For Life is an American legal drama television series created by Hank Steinberg that premiered on ABC on February 11, 2020.
The series is loosely based on the true story of Isaac
Wright Jr., who was imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.
While incarcerated, he became an attorney and
helped overturn the wrongful convictions of
twenty of his fellow inmates, before finally proving
his own innocence.
In June 2020, the series was renewed for a second
season which premiered on November 18, 2020
The story of an innocent black man being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit is a troubling tale that’s all too common in the United States.
What happens when that same innocent man becomes a lawyer and fights to overturn a corrupt decision? Step forward ABC’s latest crime drama For Life.
Loosely based on the true story of Isaac Wright Jr.,
For Life is a 13 episode drama that interweaves prison
politics with one man’s crusade to fight injustice,
one case at a time in the court-room.
With a combination of flashbacks, stand-alone bottle episodes and a consistent narrative that pushes forward to an exciting few chapters to close things out with, For Life is a consistently well written series.
At the heart of this story lies Aaron Wallace,
a man imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
Deciding to become a lawyer and fight for justice on
behalf of other inmates, the first half of the series follows
Wallace as he builds up a portfolio of corrupt cases to use
against Glen Maskins and his administration.
The midway point of the show shifts tactics slightly
as wildcard Cassius Dawkins arrives at Belmont prison,
bringing with him a whole world of trouble.
From here, the series then ramps up the tension
and delivers an exciting run toward the end of the
first season with plenty of unanswered questions
and the possibility of a second season to follow.
At times the series does slip a little too far into melodramatic waters, with a couple of the sub-plots failing to rise above mediocrity and the main storyline itself torn between its two states – inside the prison and the court-room.
This is further held back by a couple of flashback episodes that dissolve any built-up tension created up until that point in favour of fleshing more of the past out.
To be honest, the series doesn’t need either of these episodes and so easily could have cut these out completely.
As we get to know more of the prisoners and Wallace
starts to represent them in court, one of For Life’s
strengths comes from the way it accurately paints
a picture of a fractured America;
shining light on a corrupt justice system that
becomes a central focus of this series.
There’s a lot of interesting themes explored right the way through the show and this, combined with some excellent acting from Nicholas Pinnock, make For Life a really enjoyable show.
The characters are well written and there’s certainly some unexpected twists and turns along the way too that make this such an enthralling watch.
On the same subject though, the ending does leave a lot of plot threads unanswered and the fate of some of the prisoners – including the aforementioned Cassius Dawkins – remains unknown.
With an equal emphasis on the law and prison drama, For Life’s split focus means both genres aren’t quite as strong as they could be.
The courtroom drama never hits the heights of something like Law & Order while the prison scenes are exciting but fail to hit the same peaks something like Prison Break or Wentworth manage to achieve.
The result then is a series that’s pretty good at both but never quite hits that realm of excellence.
For Life is still a very solid watch though and there’s a consistency to the pacing that certainly rewards your patience with some decent episodes along the way.
With lots of scope for a second season and plenty to enjoy during these 13 episodes, For Life is another enjoyable network offering.