'Marie': My Breakdown of S1E4 of ABC's Hit Show "For Life"
Are you #TeamAaron, #TeamDarius or #TeamMarie?
If you haven't yet gotten into ABC's new legal crime drama "For Life", what are you waiting for?! Pick up your remote control, type it into your guide and save it to watch next week Tuesday! You can tweet me your thanks later :)
Created by Hank Steinberg with Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson as executive producer, the series, which premiered February 11, is based on the real-life story of Isaac Wright Jr., a man who was wrongly convicted on drug charges and sentenced to life in prison, in 1991, in the state of New Jersey, who proved his innocence and was released.
English TV and stage actor Nicholas Pinnock (Marcella, 2016) stars as Aaron Wallace, a fictionalized Wright Jr. Alongside Pinnock, is American actress and former model, Joy Bryant (The Skeleton Key and Get Rich or Die Tryin', both 2005 & Parenthood, 2010), who stars as Aaron's wife, Marie Wallace.
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Even though I've watched every episode since the pilot, which was superb, (I came for Pinnock's looks, I can't lie *hides face*, but stayed for the writing, storylines and acting), I must say that episode four, 'Marie', has had the most profound impact on me, thus far, so much so, that I couldn't let it pass without writing a review.
At this point in the series, we have been introduced to Aaron and his skills in the courtroom with overturning fellow inmates' convictions, as well as his life in prison as prison rep. We also see his relationship with Marie, and his relationship with their daughter Jasmine (Tyla Harris), which, under the circumstances, are pretty good.
Upon rewatching, I nicknamed it the "test of time" ep because it showed Marie's patience and devotion to her husband over a period of time, but also because it showed the many milestones that Aaron was missing via flashbacks, which I'm embarrassed to say, I almost couldn't keep up with (mathematically), LOL!
Aside from the present at the very beginning and the very end, the episode is designed in eight parts, at least, that's how I formulated it. 1) Flashback to one year before the arrest; 2) One day after the arrest; 3) Eight months after; 4) Bellmore Prison; 5) Three years after; 6) Five years after; 7) Seven years after and 8) Eight years after.
Flashback to one year before the arrest
Without giving too much away, the episode begins with Marie sitting in her car after having visited Aaron. Her voice narrates, "I used to think I was blessed. I was married to a man I loved. My baby girl was happy and healthy. I felt safe. I felt secure. I thought, there would be time, for everything."
The episode immediately flashes back to one year before Aaron is arrested.
During this time, audiences get to see Marie, Aaron and Jasmine as a family, as they celebrate Jasmine's seventh birthday with a party at their house. Celebrating Jasmine's birthday would soon become a marker of just how much time has passed and Aaron has missed, since the arrest.
We also get to see Aaron finally open his nightclub with two of his "friends" Michael (Mike) and Angelo, which sets the precedent for the rest of the episode and the series with Aaron's fate.
What started as a night of dancing and bliss, quickly escalated into police raiding the club and pulling Aaron, Michael and Angelo out in handcuffs. Yet, while all of that was going on and Marie was shouting out for Aaron and asking an officer why her husband was being arrested, I couldn't help but notice that Darius (Brandon Dirden), Aaron's closest friend who is "like a brother to him", was the one holding Marie back. Hmmm... how convenient! Where was your girlfriend, Darius? I'll get to this later.
Nevertheless, the main motif throughout the episode is Marie's decision on whether or not she will pursue nursing school. Even with a glowing letter of recommendation she received from friend and resident doctor, Vanessa (Marjan Neshat), Marie puts that part of her life on hold, as she remains focused on Aaron and Jasmine.
I find it important to note how writers make sure to include Aaron's consistent encouragement of Marie to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse, both prior to and after his arrest. This shows that no matter what, Aaron has always and will always have Marie's back and best interest at heart. Aaron's support also exposes the dynamic between Marie, who is a free citizen, and Aaron who belongs to the state of New York. The argument can be made that Aaron has no choice but to support his wife, as he is the one behind bars, but that Marie has the freedom to make decisions that benefit her, not necessarily "them", although the bond of "marriage" is still at play.
