Sunday, March 12, 2023

Quantum Leap: Ben Song for the Defense

1989 was a great year, except maybe here in New York. The city was about to descend into a period of chaos, ended by Giuliani’s election in 1993. Dr. Ben Song will not do anything to prevent that this leap. Instead, as a public defender, he scrambles to save a young man who will be wrongly imprisoned for manslaughter in “Ben Song for the Defense,” tomorrow night’s episode of Quantum Leap.

The clever thing about this episode is it breaks format slightly, without really breaking format. Since Addison Augustine’s military background was so helpful to Song in the previous episode, she hands the holographic baton over to her Quantum Leap Project colleague Jenn Chu, because of her knowledge of the legal system. Chu got her legal degree while serving time, so the former hacker certainly has some insights.

Unfortunately, Song’s host is so overworked, because crime in New York is starting to explode, she hardly has the time to give Camilo Diaz’s case the attention it deserves. No, that is not how the series’ writers room spins things. Regardless, Song has to get Diaz off, so he can save his younger brother from the gangs trying to get their hooks into him.

There is some decent courtroom drama in “For the Defense,” which harkens back to classic episodes of the original series, such as “So Help Me God.” However, the writers cannot help including little digs at the 1980s, which leads to some credibility issues, like Song’s host being in a romantic same-sex relationship with the second chair Assistant DA on her case.

Still, some of the behind-the-scenes stuff with Magic Williams back at Quantum Leap HQ is amusing. Keeping the tone lighter this time around makes sense, because the previous episode, “S.O.S.,” was one of the series’ best, but it was definitely emotionally heavy. It also nicely features Nanrisa Lee as Chu, especially her awkward pep talks.

“For the Defense “ is a decent episode, but the little polemical digs risk long-term damage with a sizeable portion of the market. Frankly, viewers of network dramas probably skew center-right, considering the most successful current shows are the
NCIS franchise, the FBI franchise, and Blue Bloods. Be that as it may be, the stakes are high in this episode and Song does some real detective work, with the help of Chu and Ziggy, the AI. Recommended with reservations, “Ben Song for the Defense” premieres tomorrow night (3/13) on NBC and streams the next day on Peacock.