Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ on Netflix, A David E. Kelley Series Reboot Of The Novel and Film Character

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ on Netflix, A David E. Kelley Series Reboot Of The Novel and Film Character

The Lincoln Lawyer returns to the courtroom and his titular mobile office in this Netflix series based on the second installment of Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller legal thrillers. The very good 2009 film starring Matthew McConaughey as Haller is not in play here. Instead, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is the savvy LA criminal defense attorney. And don’t you dare say anything about him being Harry Bosch’s half-brother. Netflix and Amazon don’t like each other.

Opening Shot: Downton Los Angeles, nighttime. The camera pans to a parking structure, where a man in a suit hurries to his BMW with his laptop bag in tow. He hears a noise. He looks over his shoulder…

The Gist: Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) made his bones by defending anyone who The Man came at, and being anywhere his down-and-out, downtrodden, or even downright despicable clients needed him to be, which in a gridlock-choked town like Los Angeles was always made easier by doing his lawyering from the backseat of a Lincoln. But then a surfing accident sidelined him and his career, and saddled Mickey with an addiction to painkillers. Now, 18 months later, redemption appears. That guy in the parking structure? He was murdered at close range. But somewhat mysteriously, he had already arranged to leave his legal practice to Mickey, his friend and colleague, whose own career had floundered as he struggled to kick oxy. And that practice includes the high-profile case of game designer whiz kid Travis Elliott (reliable TV mainstay Christoper Gorham), who’s accused of killing his wife and her yoga instructor boyfriend. Mickey and Lorna (Becki Newton), his ex-wife and case manager, work to get up to speed on the Elliott case. Mickey also enlists Cisco (Angus Sampson), an independent investigator and Lorna’s main squeeze. 

Putting aside his friend’s unsolved murder – for now – Mickey works a few angles to solve another outstanding case from his new docket, an assault beef on a young woman named Izzy Letts (Jazz Raycole). Now she’s free, but she can’t pay. No problem. This Lincoln lawyer needs a driver he can trust. And as Izzy ferries Mickey to Malibu and the crime scene inside Travis’s luxe beachfront manse, he promises Maggie (Neve Campbell), his first ex-wife and a high-powered prosecutor, that he’ll be on time to pick up their daughter Hayley (Krista Warner).

Later, as Mickey and Hayley eat dinner at his home, the LAPD’s Detective Griggs (Ntare Mwine) appears. He wants to look at the files in Mickey’s new law office – maybe there’s a clue as to why his colleague was murdered. “You’re at risk, counselor,” Griggs warns Haller. And he’s probably right. But the Elliott case is more important, and after a wavering monologue involving the uncanny valley hypothesis and the assertion of his innocence, Travis officially hires Mickey as his counsel. The Lincoln lawyer is back. But is he still as good as he was? And is he a target, too?  

THE LINCOLN LAWYER NETFLIX SERIES
Photo: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? With David E. Kelley aboard as creator, The Lincoln Lawyer joins the prolific TV writer in his favored milieu of the courtroom alongside The Practice, Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, and of course, L.A. Law. (Kelley’s more recent successes are the Nicole Kidman-adjacent HBO dramas Big Little Lies and The Undoing.) But  with its standard issue procedural format and stock characters, Lincoln also aligns with any typical network television drama playing in the 9 o’clock slot.  

Our Take: The politics of ownership rights and clearances will almost certainly prevent a crossover of Netflix’s Lincoln Lawyer into the universe of Prime Video’s Bosch: Legacy. But even if the legalese prevents their being half-siblings, the streets the two characters share are still the same. From the surfing accident that nearly killed him and plunged him into the downward spiral of oxy addiction, to Mickey cruising across the 6th Street Viaduct in his 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible – a gorgeous, cobalt blue four-door land yacht complete with suicide doors – to his comfortable midcentury home in the Hollywood Hills, The Lincoln Lawyer definitely plays up the City of Angels as a character. (Its neighborhood grid even figures into the title graphic.) And Mickey himself knows where he fits in. “When I am right, there’s no better criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles,” he tells the presiding judge who signs over the murdered lawyer’s practice to him. Mickey also tells Travis that Tinsel Town’s dime-a-dozen celebrity lawyers aren’t worth the hype. “You’ve never heard of me because I make it a practice never to be heard of.” All of this does well to establish a sense of place. But what about the Lincoln lawyer himself?

If Mickey makes it his practice to never be heard of, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo seems to be making it his to never be seen. He’s a curious blank in The Lincoln Lawyer, a lead character who spends his days responding to prompts from every other character in his life, whether it’s Lorna at their new law practice or Travis summoning him to the fancy, ultra-mod offices of his gaming empire. The convertible Continental disappears, too, replaced by the slick but nondescript box of a Navigator SUV. Even Lorna’s relationship with Cisco is more interesting than Mickey’s relationship with his pair of exes. Maybe he’s saving the fireworks for the courtroom. After all, the Travis Elliott case is set to play out over the season’s full ten episodes. And Mickey does manage that wily bit of bluster-busting defense that clears Izzy and lands him his new driver. But The Lincoln Lawyer and Garcia-Rulfo need to figure out how to amplify their main dude before he disappears into a throng of more interesting side characters and the streets on which he rides.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Mickey’s back in the Navigator with Izzy. Travis Elliott just agreed to his representation, and on his face is a mixture of relief and elation. He catches Izzy’s look in the rearview. “Is something wrong?”

“Yeah,” she says. “We’re being followed.”

Sleeper Star: Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother vet Becki Newton is the brightest spot in The Lincoln Lawyer as Lorna, Mickey’s second ex-wife and the plucky case manager at his law practice. Lorna is sharp, sarcastic, and more than happy to tell off the LAPD’s foot soldiers. “You know, you don’t help yourselves being dicky’do’s.”

Most Pilot-y Line: “Drive one of the Lincolns,” Lorna urges Mickey. “Get one out of storage. The Lincoln becomes you. You become you.” Conveniently for any viewers new to his world, driving around in a Lincoln also defines the character.

Our Call: STREAM IT, particularly if you miss something sturdy and nutritious in your TV diet, something like TNT’s The Closer. The Lincoln Lawyer is easily consumable episodic fare with an LA look and some flash it could use more of.

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