As a legal family drama whose premise is rooted in a Black man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, it’s not surprising that For Life is covering police brutality and the BLM movement.
And For Life Season 2 Episode 7 spent much of the heavy hour exploring the myriad of feelings the characters had following the George Floyd video as they found different ways to make a difference.
It was a laudable effort, albeit a bit clumsy at times, with strong performances, and it served as the setup for a case that could change Aaron’s world and career.
What appeared to be a random man with his son started the hour, and even though we had no idea who the person was, the series firmly established him as a hardworking, friendly, family man.
Every second leading up to the flashing lights shining behind him gave you a tense feeling. Why? Because you knew where the hour was going.
Aaron: Hey, what’s wrong?
Jasmine: They won’t get off his neck. He just kept begging and they wouldn’t let him up. He just wants to be let up. Why wouldn’t they let him up? He was crying for his mother. He just kept crying!
But it wasn’t until Aaron returned home to Jasmine watching the now-infamous George Floyd video that the tone of the hour and the multi-episode arc fell into place.
It’s the video that revitalized a movement or specifically made it so mainstream that no longer could anyone turn away or avoid the topic at hand. It shifted the conversation, and that’s why we see it on our screens prominently.
For Life tried to capture all the little subtleties of how that affected many, specifically Black individuals afterward.
Spencer and Aaron don’t see eye to eye nor get along, but suddenly, that didn’t matter when it came to reaching out, checking in, making sure that the other is staying indoors, or that Aaron isn’t missing his curfew. As Black men, they shared that unspoken connection that transcended their differences.
Spencer: You know what I hate more than anything? Feeling helpless.
Aaron: You and me finally got something in common.Spencer: Now’s the time to be a troublemaker. Just don’t know what to do though.
Aaron and Ronnie’s father were the same. Nearly every greeting was a gentle “are you good?” They shared that panic when the cops arrested Ronnie. They were terrified that their kids were out protesting and didn’t sigh in relief until they got home.
They both talked about the hardships and emotional toll of Andy’s case. They shared with a dissociated chuckle that among all of their memorable “firsts” is their introduction to racism — receiving it. For Ronnie’s father, his first racist encounter was in kindergarten, and for Aaron, it was the ripe young age of eight.
And Ronnie’s father expressed that eternal sense of helplessness. He did everything socially acceptable. He and his family do everything right, and they’re respectable people, and yet, none of that prevented his son from getting hauled off to jail for alerting the cops of a potential rioter, not starting one.
Respectability means nothing in the face of racism. It doesn’t save or spare.
I moved my family to the suburbs. I got involved in the community. I go to church. I did everything right, and they still put their hands on my son.
Aaron and Jasmine (along with Marie and her patient) embodied the at times conflicting generational responses.
Aaron didn’t want Jasmine out in the streets and didn’t see how protesting and endangering herself did any good. While Jasmine felt she needed to channel her energy into something and thought maybe it was a useful tool for change.
Marie’s patient as an elder (possibly a Boomer or the Silent Generation), she was agitated by all the fuss of younguns spilling into the streets irate as if what happened was something new. The resignation in her voice that a knee or a noose were just methods for the same result reminded Marie of Aaron.
The friction between Jasmine and Ronnie was realistic as well. She was throwing herself into protesting. He worried she was piling too much on and not spending enough time with their baby. The balance of fighting for justice and other lives while remembering to live hers was a struggle.
And, of course, Jasmine’s fear and guilt as a new mother. She loves her son more than she ever imagined was possible, but times like that made her afraid that she brought a Black child, especially a boy, in this tumultuous world where his skin could be a death sentence.
I love AJ. I never thought I could love someone so much, but what was I thinking bringing a black child into this world? I feel like I sent my son to his grave.
Ronnie’s mother told her what she could, taught her how to find hope amid that fear, even when that terror never dissipates, probably gets even worse as he ages.
It had the conflicting moments of Aaron not wanting to bury himself in a case like that versus needing to fight for better days. Masry and Henry were ever the resolute allies as Masry reminded Aaron that while she can’t understand the full extent of what he’s dealing with, she’s always by his side.
Meanwhile, Henry expressed that it felt more like a time for him to be silent, do less talking, and listening instead.
The hour interweaved all of that throughout the installment, and at times it was a bit heavy-handed, but nevertheless, For Life poured its all into capturing all of this brazenly and without apology.
Andy Tobias didn’t deserve to die. While there are a plethora of cases — too damn many of them– Andy’s storyline is comparable to the Jacob Blake shooting.
Andy: You know the question I ask every day?
Aaron: What’s that?
Andy: What the hell is their problem? I mean they got everything, but they’re still on some genocide mess.
Aaron: We exist.
I wonder if not showing what happened after Andy saw the sirens in the rearview mirror was a deliberate choice. We know Aaron is taking this case on as he prompts an investigation, so maybe we’ll get more details as that plays out.
