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Why The Lincoln Lawyer season 2 needs to focus on his ex-wife

Why the Netflix hit needs to lean into its procedural roots and give its biggest star more screen time.

Neve Campbell as Maggie McPherson in The Lincoln Lawyer
Lara Solanki/Netflix
Published: Saturday, 21st May 2022 at 5:37 pm
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Netflix series The Lincoln Lawyer may have been a rather underwhelming legal procedural that you could easily believe had sat on a commercial U.S. network’s shelf since the early ‘00s. But there’s no doubt that the ‘thriller without the thrills’ has been a hit: it even replaced everyone’s favourite blue-tinged money-laundering drama Ozark’s fourth and final season on Netflix’s most-watched list.

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The case for a second season, therefore, appears to be a slam dunk. Let’s just hope creator David E. Kelley makes numerous significant changes if the Lincoln Town Car-dwelling defence attorney does get to have another day in court.

His first should undoubtedly be giving his most high-profile name more to do. Indeed, Neve Campbell was disappointingly wasted in the first season, with her role as criminal prosecutor, and Mickey Haller’s first ex-wife, Maggie largely consigned to disapproving looks and unsubtle exposition. Even her own major case only truly came alive when it was interrupted by her former husband’s towards the closing stages.

The fallout from the latter is certainly worth exploring further. While Mickey’s efforts to free Jesus Menendez, the innocent man he’d previously failed to defend from a murder charge, eventually paid off, they did so at the expense of his true love. Maggie’s attempts to convict human trafficker Angelo Soto (Reggie Lee) were entirely compromised when her only key witness, Detective Lee Lankford (Jamie McShane), was outed by Mickey as a crook. And having failed to receive a warning beforehand, Maggie was understandably left feeling betrayed. A more dogged and determined Campbell, qualities she showed once again in this year’s Scream reboot, would not be an unwelcome development.

Perhaps Kelley could also better utilise the chemistry that Campbell and leading man Manuel Garcia-Rulfo occasionally displayed, none more so than in the finale when only an unfortunately-timed text message stopped them from jumping into bed. Their colliding professional lives look to have put pay to a reunion, yet with teenage daughter Hayley (Krista Warner) still tying them together, there’s still hope for all the shippers out there.

However, Mickey and Maggie’s fate isn’t the only story left hanging in the air. While the former did manage to belatedly acquit the man whose wrongful conviction sent him into a spiral of drug-addicted despair, the real culprit remains out there. Referenced by the newly-found witness, the distinctive Chinese symbols tattooed on his forearm suggests he should be easily identifiable. But will he get to our brooding hero – the closing shot shows the mystery menace watching him ride some waves from afar – before justice can be served?

It's a loose thread which indicates The Lincoln Lawyer will be adopting the overarching approach should a second season get the green light. That’s perhaps a mistake for a show which, on a visual and scriptwriting level, bears all the hallmarks of a ‘case of the week’ procedural a la L.A. Law, Boston Legal and The Practice, all of which Kelley had a hand in.

Indeed, the Netflix original works far better as the kind of undemanding episodic TV you can leave on in the background rather than an interweaving drama that requires your undivided attention. It’s why interest in the trial of a tech mogul accused of killing his wife and her lover petered out long before its bloody conclusion 10 episodes in.

Lincoln Lawyer
Lincoln Lawyer. (L to R) Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller, Becki Newton as Lorna in episode 101 of Lincoln Lawyer. Cr. Lara Solanki/Netflix © 2022

Of course, such speculation could be immediately shut down if we knew whether producers were thinking of adapting another Michael Connelly novel or creating a completely new narrative. The first season stayed relatively faithful to the second of Mickey Haller’s published escapades, The Brass Verdict, which took place a year on from the events of its predecessor (and source material for the 2011 movie starring Matthew McConaughey). And there are still another four to choose from including The Gods of Guilt, The Fifth Witness and the most recent, 2020’s The Law of Innocence.

The most obvious route to go, however, is third instalment The Reversal. If that proves to be the case, then we can look forward to seeing Mickey and Maggie putting their differences aside and working together on a murder retrial granted due to advances in DNA. And while Cisco (Angus Sampson) goes AWOL in the book, the TV series will surely show what happened once he returned to criminal biker gang Red Saints to take on a mysterious debt-paying job. The show would definitely benefit from more of the banter between the private investigator and his office assistant girlfriend (and Mickey’s second ex-wife) Lorna (Becki Newton) too.

With so many ready-made stories at their disposal, Netflix could well have a long-running hit on their hands. But Kelley and co. will need to do some honing if they’re to tick each one off the list.

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The Lincoln Lawyer is available to stream on Netflix – check out our Drama hub for all the latest news. If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide.

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