'Presumed Innocent' Makes What Was Old Seem New Again

Created by David E. Kelley

Created by David E. Kelley Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ruth Negga, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel, Renate Reinsve, Peter Sarsgaard, O-T Fagbenle

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

BY Rachel HoPublished Jun 10, 2024


Already a successful movie starring Harrison Ford, Scott Turow's novel Presumed Innocent receives the small-screen treatment from famed television producer and writer David E. Kelley. With Jake Gyllenhaal assuming the same lead role Ford brought to life in 1990, the latest Apple TV+ miniseries breaks down Turow's murder mystery across eight 45-minute(ish) episodes that navigate the fraught waters of a high-thrills whodunnit.

Similar to its source material and adaptation predecessor, Presumed Innocent follows the murder of Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve), a prosecutor in the District Attorney's office. Her colleague and former lover, Rusty Sabich (Gyllenhaal), initially takes the lead on the case only to become the primary suspect, and eventually be put on trial, for Carolyn's murder.

Naturally, Gyllenhaal leads the ensemble, and does so with the aplomb we've come to expect from the actor. He delivers the giant outbursts of anger and frustration as convincingly as the quiet, pensive moments to develop a rounded portrayal of Rusty.

Elevating the straightforward legal procedural, the impact of Rusty and Carolyn's extramarital affair on Rusty's wife, Barbara (Ruth Negga), and their two teenage children introduces a complex human angle bolstered by Gyllenhaal and Negga's dynamic. The humanity behind politics also gets some exploration as Carolyn's case comes during a changing of the guard at the DA's office. Playing Rusty's professional competition, Tommy Molto, Peter Sarsgaard offers an incredible performance as the slimy yet mysteriously pitiful lawyer.

Because the series spans nearly six hours of television, each of these characters and their stories are afforded a generous amount of space, with Reinsve's under-served Carolyn being the outlier. Unsurprising given Kelley's track record, the pacing of the series generates the perfect amount of tension and secrecy to keep audiences on their toes episode to episode, while also allowing viewers the chance to fully appreciate the various circumstances the characters find themselves in.

Although there will be many viewers out there who aren't familiar with the twists and turns of Turow's novel and/or Alan J. Pakula's film, Kelley creates a fresh version of the story that will have even those of us aware of the previous iterations questioning what happens next. Case in point: when I realized that I only had access to seven of the eight episodes, an indignant "WHAT?!" left my mouth at the conclusion of the penultimate episode.

It's a true feat to make what was old new again. The stacked cast has a lot to do with how compelling the episodes are — but, truly, credit belongs to David E. Kelley for designing yet another engrossing series to get stuck into.

(Apple TV+)

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