‘Reasonable Doubt’ Review: Hulu’s Legal Drama Is a Soapy Good Time
Reasonable Doubt opens in a dramatic fashion with Jax Stewart (Emayatzy Corinealdi tied to an armchair and pleading for her safety at the gun’s barrel. The next episode continues in a similar soapy vein. After rewinding six month, Jax is introduced to three love interests and a shocking murder. This sets us up for a season full of steamy trysts, rug-pulling revelations, and more.
Anyone who has ever been through a boring thriller knows that the bombshell twists are not enough to grab an audience. Reasonable Doubt , which was created by Scandal veteran Raamla Mohammed and boasts a premiere directed Scandal Kerry Washington , does better than many other watercooler shows. It has believable characters, compelling relationships, and plenty of sexual chemistry.
The Bottom Line
Solid, fun and sane.
Airdate: Tuesday, Sept. 27 (Hulu)
Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, McKinley Freeman, Tim Jo, Angela Grovey, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Aderinsola Olabode, Michael Ealy
Creator: Raamla Mohamed
Jax appears to have it all. The hot-skilled career as a partner in a prestigious law company; the lavish home with a beautiful family (even though her teenage son, Spenser, is clearly going through an awkward phase); and the closet filled with expensive-looking outfits that read equally super-sexy, super-profesh. Her life is still quite enviable in the part-aspirational and part-sensational way that actors of soapy dramas enjoy.
Sure, she and her husband Lewis (McKinley Freeman) are working through a separation, but that just opens the door for Jax to potentially rekindle a romance with Damon (Michael Ealy), the former client fresh off of 16 years in prison for a killing he didn’t commit. Her high-stress job can sometimes be a burden on her personal life (as Lewis is all too keen to remind her), but she just won her most prominent case yet, defending vodka mogul Brayden, (Sean Patrick Thomas), for the murder of Kaleesha, his former colleague and partner.
It’s a lot to handle, but Reasonable Doubt delights at Jax’s remarkable self-assurance. Although it may not be competence porn Better call Saul ,, there is an undeniable pleasure in watching Jax verbally eviscerate witnesses for the prosecution, or cut down a White male colleague (Christopher Cassarino), bristling at the idea that he should follow a Black woman’s lead or simply juggle her duties of parent, friend, and legal counsel over a flurry o of phone calls while zipping around Los Angeles.
Corinealdi is just as entertaining to watch as Jax. She’s blessed with scripts that allow for her to take on many roles. Jax can be funny or prickly, depending on the scene. Corinealdi plays all of her many facets with equal enthusiasm. Importantly, she is able to create chemistry with almost everyone in the group. She is able to share the casual joy of long-lasting friendships with her close-knit friends (Tiffany Yvonne Cox and Nefetari Spencer), and her scenes with Lewis (Freeman) are filled with both lingering affections and stubborn resentment. Her scenes with Ealy are the most fascinating. Ealy’s Damon is sensitive where Jax can be prickly, and steady where she is skittish. Every interaction between them is filled with tenderness, regret and an irresistible hint at danger.
Reasonable Doubt is as capable as Jax is. However, Reasonable Doubt does not want to portray her as a role model or as a righteous crusader. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty for her clients. In fact, she once had to help a grieving family member in a PR play. She also knows that the famous and wealthy people she defends aren’t always saints. She’s been disingenuously and otherwise criticized for not standing up for women who have accused powerful men sexual assault.
Both Jax and the series are aware of the inequalities and injustices built into the world around them. This could be catching her barely contained eyerolls at microaggressions as the only Black female partner at the firm or emphasizing via Montage how Damon and Brayden are treated with complete contempt by white officers. The second half of the season features flashbacks that explore Jax’s tragic childhood trauma and how it reverberates in her relationships today.
The eight-hour-long episodes that were sent to critics for review aren’t clear on whether it has more to say about these ugly realities, whether they will become central to the plot or whether it simply wants to acknowledge them. Although it is possible that the ninth and final chapters will tie them all together into a coherent message; I believe it more likely that the majority of its runtime will be spent tying up the dozen or more loose ends left hanging as of the penultimate.
If this is the case, it will suit the show perfectly. As it stands, it manages to strike a reasonable balance between touching on these issues and not getting too serious about them. Jax might face dark times, as we are told in the first scene of the violent episode and then reminded in the subsequent ons. Reasonable Doubt offers plenty of the juicy thrills, and emotional dilemmas that wine-soaked group conversations were made for.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.