Roush Review: ‘For Life’ Is a Compelling Legal Drama to Believe In

For Life Season 1 ABC
ABC/Giovanni Rufino

Rooting for the underdog is a treasured TV tradition, but in the earnestly compelling legal drama, For Life, about a jailhouse lawyer working to secure his own and other inmates’ freedom, the hero seems more like a pit bull.

“Settle down? Know my place, is that what you mean?”snarls Aaron Wallace (a forceful Nicholas Pinnock) to a judge who’s trying to contain his outbursts during his very first trial. By this point, the viewer already empathizes with Wallace’s rage and frustration.

Nine years into a life sentence on false charges that cost him a livelihood and a family, he has earned a law degree but faces considerable obstacles from a broken, corrupt legal system.

Even the prison’s progressive warden (Game of ThronesIndira Varma) will encourage him only so far. She urges Wallace to play the long game and establish his courtroom credibility before taking on the DA he blames for his captivity.

For Life Season 1 Nicholas Pinnock

(Credit: ABC/Giovanni Rufino)

But Wallace isn’t willing to bide his time, and For Life gains dramatic urgency from Pinnock’s powerful portrayal of an impatient man not above bending the rules when the odds are stacked so heavily against him.

“I’ve got a way to fight back, and you can be damned sure that’s what I’m gonna do,” he tells us in his opening voiceover. Damned if you don’t believe him.

For Life, Series Premiere, Tuesday, February 11, 10/9c, ABC