While it's a little slow paced at times, historical courtroom drama Garrow's Law: Series One packs enough pathos and drama to more than make up for it. The ripped from two hundred year old headlines stories are based on real people and real cases from England's history, and all the more compelling for it.
Andrew Buchan stars as William Garrow, an intemperate and idealistic young barrister, who is determined to change the way that trials are conducted. He gets his first big courtroom win with the help of his mentor, attorney Mr. Southouse (Alun Armstrong) and the patronage of the lovely, but married, Lady Sarah Hill (Lyndsey Marshal). Garrow doesn't like the stifling rules of the British courts, for instance that the defense cannot address the jury directly, nor the way that everything seems tilted in favor of the prosecution. His unorthodox ways and constant testing of boundaries gains him some enemies, and not a few admirers. His primary nemeses are fellow barrister Silvester (Aidan McArdle), often on the other side in court, crotchety Judge Buller (Michael Culkin) and Lady Sarah's husband, Lord Hill (Rupert Graves). Lord Hill does not share his wife's passion for judicial reform, and begins to form an intense dislike for Garrow, even as his wife does just the opposite.
Garrow stumbles as much as he succeeds while learning the ropes in his budding legal career. He loses a few cases, and defends a few less than savory men. He even gets wounded in a duel. The series is as much as about Garrow's growth as a man and a barrister as it is about the courtroom drama. He is often torn between his reckless enthusiasm, his arrogance and the strict rules of decorum, in the courts and the world in general. He chafes against etiquette and rebels against the corruption of the age. He is a man of utmost principle, but often sabotages himself and his relationships. In other words, this is a realistic portrait of believable man, anchored in reality.
The performances are probably the highlight of Garrow's Law, with Buchan and Armstrong and Marshal really shining in their roles, and everyone pulling their weight from the extras in the background to the minor players. The costumes and sets are also quite impressive, effortlessly pulling the viewer into the period and setting the stage. The stories do tend to drag at points, and the plotlines not centered in the court don't have the driving energy and excitement of the trial scenes, but Garrow closing in on a hostile witness in the box and driving home his point is enjoyable enough that one forgets the dullness a few minutes before. Buchan positively crackles during his cross examinations, and the audience soaks up his enthusiasm. The moral quandaries and his halting and timid romance with Lady Sarah are fine, but they pale in comparison, and mostly act as smooth transitions around the real focus of the trials. Of course, being based on real people and events is somewhat limiting, and the producers really do decent job of moving things along.
Series One consists of four hour long episodes on two discs. Summaries of the episodes, as provided on the discs, are below:
Despite the occasional slowness, Garrow's Law: Series One is a superior courtroom drama. The Georgian England setting only adds to the interest, and makes for quite beautiful settings upon which to feast the eyes as well. Recommended.
Behind the Scenes Featurette
William Garrow Biography