Conviction ABC Hayley Atwell

Conviction Review: Hayley Atwell's 'Bad Girl' Sheds Scandalous Ways Too Fast

grade_B-ABC clearly loves Hayley Atwell, though not enough to keep Agent Carter on the air. So after giving Peggy her walking papers in May, ABC has Atwell fronting this fall’s Conviction, a snappy, Scandal-esque legal drama (premiering Monday at 10/9c). But is it worthy of Atwell’s considerable talents, or your time? The jury, as they say, is still out.

When we meet Hayes Morrison (Atwell), she’s stretching and dancing in a jail cell. She’s been there before, you see: She’s the wild-child daughter of a powerful political family — her mom’s a U.S. Senator; her dad used to be President — and this time, she’s been nabbed for cocaine possession. But she’s also a brilliant legal mind, so D.A. Conner Wallace (Eddie Cahill) has a proposal for her: Head up his newly formed Conviction Integrity Unit, and she’ll avoid prison time… and embarrassing her mother mid-campaign.

The CIU digs up old cases where there might have been a wrongful conviction and looks to uncover new evidence to (possibly) overturn them. So Hayes and her team of legal eagles are giving convicts a second chance — and hey, she’s getting her own second chance, too! Reexamining the cases of the questionably convicted is squarely in the zeitgeist right now, thanks to Making a Murderer and Serial. And Conviction cleverly grafts that trendy genre onto a sexy, Shonda Rhimes-style procedural, with plenty of brisk banter and cool clothes sprinkled throughout.

At first, Hayes is happy to delegate all the legwork to her subordinates, disinterested as she is in breaking a sweat to investigate lost causes. (“Working these pointless cases with you, that’s my prison,” she flatly tells a team member.) But once the team delves into their first investigation — a football star convicted of his girlfriend’s murder — Hayes’ legal instincts kick in. Atwell has fun playing up Hayes’ glaring flaws and prickly personality, and she even ably handles an American accent (which is more than can be said for a lot of British actors on TV).

RELATED Hayley Atwell Shares Her Agent Carter Dreams, Talks Going Bad for Conviction

Conviction ABC Hayley Atwell Eddie Cahill

Stacked with familiar faces, Atwell’s supporting cast is one of Conviction‘s strengths. The CIU team includes Alias alum Merrin Dungey as lead investigator Maxine, The Following‘s Shawn Ashmore as ADA Sam, and The Walking Dead‘s Emily Kinney as eager paralegal Tess. Cahill — who, no matter how many episodes of CSI: NY he’s done, will always be Friends‘ Tag to me — is billed as Hayes’ “sexy nemesis,” and his scenes with Atwell are definitely trying for a smoldering, “Olitz” vibe. But anyone who’s seen a frame of television knows these two will eventually end up in each other’s arms, so even if there is chemistry, there’s no tension.

And there’s a larger problem with the character of Hayes: Who is she, really? Co-creator Liz Friedman has written for Orange Is the New Black and Jessica Jones, so she knows how to write women. So why then is Hayes such a wishy-washy character? One minute, she’s a self-destructive “bad girl” who couldn’t care less about her clients; the next, she’s working late hours and crusading for justice. Conviction is already hampered by an overreliance on the procedural formula and Shondaland-ish tropes; it doesn’t help when your antiheroine’s entire attitude shifts from scene to scene.

This has been a particularly strong fall TV season so far, with a number of new shows breaking through with bursts of quality and innovation. That doesn’t bode well for a show like Conviction, which is fine but not terribly inspiring. (Even the title is painfully generic.) We’ve seen these beautiful coats before in Olivia Pope’s closet; we’ve heard these emotional soundtrack swells before on Grey’s. Maybe a few episodes in, Conviction will find its voice, nail down the character of Hayes and become a worthy vehicle for Atwell. But with so many other things to watch… will viewers give it a second chance?

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Conviction fits squarely in ABC’s Shonda Rhimes-y wheelhouse, but needs to deliver more surprises to stand out.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Big Mike says:

    Bring. Back. Agent. Carter.

  2. Seun Fayiga says:

    Omg, am i the only one irritated about such a disgusting review? I mean, why make such a lengthy review when the show is yet to air. You’ve also given it a grade. Why not do that after the show has aired. Why drive people away from the show before they get to see it. I feel its a very awful thing to do. And all these negative talk is just from the pilot. You talk as though you’ve seen half of the season.
    Let the show air and then write the review. Not the other way round like you have already done.
    Utter crap

    • Esteban says:

      sounds like someone just got the internet for their birthday. but really, seriously with this reply??

    • AJ says:

      Do you know how reviews work? Dave has probably seen it.

    • ndixit says:

      Is this your first day watching tv. What world have you been living in so far?

    • Alan Rodrigues says:

      Seun, you seem to be new to the game, so let me spell it out for you as palatably as I can:

      Reviews aren’t only on a weekly-based, episodical affair, reviews are supposed to aid people in choosing what TV shows they should watch and what they can skip and spend their time elsewhere. Creators send their work to precisely this kind of website in advance so they can review it and post to get people excited to watch it, it’s the same with movies, games, books, and pretty much every kind of content you can grab. However, a reviewer’s job is not to say “this is amazing, go watch it STAT!” to everything, it’s to be objective about it, point out the pros and cons so people with a taste that’s similar to the content can decide whether it would be worth their time or not. Lastly, this review doesn’t say the show is flat-out bad, it simply tells what you can expect and the areas the show could improve upon in later episodes. That’s the way it’s worked forever now and your rage with “such a disgusting crap” isn’t doing anyone any favors. Watch the show if you’d like, respect the people who trust reviewers with their opinions in order to not have to watch/read/play every single piece of content that’s released in order to assess their worth themselves. Easy as pie, isn’t it?

