I always say you have to give a new show at least three episodes before it really finds its footing as far as the acting, writing and production go and that has held true with Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers. What started out as very cheap and exploitive has finally gotten into a groove with all the parts finally working together, especially now that Edie Falco can finally step into the forefront. Good things too since there are only five episodes remaining.
This week’s episodes really presents the audience with a dichotomy — we know the brothers murdered their parents but now we’re getting an insight into why (at least we think we are) and that plays with our feelings about Lyle and Erik. They don’t deserve our sympathy but knowing more about their circumstances does make us feel bad for them. At least for Erik, who at this point is on the verge of a psychological meltdown. Lyle on the other hand is still cold, methodical, unfeeling … he’s like a comic book supervillain.
Erik’s lawyer Leslie Abramson has called in colleague Jill Lansing (Julianne Nicholson) to work on Lyle’s behalf and the two are working together to get to the bottom of Dr. Oziel’s tapes and notes, attempting to keep them out of the case since the boys confessed to their crime. The problem is Oziel’s mistress Judelon and the conflicting stories they’ve given. She claims she was in the waiting room listening to the session, but there are two padded, sound proof doors between the office and the waiting room. Oziel tells Leslie and Jill that Judelon read his notes at his home and then says Lyle threatened him by saying “good luck” before leaving the office. He claimed to fear for his life, but on the stand he told the same story that Judelon was listening in the waiting room. Her testimony came to a quick end, however, when she said Oziel was in the hallway using mind-control on her. Hokay. Oziel also has a less than stellar reputation, so one has to wonder if either of their stories can sway a jury.
While the brothers are weathering their day in court, the media is having a field day with the story. It’s May sweeps and all the networks are working on bringing all the sordid details to the public with the help of the prosecutor’s office. Abramson is right to claim that they are trying to make a fair trial impossible by putting as much information — or misinformation — out to the public in order to taint any possible jurors because they need to win the case after another one ends in a mistrial.
It’s interesting to see a show on NBC prominently feature another network and here the spotlight is put on ABC and Diane Sawyer (Kate Beahan) in particular. Sawyer was very brash in approaching Menendez relatives and friends. A former roommate of Lyle’s, Donovan Goodreau became a prime target for Sawyer when it was learned his driver’s license was used to by the two shotguns. He had accidentally left the license behind when Lyle kicked him out so Sawyer had crews outside of his workplace, basically harassing him, until he agreed to speak with one of her associates. Finally relenting just to get the cameras away, the guy said to Donovan, “Nobody turns down Diane.” I guess not. But the media wasn’t content with just interviewing those who knew the boys, they wanted all the dirt including the autopsy reports which added more stress to Lyle and Erik. When all of this information was broadcast, it also opened a rift between Kitty’s and Jose’s families, with Kitty’s family accepting the brothers’ guilt and demanding no more money from the estate went to their defense. Jose’s sister said that those boys were still part of their parents and if they got the death sentence, Jose and Kitty would die again. That seemed to shut them up.
But the question comes down to motive. What could these two young men who the public saw as entitled and spoiled have endured to make them commit such a terrible crime? Abramson brought in another psychologist, Dr. Vickary (Todd Weeks), who incidentally is a consultant on the show, to try to get to the root of the motive. Lyle is an immovable force, and after a few sessions, Vickary has hit a wall. Erik, however, is more fragile and has many more demons. At night he hears his father’s voice. Vickary says the fakers always say the voice is in their head, but Erik says it sounds like it’s in his cell, so Vickary believes him. But every time he gets close to the truth, Erik shuts down.
But, there is finally a breakthrough and Erik finally tells Vickary what happened, claiming his father sexually abused him starting at age 3 and then as Erik got older, he was expected to perform various sexual acts on his father. Problem is, no one on Abramson’s team believes it, not even Leslie. Did this happen, is this a false memory, or is this perhaps something Lyle planted in Erik’s mind to help form an alibi? The murders seemed to happen out of the blue, so one has to wonder how long Lyle had been planning this and how much influence he had over Erik. But will Leslie ever find out the real story?
What did you think of this episode? Is Erik being honest, or has Lyle influenced him? Tell us what you think!