For The People: S02.E10 ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

0
Poster for the ABC courtroom drama "For The People" (An IMDb graphic).



“The greatest threat to democracy is making it meaningless,” Kate Littlejohn (Susannah Flood) said during her closing statement. Voter suppression is real.

Screen Capture: Susannah Flood as Kate Littlejohn in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Anyone that says otherwise is either bought into the right-wing delusion of there not being voter suppression or is a fool. Inclusive of season two finale, Paul William Davies created courtroom drama has always presented social commentary as part of episode narratives because it is a way for entertainment producers to get across to their viewers a valid point.

Brief Episode Synopsis: ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Screen Capture: Britt Robertson and Jasmin Savoy Brown as Sandra Bell and Allison Adams, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Election Day is here. FPD (Federal Public Defender) Jay Simmons (Wesam Keesh) and his parents, Sam Simmons (Arthur Darbinyan) and Vera Simmons (Anna Khaja), are at a polling place to cast their votes as individuals.

Screen Capture: Wesam Keesh and Arthur Darbinyan as Jay Simmons and Sam Simmons, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Because of a clear act of voter suppression by a security guard (Rich Hutchman), Jay sought out United States ADA (Assistant District Attorney) Kate for assistance after his parents and various other voters are illegally intimidated at the polling place.

Screen Capture: Ben Shenkman and Hope Davis as Roger Gunn and Jill Carlan, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Meanwhile, Chief of the Criminal Division of the US Attorney’s Office Roger Gunn (Ben Shenkman) and the Chief Federal Public Defender Jill Carlan (Hope Davis) are in a romantic relationship. Because FPD Sandra Bell (Britt Robertson) knows about the relationship, is at an impasse.

Screen Capture: Ben Shenkman and Ben Rappaport as Roger Gunn and Seth Oliver, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Elsewhere, United States ADA Seth Oliver (Ben Rappaport) is assigned by Roger to the case of a lifetime.

Screen Capture: Ben Rappaport and Bruno Gunn as Seth Oliver and Gabe DiVencenzo, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Seth’s anxiety increases when Roger appoints a bodyguard, Gabe DiVencenzo (Bruno Gunn), to protect him.

On a personal level for both Sandra and Ted (Charles Michael Davis), they take their relationship up a notch.

Poster for the ABC courtroom drama “For The People” (An IMDb graphic).

SPOILER WARNING: If you have yet to see the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things,’ stop reading. There are spoilers in this article. Feel free to continue reading this piece after you have seen the episode.

Voter Suppression

Screen Capture: Wesam Keesh and Rich Hutchman as Jay Simmons and voter suppressing Security Guard, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

Voter suppression is not merely a plot device for the series finale. Unfortunately, increasingly so, it is very much part of the American political landscape. People eligible to vote in American elections see intimidation at numerous polling places. If one is eligible to vote in an election, exercising your right to vote is constitutionally protected.

The opening scene of ‘A Choice Between Two Things’ exemplifies perfectly the current situation seen in many polling places around these United States.

Screen Capture: Regé-Jean Page as Leonard Knox in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

While US ADA Leonard Knox (Regé-Jean Page) seems surprised there is voter intimidation in New York, Kate correctly observes “New York has some of the most regressive voter restrictive laws in the country.” But then, what would Leonard know. As he said himself, “I’m from Texas.”

The United States Attorney Douglas Delap (Michael Beach)

Screen Capture: Susannah Flood, Regé-Jean Page, Ben Shenkman and Michael Beach as Kate Littlejohn, Leonard Knox, Roger Gunn and Douglas Delap, respectively, in the Tom Verica directed For The People episode ‘A Choice Between Two Things’

“All voting cases are supposed to be prosecuted by the Justice Department,” Delap said, “All of them.” Because of this Delap is not willing to sign off on a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations) Act case he fails is unwinnable.

The Case of a Lifetime

“The Petrini Crime Family. Do you know them?” Roger asks Seth. Seth thinks he’s dreaming. Because of this, he almost turns down the case. A bodyguard unnerves Seth. Even though The Petrini Crime Family case is big for Seth but it is not the primary focus of the episode.

The Godfather dream sequence, considering the case Seth is working on, is a nice touch for the episode.

Personal or Professional

Roger and Jill are in a romantic relationship. With the positions they hold, such relationships have complications. Consequently, the ramifications for their respective careers are significant.

Many people are not able to separate professional life from their personal one. It is this inability to compartmentalise their lives which creates problems. They take their work home with them. This, however, does to seem the case with either Roger or Jill. Both characters seem able to leave their jobs at work. Work does not fully define them. It is not who they are as individuals. Their jobs are what they do for money.

“Well, if we’re going to give up everything for this job,” Roger said to Kate and Jay, “then what we do ought to be worth it.” It is clear the Roger chooses to ignore Delap is that he has determined to leave his position.

Constitutional Rights

We look to the US Constitution and state laws to determine eligibility to vote in American elections. If you pay attention during political science classes, you will know this point is accurate. There are numerous constitutional amendments pertaining to voting rights. The government cannot abridge vote rights on account of race, colour previous condition of servitude, sex, or age for those above 18-years-old.

Prior to Thursday, 3 Feb. 1870, there was nothing in the text of the US Constitution established voting rights.

What is the significance of Thursday, 3 Feb. 1870? It was the day the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. The Fifteenth Amendment, one of three constitutional amendments ratified after the American Civil War, grants freedmen full rights of citizenship. These amendments prevent states from basing eligibility for voting on race.

Note the terminology ‘freedmen.’ Freedwomen were still not part of the electorate. Neither were women of any other colour. Wednesday, 18 August 1920 saw the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Final Thoughts

Whether a series succeeds has more to do with ratings than it does with quality. As a result, my disdain for how networks treat quality drama is strong. Productions such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians continue running because of popularity not because of any readily apparent quality. It is garbage.

Davies created something meaningful.  The series is set in the sovereign United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Even with such a wealth of talent, inclusive of Hope Davis, Ben Shenkman, Anna Devere Smith and Vondie Curtis-Hall, we will not see a third season of For The People hit our television screens.

Davies’ show, along with many other productions, had a niche following. The niche following could be the reason I have a low readership for my For The People articles. Niche viewer-ships is not what networks look for when filling their primetime slots. It’s a business. The television production business revolves more around advertising revenue than it does to produce quality drama.