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Eli Stone: Father Figure

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 15th 2008 12:21PM
Eli Stone: Father Figure
(S01E03)
Okay, it looks like we have the formula down pretty well now. Eli's going to have some bizarre visions that will jeopardize his personal and professional life, but those visions will help him make decisions as to what to do. Could it be a brain aneurysm? Sure, if aneurysms can specifically name clients that he hasn't met yet as tonight's does. Instead of creating a compelling long-form narrative, Eli Stone is going to be a typical legal dramedy with a few spot visions thrown in to mess with Eli's life. That's it and it's a shame.

Don't get me wrong, I love Boston Legal. I've spent many years of my life working intimately with the legal profession so I understand the foibles of it, but I guess I wanted more for Eli. And maybe there's still time to give it to us. I have to say, I didn't care for tonight's case at all. Not that the case itself wasn't compelling, because I think Alan Shore would have had a field day with this one, but that Eli perpetuated the perjurous statements of a twelve-year old boy, knowingly sending an innocent man to jail (at least for awhile), all to bring home a woman who didn't want to serve in the war any more.

Now, I'm not going to take a pro- or anti-war stance here, but I will say that the message of this episode was that if you want to get out of your commitment to serve, it's okay to lie to the justice system. Just make up some crisis or another and you can get off scot-free. Or at least they're saying that Eli approves of that. Hell, if his prophetic visions are leading him this way, I guess it's not unheard of for prophets or agents of higher powers to reject the laws of man and answer only to that higher morality.

The "crisis" Brian Swain was facing that lead to this fraudulent lawsuit didn't seem to be any more dramatic or serious than the crises that every twelve-year old child faces in this country every day, though the running away from home pushes it a little further. So why should his mother get special treatment because she wants to be there with him? Should everyone? Or is this what Eli is here to do; rewrite the rules for what is "just." And I get that. I just don't know if this is the true and "just" outcome.

But dismissing that from the equation, the progression of Eli's and Taylor's crumbling relationship headed for its inevitable dissolution, and first "love" Beth came back into the scene. Laura Benanti (Beth) is listed as a regular cast member, so you've got to figure her role will grow and I'd wager she'll become the sympathetic lover Eli needs. Though it's very possible they'll hook her up with Eli's brother Nathan first so there can be Moonlighting unrequited passion. I hope they do something because the chemistry between Johnny Lee Miller and Natasha Henstridge is so flat it's awkward to watch.

Victor Garber remains a good actor, but his character continues to ride that fine line between stereotypical senior partner ass and somewhat compassionate future father-in-law. Oh and bonus for going ahead and having the completely cold-hearted senior partner there for Garber's Jordan to look good next to. I'm still waiting for these characters to inflate a bit and become well-rounded.

Eli's "friend" Dr. Chen keeps pushing the angle that Eli is a prophet, which Eli rejects wholeheartedly. So why does he keep going to him? Because the acupuncture triggers memories? Removes the visions temporarily? Or as a conveniently placed plot device to push the prophet angle forward each episode. And how did Chen become a friend anyway? Wasn't Eli just recommended to go meet the guy in the first episode and then found out he was a quack. By the intro of the second episode he was referred to as Eli's friend.

I agree with Richard wholeheartedly on the abruptly injected junior associate Maggie Dekker. I have no qualms with Julie Gonzalo as I think she's doing a great job of playing the role that's been written for her, but the role is quite terrible. No junior partner could be that terrible in court. Sure, nerves and jitters can cause some screw-ups but when she said "like Jeopardy" to remind herself to question the witnesses, I almost rolled my eyes. She went to law school to be a lawyer. They go over how to question witnesses. What to do, what not to do. Either she was really, really, really nervous, or she barely graduated.

Plus, she's very sweet and kind. So a sweet and kind terrible lawyer who wants to save the world ... what's she doing at this law firm? The firm is the stereotype of a corporate law firm that focuses entirely on the bottom line and billable hours and screw everything else; and believe me there is a kernel of truth to that when it comes to many large law firms. It just doesn't seem a good fit for her at all. That and I can't figure out her role either. Is she there to be a driving force to help Eli in his new direction in life?

Outside of the cases, which haven't impressed me too much and even kind of pissed me off like this one did, the side stories are at least somewhat compelling. I am curious how Eli's continuing visions will affect his future at the firm. Can he keep from losing his job, especially in the fallout of that ending? Should he bother to? I know he worries about losing his health and malpractice insurance, which is valid, but maybe losing all of that will push him further down his prophetic road. He'll have to find other ways to make a difference. Kyle Chandler did just fine with a newspaper and a cat.

