Bull is the Messenger, Not the Misogynist, in “The Woman in 8D”
Plane crashes are a horrifying part of modern day life. What may be even more horrifying is realizing that the first people called after a plane crash are the lawyers. Second call? Dr. Jason Bull, of course.
Like the premiere, this episode begins with various people on the street weighing in on a topic. The premiere had their opinions on the U.S. legal system while this one focuses on their feelings about airplane travel and airlines. Cut to the cabin of a passenger plane approachingÂ its destination in poor weather. The titular woman in seat 8D is upset and other passengers are noticing. The turbulence gets worse. The plane crashes.
Back at TAC HQ, the team is trying to corral a volatile British rock star client so he doesn’t antagonize the entire jury when news of the plane crash breaks. Bull’s phone begins ringing off the hook and when it is revealed that the pilot, Captain Taylor Mathison, is the sole survivor of the crash, he states he won’t accept a client in this case until he’s spoken to Captain Mathison.
Four months pass. Meeting outside the offices of the law firm defending the pilot, Bull quickly assesses the man and woman approaching him and Marissa and smoothly saves his neuro-linguist Girl Friday a little embarrassment by jumping into her introductions and greeting the woman as Captain Mathison (Trieste Kelly Dunn, Banshee) when Marissa had assumed otherwise. The man, lawyer Oscar Weber (Geoffrey Blake, The Man in the High Castle), is antagonistic and unwelcoming of Bull’s services. Bull, in return, barely masks his dislike of lawyers in general and Weber in particular.
It’s clearly not an easy case. Mathison, a former military fighter pilot, has no memory (due to a severe concussion) of why she broke protocol in bringing the plane down. The NTSB investigation has officially stated the cause of the crash was pilot error and her lawyer sounds more like a prosecutor than her defense as he lists the multitude of reasons why she should take a deal. Best line of the episode lands here with Bull reminding the squirmy little litigator that “Just because [Mathison] feels responsible, doesn’t mean she is to blame.” TAC takes her on as a client, much to Oscar’s chagrin, and the team springs into action.
As the team investigates, the episode’s theme of implicit gender bias is clearly exemplified with the airline mechanic mis-remembering Mathison as the co-pilot, not the captain. TAC starts running mock trials and the verdicts keep coming back guilty until one jury is presented with Captain Taylor Mathison … as portrayed by Jason Bull himself (pretty sure that Weatherly in a uniform was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser). The juries are clearly convicting the captain on her biology, not her ability.
Mr. Weber continues to represent the sleaze, criticizing the team on their courtroom approach and then sending hacker millennial Cable to get him a coffee (the smart personÂ *so*Â wouldn’t drink that). Bull finally confronts him about his conflict of interest in representing Mathison – the firm gets a huge bonus if he can minimize the payout from the airline by getting the pilot to admit fault through a settlement – and she fires the weasel on the spot.
In need of a new lawyer, Coach Bull calls Benny out of the “bull”pen, his former brother-in-law as well as former prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office. He’s been working in mock courtrooms for TAC for the past year and him getting back into the real thing echoes Captain Mathison’s reluctance to fly again after the crash. He reveals to Mathison that he was fired and Bull hints that the reason is a doozy BUT WE NEVER FIND OUT WHAT IT IS (!!!) I actually love howÂ the show’s writers are able to reveal the TAC members’ backstories in elegant, yet tantalizing, little flourishes like this.
Having hooked us with a fast-paced premiere, Episode 2 takes more time showing us the process of jury selection. In screening for gender bias, the team is not only concerned with the potential jury member in front of them but the potential jury member that may replace them if challenged. Judgement calls have to be made and possibilities weighed. It really is a collaborative effort with Bull taking the team members’ input seriously.
Furthermore, this episode really lets Weatherly tap into the Dr. Phil-ness that is most recognizable by people today. Bull spends time figuring out the key to people’s reactions inÂ this high-stress situation. He figures out one of the jurors is judging his client because of something unrelated to the profile TAC had created for her. He gets the co-pilot’s widow to admit she thought Mathison was having an affair with her husband (in actuality, that was The Woman in 8D). He re-establishes Mathison confidence in her own judgement by having her fly a simulation of the crash. He starts a lot of people on a road of healing and closure.
The final verdict hinges on Benny’s closing statement where he takes the jury through the experience of misjudging a situation wherein gender bias plays a role. “It’s hard to imagine the girl being the hero of the story,” he reminds them and points out that Captain Mathison shouldn’t be punished for the personal shortfalls of others. His win in court is well-deserved withÂ credit to Bull and Chunk for their gentle prompting (and tie-selection).
There’s a lot to like in this episode and even more in what has been hinted at for future episodes. First and foremost is the great dynamic in TAC, best seen in the closing moments of the episode with everyone celebrating the win, partaking of the drinks stored in the mock courtroom’s judge’s bench, and Bull checking in with Marissa on how his team is. She reassures him that all is well and the two of them, Mom & Pop TAC as it were, smile at the sight of the rest of the team clustered on the other side of the room, enjoying the feeling of a job well done. And, really, Bull is feeling like it’s living that motto: A Job Well Done.
Bull airs Tuesday nights on CBS at 9pm ET/PT.
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