Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Plot Info from the Tech Wizard

I've been watching The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix. Coming from the Michael Connally books and adapted by David E. Kelly, set in Los Angeles, it plays like a cross between Bosch and Goliath, though it's not on a par with either of those shows. Bosch and Goliath each have ex-wives; Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, has two. Bosch and Goliath each have teenage daughters; so does Mickey Haller. Goliath's Billy McBride has had a long history with alcohol; Haller is a recovering addict. McBride assembled around him a small crew of somewhat eccentric helpers, including a sex worker who helped as his legal assistant; Haller hires as his driver a client in recovery who didn't have the money to pay her legal fees to him. Both Bosch and Haller live in hillside houses with enviable views, and all three shows use the Los Angeles area well as a backdrop. In essence, The Lincoln Lawyer, a more lighthearted show than Bosch and one not as oddly distinctive in its tone as Goliath, is pleasant before-bed viewing.

One aspect that sticks out a bit in The Lincoln Lawyer, though, is what you might call a now fairly common trope that sometimes seems like a too-easy way of delivering information to the viewer.  As part of his team of employee/helpers, Haller has a guy named Cisco. Cisco is Haller's primary investigator. It goes without saying that Cisco is a skilled tech and computer guy. He also has the expected mysterious connections to back channels in the police department and who knows where else in the criminal justice system world. All of this is fine and hardly unusual for these sort of stories, but what winds up happening is that not infrequently, he tells Haller some useful information needed for their case with little to no explanation as to how he learned what he did. It's presumed he received it through his tech wizardry or some connection to nameless sources he has that no one else has. 

"How did you find that out?" Haller may ask, before answering himself: "I don't want to know."

It's a plot delivery shorthand device that has an almost silly quality to it, though we've seen it (or read it) so often before that you take it for granted. Before computers and the need for so much tech to uncover information, this role was fulfilled by the cop, PI, or lawyer's somewhat shady, a-tad-outside-the law sidekick. This is the person with the back channel and back alley connections that even the protagonist doesn't have. That person would go off and off do his thing "offscreen", so to speak, before coming back with info the cop, PI, or lawyer needs. Not much explanation provided as to how exactly the sidekick found out stuff so crucial, but now that our cop, PI, or lawyer has this essential info, and now that we the audience or readers know it, we can move forward with the story. It's effectively a narrative shorthand, as I said, but when it's employed too often in one series or book, you do start to wonder where the line is drawn between shorthand and narrative laziness. It's as if the writer takes plot points out of thin air when needed, and hopes that the audience doesn't say, "Wait a minute. How exactly did he get that. From whom and where, and why are these sources so forthcoming?" But again, it is something of a trope now, and usually, I do what I suppose most viewers and readers do when this happens. I shrug, roll my eyes a little, and let it go. Don't question the tech guy's means. He's there as a kind of contemporary wizard helper for whenever the main character needs him.

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