As Jasmine and others protested an unarmed Black man’s death, another died under Aaron’s nose. Would it have made the case easier if Aaron didn’t get to know Andy, talk to and bond with the man and then lose him? Or does it galvanize him more than ever before?
Andy said he was pulled over for Driving While Black in a predominately white Staten Island, and one cop went through the standard traffic stop protocol while the other one seemingly looked for a reason to hem him up.
He complied with things, but he went to help his son as the boy was getting out of the car seat, and the cops shot Andy in the back, paralyzing him.
Aaron: How’s Ronnie?
Larry: There’s certain firsts we all remember. First love. First kiss. First heartbreak.
Aaron: First racist experience.
Larry: Yeah. I was in kindergarten. My new best friend told me his parents said he couldn’t play with any “n’s.” He didn’t even know what that word was.
Aaron: I was eight. In the scouts. There was three of us black kids, and when it came time to set up camp, the scout leader, he segregated us. Put us on the outskirts of the white kids’ tent
A routine traffic stop can go awry in the blink of an eye. Andy’s charges were another example of the circular bullcrap that needs an overhaul. Despite his paralysis, they handcuffed him to the hospital bed for two weeks and had a guard posted outside of his room.
They charged Andy with various forms of resisting arrest, but of course, there’s no initial charge that explained what he was supposedly getting arrested for in the first place.
And because of the pandemic, arraignments were backed up, and Aaron suspected the case’s nature had the courts pushing back Andy’s anyway.
Our first glimpse at Aaron’s uphill battle was when he saw the D.A. and the judge were chummy. Henry called it a “Good Ole Boys” club, so it’s not a stretch that they suspected the system would shuffle off Andy’s case and not look into the shooting at all.
Aaron: Is that the DA talking to the judge?
Henry: Welcome to Staten Island. It’s the Good Ole Boys club.
It did get a bit confusing when initially Aaron wasn’t successful in getting Andy’s handcuffs removed, and then he did. Aaron discussing how demoralizing they are, especially when he got passionate and emotional about it with Andy’s other lawyer, would’ve persuaded the hardest of hearts.
It’s good that Aaron is expressing his feelings and speaking bits at a time about his experiences while incarcerated and the effects on him. It’s something he also was able to do with Marie when he told her that she likely has PTSD too from her tireless work treating COVID patients, isolated from her family for months.
I appreciate the conversations; we saw a bit during For Life Season 2 Episode 6, too. However, I wish they’d show us more of Aaron in therapy. For Life is a series that tries to address many stigmas, and mental health is a big one that they could devote more time to exploring in the forefront rather than the background.
Aaron couldn’t reconcile that he had spoken to Andy hours before, and then the man was on life support with a blood clot that eventually killed him. Andy was a great father with a son who thought he was a hero and a newborn daughter.
People walking around all horrified like this is new. His knee was the noose, honey. They just got a new way to kill us now.
He went from wondering if his son or wife would see him the same way to passing away. And if not for Aaron and Henry trying to appeal to the Attorney General to investigate this case, Andy’s death would get swept away.
The Attorney General is in a difficult position from a political perspective.
If he chooses to investigate Andy’s death and the police, he’ll lose support from the cops and places like Staten Island where it took place. If he does nothing and lets Andy’s death go unchecked, then it’s irreparable damage to his relationship with the Black community and the more diverse cities.
It always goes back to politics, optics, and perception. It’s never about justice, morality, or what’s right and wrong. Isn’t it exhausting?
Spencer’s motivations always remain unclear. He’s the one who approached the Attorney General and suggested that he invoke what he needs to investigate Andy’s shooting.
The AG didn’t have much choice, especially with the entire country protesting and watchful eyes.
Andy’s wife making a public plea tied his hands, but he should’ve done it anyway. It shouldn’t have taken all of this.
But instead of taking on any accountability or flack as he tries to appease all sides, Spencer suggested that Aaron serve as special prosecutor with this case. Come hell or high water, no matter what happens and the results, it’ll fall on Aaron.
Aaron had to give up his collars for dollars lawsuit and other things, but this is bigger than that. I don’t think Aaron ever set out to be some trailblazer, but that’s where he’s headed.
Andy’s Wife: My husband is not even buried, Mr. Wallace. What you’re asking me to do …
Aaron: I know. And I hate to even ask. Focus should be on your family, but we need to back that AG into a corner, and he won’t act unless there is public pressure.
It’s an exhilarating, terrifying, stressful turn of events that’ll undoubtedly have us glued to our screens.
As an aside, did anyone else enjoy the sybolism of the family putting Andy to rest and the Wallaces and Baxters getting AJ baptized? The end of one life, taken too soon, and the beginning of another. The cycle continues.
Over to you, For Life Fanatics. How do you feel about this hour and Aaron’s new case? Hit the comments below.
You can watch For Life online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.