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Presumed Innocent Spins Riveting Mystery on Apple TV+ | TV/Streaming

Presumed Innocent Spins Riveting Mystery on Apple TV+ | TV/Streaming

This isn’t the first time “Presumed Innocent” has been adapted; Harrison Ford played Sabich in a filmed version in the 1990s. This new limited series is created and written by David E. Kelley. — the very same writer/creator of renowned legal dramas “LA Law”, “Ally McBeal”, “Boston Legal”, and “Big Little Lies” among others. Kelley has a long history of legal thrillers, and this story provides the perfect blend of mystery wrapped with legal intrigue that showcases his talents well.

What drives “Presumed Innocent” is Sabich’s intense desire to prove his innocence. When Roger Ebert wrote about the film, he said the core drama comes from “the fear of being found guilty of a crime one did not commit.” It isn’t immediately apparent how much trouble Sabich is in; Kelley’s script drips out incriminating details slowly. First, Polhemus is merely his colleague, then the news of the affair comes out, and so forth. Many of Sabich’s co-workers had no idea he was involved with Polhemus and began questioning his character. Even his long-time friend and boss, Raymond Horgan (Bill Camp), isn’t sure what to believe. 

The show constantly encourages you to question Sabich’s innocence throughout the series; he makes a lot of bone-headed decisions and snap judgments. He can be quick to violence, threatening coworkers or harassing civilians. This desperation leads him to reexamine crimes he and Polhemus solved some time ago because of vague similarities. Even his children believe he could have some dissociative reaction to this crime of passion. It only works because of Gyllenhaal’s intense, caterwauling performance — in one instance, he can be the smartest guy in the room, completely unhinged in the next. 

How sympathetic audiences will be to Sabich’s character will depend on their tolerance and reaction to infidelity. Even before the news of Polhemus’ death, Sabich’s marriage had already taken a massive blow, as Barbara had known about the affair for some time, and the two had been seeing a therapist to save their marriage. Barbara’s character is given a lot of agency in this adaptation, first in her relationship with her children and then as she explores a romance outside her marriage with an attractive bartender (Sarunas J. Jackson). While superficial to the overarching plot, this development works because of Negga’s innate talents.

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