One day after the arrest
Marie visits Aaron at Rikers Island to try to make sense out of what happened the night before.
What's compelling about this scene is that while Aaron is explaining what happened with Michael and a girl who overdosed at the club, the only thing that Marie could focus on is real-life issues that she now has to face alone, like paying the mortgage and other finances.
Viewers see Marie in an office listening to an agent say things like "how serious the charges are" and "seize your house" and "took out a second mortgage to cover the construction on the club", which all lead to Marie snapping at Aaron about how they're going to get through this.
As always, Aaron leaves her hanging on to hope with the "we're not gonna let any of this tear us apart...it's you and me...we're gonna get through this."
Aaron, I love you, and I want you and Marie to stay together because the love that you two have is one most never see and could only dream of, but, now that I'm typing this, I hear how it sounds objectively. Hon, you're in prison until God knows when and the mortgage and other bills can't be paid on your good words and Marie's salary alone.
Eight months after
Jasmine's ninth birthday marks yet another milestone that Aaron has missed, but when Jasmine blows out her candles, she wishes for her daddy to come back home.
It's important to mention that Darius is present --again-- (with a different lady than the one he brought to the club's opening). I say this because throughout the ep, Darius has a different lady everytime he's seen, which I attribute to him searching for "the one" and not being able to find her because "the one" is Marie, who is still very much in love with and loyal to Aaron, against her father's best wishes for her.
This is also the time when Marie reveals to Darius -- him again? -- that she finally applied to nursing school, where he tells her that he knows she will get in because she's great at it and deserves it. Yeah, OK Darius, thanks! (I'm #TeamAaron all day!)
Marie admits that she's scared and Darius just cannot wait to console her with a hug.
In the following scene, Marie sits with Aaron and his lawyer, who lets Aaron know that his "friends" Mike and Angelo are now witnesses for the prosecution, with the plan to pin everything on him. He also lets them know that Aaron can plead and face up to 12 years on good behaviour, which Marie agrees to, but Aaron highly objects because he maintains his innocence.
At this point, Marie is fed up with Aaron's stubbornness and unwillingness to see things from her (and the lawyer's) persepective in getting him out. Despite his continued effort, with words, that he's got a plan to get out of there, it's been eight months and nothing's happened yet.
Still, as the devoted wife who, at the end of the day, wants her husband to come back home, Marie attends Aaron's trial with Darius and her father by her side, as well as Aaron's parents, where all the witnesses pin everything on Aaron as the club owner, as was expected, and where Glen Maskins (Boris McGiver) takes down Aaron when Aaron takes the stand.
The second most powerful moment to me was Darius running up the hallway and punching Mike in the jaw for selling out Aaron, who Mike referred to as "the king" who has had his back since he was five years old. I can't lie, that was a sweet punch!
But, you still not in my good books yet, Darius!
Darius is such a hard character to figure out because on one hand, his loyalty to Aaron is top notch, but the indication of feelings between him and Marie feels like crossing the line and ruining the 'bro code'. Yes, Marie deserves to be happy and deserves to have a partner who can physically be with her and provide for her and Jasmine, but the heart wants what it wants and Marie vowed to stay "for better or for worse; for richer or for poorer; in sickness and in health". Darius, obviously, only wants what's best for Marie and Jasmine, but, Marie is still Aaron's wife.
In fact, the most powerful scene to me, which puts the whole Darius and wedding vows and Marie deserves to be happy situation into perspective, was Marie throwing up into the toilet in the courthouse restroom, when it finally fit hit her that the love of her life was found guilty on all charges and would be going to prison. It was such a genuine representation of a person's reaction to processing this reality. In fact, I remember saying to myself, then tweeting, "That was a powerful scene with Marie throwing up because from time to time I always wonder how it would physically and emotionally feel to watch your loved one go to prison #ForLife".
