in wait for him and Marissa when they return from meeting with Cecilia and questions him about the team’s investigation. He lies about everything, makes yet another comment about her face, and tells her to trust him. Marissa is the best thing in this scene, her face so incredibly expressive, reacting to the interaction between the other two without saying a word herself.
Bull calls a war council down on the beach and for a moment, the T.A.C. team magic is back with everyone pulling together. Bull sets the plan out and swears everyone to secrecy to keep J.P. out of the loop (which I don’t think anyone was going to object to).
Bull manages to charm the U.S. Attorney and Judge McFarlane into his deception, which results in the case to be ruled on by the judge alone (talk about dodging a bullet with regards to that faceless jury!) who deems Cecilia not guilty and closes the case. J.P. debriefs with Bull, slightly stunned by the sudden win, and Bull plays ignorant of how it all came about and then suggests that she should have Gary sign the partnership severance papers right away.
Outside the courthouse, Cecilia and her son reunite just as Uncle Leo gets arrested. Everyone is rushed away leaving Bull and J.P. alone (with “Fly Me To the Moon” making another pass in the background *eye-roll*) to chat about how J.P. is free and clear of drug dealer clients since the severance papers were now signed.
It seems a great disservice to the season to not end with a team celebration but instead we get more of the same song playing (honestly, it’s like a musical frying pan to the head by this point) as Bull and J.P. bid each other farewell the next morning. And with all the great, clever, powerful writing we’ve experienced, we end the season with “Later, gator/In a while, crocodile.” Wow. So that happened.
It isn’t the season finale that we (well at least, I) hoped for. No Chunk input, no Cable banter, no jury verdict even. I still like the concept and it’s always nice when the good guys win. Here’s hoping for a return to form in the second season.
Bull returns on September 26 on CBS.
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