I'm still willing to forgive Eli Stone a lot because it's trying to find its voice and way in the television landscape. There's still potential in the premise but I worry that it is settling quickly into what will become its routine. I hope I'm wrong. I'm actually still intrigued enough to keep with it for awhile more. I just wish, like Richard, that the visions were more than just background fodder for humorous moments when he came out of them. I know they guide him in choices but for the most part they set up humor, so far. They can be so much more than that. How about visions of a larger destiny or future or something he's working towards. Give the show some kind of arc destiny.

What do you think of Eli's visions?
They're definitely prophetic49 (43.0%)
It's his subconscious reaching out to him39 (34.2%)
He's just hallucinating3 (2.6%)
The show doesn't even need them; they're annoying23 (20.2%)

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Anthony

so the part where he first encounters the plane looks to be a homage to some Hitchcock movie (saw it during the Oscars telecast but don't recall the title)

February 25 2008 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe

I love the serial drama aspects of the show they've employed here. It appears that this show won't be a procedural with wacky twists every so often. There's the mystery of the prophecies that Eli (hopefully) comes to understand and accept, but things like lying to his father-in-law, breaking up with his fiancee in order to protect her and getting to know Beth again.

Also, I feel like Maggie fills in a blank I didn't even notice in the pilot and it feels like she is always inadvertedly leaving Eli to his case of the week. It feels like there's something to that coincidence so perhaps her, and all of Eli's friends and family are destined to help him along the way? And I love how Eli's father is a warning about what could happen to Eli if he's not careful...

Wait a minute... I think I actually like this show!

February 15 2008 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Helen

I agree that Maggie's inexperience/ineptitude is overdone, but I think you meant to say "associate," not "partner." She's a first-year, while Eli is an older associate. (It typically takes 7 years or so for an associate to make partner at a firm like this.)

Also, they don't necessarily teach the practicalities of questioning witnesses/etc at law schools. Some electives (especially clinics) do, but it's not part of the requisite curriculum. The rules would probably part of the bar course (taken after one gets the J.D.), but most of the hands-on training would be done by the firm itself, during the 2L summer & early portion of an associate's career. The fact that she's A) so confused and B) actually arguing in court would make me worry more about the firm's training programs than about her - if, you know, either were real.

Actually, her bumbling reminds me a little of Christina (Julianne Nicholson) on the short-lived "Conviction" (the character was flustered in her first actual trial, although she'd been at the DA's office for a year or two), but I think is was handled much better/more realisticly there.

February 15 2008 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Helen's comment
Helen

(Disclaimer: the 2nd paragraph is my understanding based on friends' experiences with law school/big firms, but I've done neither, so feel free to correct me if I got it wrong!)

February 15 2008 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bill

You know the first time I saw Eli I really wasn't impressed and a little annoyed by it. It was on after LOST and it's not like there's anything else on, so I've stuck with it. I was never really in to Ally McBeal and the whole "vision" thing can be distracting if not used properly. Now (especially after last night's episode and the lack of George Michael appearances) I find myself looking forward to what will happen next . Sure we all know the fiance will eventually go by the wayside and yes the old girlfriend is destined to take her place, but there's something to be said about a little bit of predictability as long as the characters come off as endearing.

After spending an hour screaming "WHAT THE %$#%!!" every time LOST takes a commercial break, it's nice to watch a show that leaves you with a sense of what's about to happen next.

February 15 2008 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

I'm enjoying it too... sort of a bizarre combination of Boston Legal and Pushing Daisies (that is what its called, right? Every time I type it I feel like I'm mixing it with Pushing Tin). Could it be more? Yeah. It could. And I hope it grows into that more. I want a little more 'odd'. BL has 'wacky' down pat, I think (heck, enough that I think it's more of a comedy than a drama now, but dramedy still works, I guess.. comma sounds too punctual =) so I want that more odd.

But that's me.

February 15 2008 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
socrates

I like Eli Stone. It is entertaining and that is what I look for in a TV show. Do I need absolute empirical truthiness in how I view this lawyer show? No. Does Eli's hollow relationship with his lawyer girlfriend disturb me? No, because if you can wait long enough for it to unwrap itself it will probably be another reveling aspect of Eli's deeper journey to have more meaningful relationships in his life. Many people have competitive, shallow relationships that reflect their own inner shallowness until something knocks them over the head and they wake up. I like the way this story is handled with humor and lightness because in truth is it is a heavy tale of inner knowledge and not about Eli's skill at being a LAWYER. Being a lawyer is the car he drives around. The visions are the destinations and what they reveal about Eli, and thus all of us watching, is the journey. If you want a law show about the law and how the law is carried out then go watch Boston Legal. If you want a show that examines the absurd contradictions of a higher morality, a higher calling, a deeper truth then watch Eli Stone.

February 15 2008 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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