Viewers watch a montage of Marie taking nine-year-old Jasmine to visit her father at the visitor's window over and over and over, while Marie stared at the ceiling each visit, thinking.
In the car after one of their regular visits, Jasmine asks, "If he didn't do anything wrong, then why is he in jail?"
"Your father's innocent and this is all a big misunderstanding. Your father's gonna fight this. He's gonna get an appeal and he's gonna win and then he's coming home to us."
These may have been the most powerful words in the entire episode.
As angry as Marie might have been with Aaron for rejecting the plea, she still loved him and still had hope that things will work out in his favor, he will find a way to prove his innocence and all will be back to normal.
Still, even with all this hope, reality never left the corner of Marie's mind. With the same breath that she used to utter those words to Jasmine, she realized her own strength and followed that up with, "In the meantime, it's you and me and I'm gonna take care of us. So, you don't have to worry. Momma's got us. Ok?"
In finding her strength, #spoileralert, we see Marie graduate from nursing school and go back to the hospital to show Vanessa. You go girl!
Three years after
Jasmine's now 12. Once again, without fail, Darius is at the party, with yet another lady on his arm, and so are Marie's dad and Vanessa.
Just as viewers were maybe warming up to Darius after that punch to Mike's jaw, he's back at it with his shenanigans.
He has to be the only one to give Marie a present (even though it's not her birthday), which is a stethoscope with her initials on it. Vanessa, Darius' date and Marie's dad all look on curiously, with Marie's dad thinking up some scheme. Marie thanks Darius and they hug, for what seemed, to me, to be about 10 seconds too long.
In the scene following the party, we get to hear from a father's point-of-view; Marie's father. Any loving, caring father would want the best for his child, which is why Marie's dad insists that she leaves Aaron, so that she can move on with her life (free of the burden of being tied down to a relationship that starts and ends behind a glass window), which is understandable. He believes Marie deserves better.
He admits to Marie, "I was always afraid he was gonna hold you back; that you’d push down your own dreams because his took up all the energy in the room." But, that's just it, Aaron has always been supportive of Marie's dream of becoming a nurse, never once holding her back. It didn't take her long to apply to, get accepted into and start nursing school, with or without Aaron.
He continued, "But, I saw he was a good father. I thought he’d turned out to be a decent husband. Took care of you. Was devoted to you. But, he’s also reckless, Marie. Believes too much in hisself. The line of work he was in, having those people around him! He took chances he never should have. With your life, with Jasmine’s life. I can’t ever forgive him for that. Even if he’s innocent." Understandable.
Marie didn't put up a fight. She patiently sat there and heard her father out and they both said I love you. It seemed that, at this point, Marie was fighting a losing battle. As much as she loved Aaron and was in love with him, reality had to sink in sooner or later that he is just not physically there with her and Jasmine, no matter how strong the connection may be.
Five years after
At this point, my calculations start to go awry and I am not sure how old Jasmine is/should be, but Aaron is still going on about his plan to take down Maskins.
Once again, he feeds Marie "empty" promises, with the "you're who I'm doing this for, you and Jas", to which Marie replies with an unimpressed "yeah, of course". He continues, "I'm telling you, this is gon' work. Ima get outta here in a few years," but we see Marie sleeping on one side of the bed that she once shared with Aaron, staring at his empty side.
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When watching the show and seeing the actors' facial expressions, I can admit that I am swayed by the conviction in Aaron's voice and in what he's saying. He believes in himself, his innocence and his plan, so much, that I, and I'm sure many others, are inclined to believe him too. But, after the amount of years that have gone by and Marie and Aaron facing two different types of realities, Aaron's words begin to sound less and less convincing and more like just words.
This is when the reality of uncertainty comes into play and the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual strength of the "free" spouse is tested.
