This The Lincoln Lawyer article contains spoilers.
In the first episode of The Lincoln Lawyer, it’s established that Mickey Haller is a mess. Fresh out of an 18-month stay in rehab, he’s got no money coming in, no clients, and a big gap in his resume. It’s only because of the murder of a legal acquaintance that he’s able to get enough clients to get back on his feet, and it’s only due to his skill as a lawyer that it seems as though he’s reestablished a practice and rehabilitated his professional life. His personal life? That’s another story.
Anyone with two ex-partners is going to run into complications, particularly when you share a child with one and share a business with another. When it comes to second wife Lorna, it seems as though both she and Mickey realize that their relationship, and their marriage, was a big mistake. There’s no real drama there; Lorna works for Mickey, she’s engaged to Cisco, and everyone seems happy with this arrangement. Of course, Lorna won’t be working for Mickey for long once she goes back to law school, but there seems to be no real reason for Mickey to stand in the way of her dreams and help her get past legal aid status.
As for first wife Maggie “McFierce” McPherson, things aren’t so cut and dry. Throughout the first season, it seems as though she and Mickey are angling towards a reunion. They were driven apart by his drug use and the general demands of his career, and with Mickey clean and sober, he seems to have eyes on getting his family back and being a full-time father to his daughter. Sparks do occasionally fly with Maggie, and the two get saved by the bell on more than one occasion until the end of the series. That’s when the sparks fizzle out thanks to the cold water of professional conflict.
Throughout the first season, Mickey Haller has to come to grips with his biggest failure as a professional, the Jesus Menendez case. He told Menendez to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit because the only witness to the crime who could free him disappeared and Cisco can’t track her down, with good reason. She’s hiding from some very powerful people who have promised to make her life hell should she appear and testify to spring Jesus Menendez from jail. Doing the right thing is great and all, but not if it makes a mess of your existence in the process. Most people can’t handle that level of stress.
Even more than the pills and the accident and his divorces, the Menendez case is the one that keeps eating at Mickey. He digs out the case files and looks through them as a form of self-flagellation, even when he’s busy trying to defend Trevor Elliott from murder charges and rebuild his life as a highly-paid, non-celebrity lawyer. He can’t let it go, and his incessant picking and digging eventually yields results, as he’s able to track down the missing witness, Glory Days, and get her into court to testify on behalf of Jesus Menendez about the killing she saw, done by a mysterious man with a Chinese tattoo on his forearm.
Along the way, she tells the court, with Haller’s prodding, about the LAPD officer who came to her hotel room to scare her off of the case. On cross-examination, that lawyer names the culprit as Detective Lee Lankford. Lankford was working with Maggie on her high-profile human trafficking and murder case involving Aaron Soto. Due to malfunctioning equipment, Lankford and Maggie were the only people to hear Soto’s confession to his pregnant girlfriend about the murder he committed, and since Maggie can’t testify in her own trial, that meant Lankford was her star and corroborating witness. With his credibility destroyed by the accusations leveled at him in open court by a murder witness, his testimony is worthless.
Mickey successfully freed Jesus Menendez, but he didn’t happen to warn Maggie that her only real piece of evidence tying Soto to murder was going to get publicly disgraced and humiliated. Oops. By winning his big case, Haller destroyed his love interest’s big case in the process. A miscarriage of justice righted; a dangerous criminal freed. As Mickey said to Detective Griggs, better a thousand guilty men go free rather than one innocent end up in jail. While he’s able to sleep a little better at night having freed his vulnerable client from his most unforgettable case, he won’t be sleeping in Maggie’s bed.
In the beginning of the season, we see Mickey Haller at the beach, unable to hop on the surfboard and indulge in what was clearly a beloved hobby at one point. By the end of the season, with Jesus Menendez freed, Mickey Haller is free to hit the waves, hanging ten and doing whatever other things people who can surf do when they’re surfing. It’s a picture-perfect day in Los Angeles, and Mickey seems to be having the time of his life.
And watching from the beach is a man with a Chinese character tattooed on his forearm. An innocent man has been freed from jail, but the real killer is still out there, and he’s got his eye on Mickey Haller. That’s the problem with digging for evidence; sometimes you dig up something best left buried.