      Have a nice day.

      • wrstlgirl says:

        Very nicely written, however, I have issue with the last sentence. Not that people shouldn’t respect and/or trust the reviewers opinions but I wish more people would watch shows themselves and form their own opinion rather than making a decision based on someone else’s. That’s just me. I have fallen in love with and watched shows for years that got a bad rap from one or more reviewer and I’m so glad I did.

        • Ally Oop says:

          I’ve learned in years past that certain reviewers and I don’t share the same opinions while other reviewers do. From time to time I will question a reviewer’s critique like I did a little while ago with a reviewer on here who posted a rather negative critique of Designated Survivor in light of the fact that so many other reviewers had positive reviews. I usually base my decision on what new shows to watch on their trailers but when the trailer leaves me undecided I take a look at a few online reviews to see if my concerns are justified. Also, at times a good review from a critic I usually agree on other shows I like will convince me to watch a show I would have passed on. For example, I had no intention of watching Star-Crossed on CW until a reviewer on another site posted a glowing review of the pilot. I decided to watch it and was glad I did cause it turned out to be very good.

        • Oh, I agree whole-heartedly, people shouldn’t have blind trust in every reviewer out there, but I still think they’re important, or else we’d have to take in the huge flood of new and returning shows that we’re constantly being subjected to (which is, for the most part, a great thing), and reviews help a lot when it comes to picking what better suits each of us.

  3. KT says:

    Eddie Cahill will always be Tag to me, too. I couldn’t even tell you his character’s name from CSI New York because I just referred to him as Detective Tag (with Gary Sinese as Lt. Dan).

    I miss Agent Carter, and I think I’ll really miss it in January when it should have been back on.

  4. Aubrey says:

    Hey Dave, is it true the show’s theme is Ariana Grande’s ‘Dangerous Woman’?

  5. Stacy says:

    –But with so many other things to watch… will viewers give it a second chance?–
    I wouldn’t give it a first chance. I appreciate the detailed review; it cemented my gut instincts from the promo.

  6. Debbie says:

    Hi guys, i can’t wait to see conviction, i love Eddie Cahill and think he’ll be great in it. I’ve never missed a show he’s been in, although I’ve never actually watched a show with atwell yet.

  7. Nichole says:

    What is with all the Scandal and Shondaland references?? This show is not from Shonda Rhimes, the creator has never worked on a “Shodaland” show before either. Personally not a fan of Scandal or Greys, though love How To Get Away With Murder. Other then being on ABC the two shows of Scandal and Conviction have nothing on face value in common. Female lead yes, but the comparisons are annoying. I haven’t seen Conviction yet, like most people, will watch it as it has a cast of actors with past shows I have greatly enjoyed, but this type of review only makes me go into the show already with half a mind to not like it.

    I understand TV is subjective, everyone has different tastes. This review is effectively an opinion piece comparing it solely to Scandal or shows produced by one person, which is not fair to Conviction. Have an opinion, write about it, it’s your site after all, but calling this a article a “review” and then spending most of it comparing it to another show and not really saying much about the new show is not fair to Conviction.

    • Anne says:

      The comparisons to Shondaland are valid. Shonda has brought a lot of success and money to ABC, not to mention having a serious impact on the way stories are told on tv.
      Shonda is but one woman though, so the network is, rightly, trying to copy her formula. Comparing shows like Conviction and Notorious to Shonda shows makes sense, since they are essentially knockoffs. Not saying that as a judgement. How the new shows stand up against their originals is a valid avenue of criticism. Especially since the people who like Shonda shows are the same people they want watching their new shows.
      Whether or not they’re successful is another matter.

  8. Anne says:

    Hayley Atwell is the only reason I’m going to watch…and she seems kinda oddly cast in this.

  9. Kevin K says:

    People still aren’t happy about the cancellation of Agent Carter. Hope Conviction isn’t good enough to become a breakout hit even though it’s on Mondays @ 10 filling in the void left by the already departed Castle.

  10. Whatever says:

    Atwell is half American and spent every summer holiday in the State growing up. She is just too awesome for this legal procedural.

  11. MrPitt says:

    I’m looking forward to the show!

  12. Charlene says:

    The series could make it, but the female starring role needs to go! Did somebody her a favor! I can’t get into the series because I can’t move past her!😕

  13. Laura says:

    I found the writers were trying too hard with the “sex-shock” factor. Bad girl does good…boring but I love the show’s premise just not the character Hayes. Working all night in an evening gown, give me a break!!!

  14. Jackie says:

    What is the bottle of liquor that Hayley carries around at times on the show?

  15. Tammy says:

    Im so upset that they are cancelling this show. I liked the cast. Ive watched all of them before in Walking Dead, Beth. The Following and The Strain. Im a sucker for a witty show thats lively and about the law. I was hoping it would be a replacement for the Good Wife, which I loved. Sad.