Three years ago, Gina Torres left Suits, then came back as the firm’s hard-driving boss, Jessica Pearson, in a backdoor pilot at the end of the show’s eighth season. In that episode, she sues her hometown of Chicago over the demolition of her aunt’s housing project, then settles the dispute by agreeing to work for the mayor. The spin-off created from that episode, Pearson, picks up where that episode leaves off. Read on for more…
PEARSON: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: The underside of the blades of a shredder as it does it work on some paper. We then see a quiet office, where Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) is doing some late night shredding.
The Gist: Pearson walks out of City Hall to meet someone under some El tracks, and when the person doesn’t show up, she calls someone and asks her if that person is with her. Then something happens and she drops the phone.
Flash back eight weeks. Pearson, who quit her law firm in New York three years ago and has since been disbarred, is about to start working for Chicago mayor Bobby Novak (Morgan Spector) as his legal advisor and right-hand person. This position is fraught with complications, though, as she’s suing the city to keep her aunt’s housing project from being demolished.
When Novak’s counsel — and secret girlfriend — Keri Allen (Bethany Joy Lenz) objects, Novak tells her “there is no more lawsuit.” In other words, she dropped the suit to get on the inside and see if she can do more from there. Allen isn’t exactly happy about this, since she was the one who was instrumental in getting Pearson disbarred. She’s also not happy that Pearson is sticking her nose in the city tearing down a South Side school and sending the students to a magnet school across town. But Pearson, who hounds the alderman from that district behind the mayor’s back, uses the leverage she’s gained with a bus manufacturer falling behind on the city’s order for new school buses to solve both problems, much to Allen’s disgust.
Novak has his own issues; he and his driver/half-brother Nick D’Amato (Simon Kassianides) are embroiled with Pat McGann (Wayne Duvall), a local developer who has had something on the two of them since Novak, a former public defender, was a young alderman. Nick doesn’t want to be under this developer’s thumb, and he also knows way too much about how his married-with-kids brother is carrying on with Kerri. So there are a number of secrets that they both have to protect, else Novak’s political career gets blown to smithereens.
Our Take: Pearson will probably satisfy fans of its parent show, Suits, which is entering its final season. First of all, Torres, who left the show in 2016, was a fan favorite, so seeing her back as the tough and always-looking-to-win Jessica Pearson will be satisfying. And the new show’s moral ambiguity arcs, married with a case-of-the-week format, is also similar to Suits. How much you enjoy Pearson, though, comes down to how much you like a show that’s a slightly grittier version of a USA “Characters Welcome”-era show.
In the process of trying to balance the procedural aspects with this show with the character arcs Pearson and Novak have, creator Daniel Arkin jams a few too many mysteries and a few too many conveniences in the first episode. It feels like he’s positioning Jessica to ride in on a horse and fix everything that’s questionable about Chicago politics, simply because she’s an outsider. She hears the words “you don’t know how things work here” more than once, which she seems to scoff at while she settles things her way. But the way the issue of the week in the first episode is settled, with the help of the mayor’s eager press secretary Derrick Mayes (Eli Goree), felt a bit too neat and clean, even if, as Novak tells her, her actions will have far-reaching consequences.
The performances are more or less decent, though we can’t shake Morgan Spector’s resemblance to former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, which doesn’t seem entirely coincidental. He plays the role more aggressive than he should; we know he’s a Chicago kid heavily involved in the community, but there could be a bit more subtlety in his role.
Sex and Skin: Besides seeing Jessica waking up next to boyfriend Jeff Malone (D.B. Woodside) in a high-rise downtown apartment, nothing. Malone also decides to take a case in Florida to give both of them some space.
Parting Shot: Jessica arrives at her apartment to see flowers and a note from Jeff saying “I always have your back.” In a gift box is a DOJ file containing incriminating photos of Nick, confirming what Jessica thinks of the mayor.
Sleeper Star: Chantel Riley plays Angela Cook, Jessica’s cousin who works as a nurse’s assistant and is constantly suspicious of Jessica’s motives, especially when it comes to helping Angela’s mother keep her home.
Most Pilot-y Line: McGann to Novak after he sees the mayor enter the bowling alley where they were to meet by himself, “Old Man Daley wouldn’t take a shit without a cop outside his stall.” “Lucky cop,” the mayor replies.
Our Call: STREAM IT if you’re a Suits fanatic, but SKIP IT if you’re not. Pearson isn’t compelling enough to follow along, no matter how complicated the storylines get.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company’s Co.Create and elsewhere.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Pearson’ On USA, Where The Tough ‘Suits’ Boss Goes To Work For Chicago’s Mayor appeared first on Decider.