This is where Aaron can ask Marie, in the words of Executive Producer 50 Cent, "If I got locked up and sentenced to a quarter century, could I count on you to be there to support me mentally?" I guess Marie's answer is "no", because she ends up serving Aaron divorce papers.
Seven years after the arrest
Jasmine is 15/16 at this point, Marie is thriving as a nurse, one of the doctors on staff asks her out not realizing she is still married. Things are finally starting to turn around. But, of course, when things start to turn around, there is always something to block the turn.
Aaron finds a burner phone, so, now, he can call Marie and Jasmine every night before they go to bed, which, at this point, seems more like a nuisance than a blessing.
After seven years of waiting and still taking her marriage seriously, Marie is at a turning point and Aaron's random popping up seem to be doing all the "holding her back" and "taking up all the space in the room" with his problems that Marie's dad was talking about.
Marie admits to Darius, "Sometimes, it feels like 70 years and other times it feels like yesterday. Sometimes, I know who exactly who he is and other times, he's like a stranger." Darius reminds Marie that Aaron is doing what he must to survive in there.
Marie goes to visit Aaron for the final time in this episode. She is still wearing her ring as she holds the envelope that contains the papers.
A few things I notice in this scene are how extra excited Aaron is to see Marie; how confident and straightforward Marie seems, especially compared to past visits with Jasmine; and the way she transitioned into the topic of the papers.
She just blurted out "Aaron, I want a divorce" while Aaron, not surprisingly, was reciting how he knows the trouble he's put her through all these years.
Aaron, understandably, is upset and asks Marie "why now?"
Although I am #TeamAaron, I also understand Marie's position after having been able to see it through this episode. Divorce exists for a reason, although it can be argued that people don't fight for their marriage hard enough sometimes. Nevertheless, it exists, and after seven years of waiting with no forseeable results, it's only fair that Marie gets to move on and live her life. I just don't like how she walked away from him so cold, as if he were a stranger, with him shouting out her name as he watched her walk away. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, I guess that was her way of toughening up enough to get through that without looking at him and falling apart. That part still gets to me.
Eight years after
One year after serving Aaron divorce papers and never looking back, it was time for Marie to celebrate her birthday.
Do I even need to say it?
Of course he's there and he offers to cut Marie's cake for her because she needs to "let people take care" of her sometimes.
He, Vanessa and Marie all sit in the living room and laugh about online dating. Vanessa notices chemistry between Darius and Marie and decides that it's time for her to leave.
Marie walks into the kitchen with Darius and tells hims, “You haven’t missed one, single birthday. All these years. You’ve always been here.”
He says, “I love you guys.”
She says, “We love you too.”
They gaze at each other for 18 seconds (I counted) before Darius said “I better leave.” As he’s walking away, Marie says “wait… Darius”. He turns around with his hands tucked into his pants pockets, “Don’t do this.”
Marie says, “I don’t want you to leave”, walks towards him and they kiss.
Like I said earlier, this could either be the worst or the best decision, with Darius having always been their closest family friend.
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The episode ends with Marie sitting outside Darius’ house in her car crying. He walks onto his porch and waves at her.
Her voice narrates, "I used to think I was blessed. And then, for the longest time, I was sure I was cursed. And now, from one moment to the next, I realize, I donno what I think. Now, I’m not sure, about anything."
But, even more than that, we never see Aaron sign the papers... so... fingers crossed! #TeamAaronAndMarie (but also #TeaamMarie)
If you stayed on this journey with me and loved what you read, be sure to tune in to ABC Tuesday nights at 10pm ET and join the discussion!
Cast: Nicholas Pinnock, Indira Varma, Joy Bryant, Mary Stuart Masterson, Dorian Crossmond Missick, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, Tyla Harris, Glen Fleshler, Boris McGiver, Timothy Busfield, Hassan Johnson.
Created By: Hank Steinberg
Airs: Tuesdays 10pm ET on ABC