This article contains opinion.
ABC’s first episode of the brand-new series “For Life” began at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
The series is inspired by real events and is based loosely on the story of a New York man named Isaac Wright Jr. It revolves around a man from the Bronx named Aaron Wallace who was wrongly sentenced to life in prison for a drug trafficking crime he did not commit.
This series joins the list of increasingly relevant media surrounding the specific social justice issues of unjust punishment, false accusations and wrongly appointed prison sentences and also maintains a focus on the problem of racism in the judicial system and the way it affects those who still suffer under its disheartening weight.
The growing list of film-based media surrounding these issues includes the Netflix documentary by Ava Duvernay titled “13th” and the new movie called “Just Mercy,” which was also based on true events and was released to theaters in December.
Aaron Wallace, the main character of “For Life” and played by actor Nicholas Pinnock, becomes a lawyer and is involved in court cases for men he believes were also wrongly accused.
After being arrested and found guilty for drug dealing, Wallace finds an incredible loophole in the prison system and jumps on the opportunity to begin his quest for freedom.
His drive to become a lawyer is clearly fueled by his resilience and his determination to get out of prison and return to his family. To find his way to the court room, he worked through the paralegal association to represent other inmates in their internal cases, which gave him unlimited access to the prison library, where he found a way to legally sit for his bar exam.
The series opens with a scene in a courtroom in which Wallace begins the argument for his very first court case in defense of a boy who was accused in a case that involved the supposed statutory rape of a minor and the sale and possession of oxycodone. Wallace’s patience and resolve is tested right off the bat when it is revealed to the audience that his defense is in opposition of one of the lawyers who was responsible for his life sentence.
The first episode includes hints about his past story, his struggle with white supremacy after his sentence began, his family’s struggles that he remains unaware of while in prison and the stress he faces while he tries to gain credibility as a lawyer and further his cause of helping those who need it most all while managing his own journey toward freeing himself through his work.
His motivation to win his first case as a defense lawyer throughout the first episode is interesting and occasionally seems self-serving. At certain times, his moral compass even seems somewhat warped. There are a few scenes that show how Wallace bends his knowledge of his first case’s evidence in order to win the case.
He is shown using connections in prison to forge a note, ensure the handwriting was nearly identical to the witness’s, remove all fingerprints and use his wife’s cooperation to send the letter from outside the jail to make it appear as if it was the original evidence from the day Jose, the boy he is defending during his first case, was wrongly accused.
The montage of his prison comrades walking up to him in somber congratulatory fashion after he gets the boy Jose acquitted is moving in the best way, and the viewer’s faith in the purity of Wallace’s motivation to continue freeing wrongly accused men is restored.
In the last scene, he gets a visit from his daughter, who turns his world upside down by admitting to him that she is pregnant. She expects him to be angry, but he only seems heartbroken about the fact that he cannot be with her for every step of the journey. She begs him to find a way to get himself freed so he can look after her and his grandson again.
The ending monologue of the first episode was well-written and composed a compelling image about his struggle to accept his false accusation and about how he wants to continue to free innocent, including himself. He vows to stop wasting time and continue the fight by doing whatever it takes to act against the corrupt power and get his life back.