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Series / For Life

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Never stop fighting

For Life is a 2020 ABC legal/prison drama produced by 50 Cent.

Based on the true story of [[ Isaac Wright, Jr.]] the show is centered around Aaron Wallace, a former nightclub owner who was arrested, sentenced and incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit.

While in prison, he managed to graduate law school and pass the bar, rising to inmate representative.

And while he helps his fellow prisoners, he keeps on collecting evidence to try and get a retrial, and to prove without a doubt his innocence.

It was canceled after two seasons.

This series features examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Both the Bronx County District Attorney and the New York State Attorney General are portrayed as corrupt power-hungry white men. In Real Life when the show aired, both of these offices were held by black women.
  • Amoral Attorney: Glen Maskins is a pretty clear-cut example of the trope, and will stoop down to blackmail, intimidation and threats to keep his power.
  • Ate His Gun: The fate of disgraced prison guard captain Frank Foster.
  • Book Safe: Captain Foster smuggles in drugs for Cassius by hiding them in a Bible.
  • Burner Phones:
    • Aaron has a hidden one while in prison so he can communicate with his wife and daughter.
    • Jamal later gets one so he can talk to Aaron, who is representing him.
  • The Bus Came Back: After Cassius was attacked by Jamal in the middle of the first season, he did not return, and it could be assumed that he was dead. However, he comes back in the second season fit as ever.
  • Category Traitor: Veronica Marshall, a Black female defense lawyer, is accused of being this after she defends White police officer Edgar Lindsley for shooting Black man Andy Josiah in the back. She vehemently defends herself in an exchange with Aaron from the charge, but gets hate mail claiming this.
  • Clear My Name: This is Aaron's overarching goal-to get his conviction overturned and be exonerated, while he also helps fellow prisoners on their cases. He does at the start of the second season.
  • Clear Their Name: Some of the prisoners whom Aaron helps with their cases were he thinks also wrongly convicted.
  • Confiscated Phone: While Aaron's contraband mobile phone is never noticed by the guards (or if they did notice they ignored it), Cassius finds out about it and appropriates it for himself.
  • Creator Cameo: 50 Cent, the producer, appears as scary prison gang leader Cassius Dawkins.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Aaron is dead-set on winning his exoneration, helping fellow prisoners then people in general he feels were screwed by the system, and removing corrupt attorney Glen Maskins, the man who prosecuted him.
  • Cut Short: With the series' cancellation, viewers will not find out whether Aaron was able to get a new trial for Jamal.
  • Determinator: Aaron won't let anything stand in his way to prove his innocence and return to his family.
  • Dirty Cop: Officer Lindsley and Lieutenant Diaz. Together they make up a better reason for Lindsley stopping Andi Josiah, whom he then shot, and Diaz gets rid of video evidence (or so he thinks) that could contradict his story.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In the second half of the first season, Jamal gets caught in the crossfire as Aaron's actions causes conflict among the many prison factions. When coerced into killing Aaron in the yard, he instead attacks Cassius, one of his tormentors, and decides to leverage that notoriety to become a shot caller.
  • Enemy Mine: Aaron has no interest in pledging to any of the prison's factions, but is willing to work with them and trade favors if it means progressing the cases he's trying.
  • Exact Words: In Aaron's first case he and Jamal are in trouble for having raw potatoes in their cell, which are contraband because they can be used to make moonshine. Aaron points out the regulations which forbid food that "must" be cooked. He argues that potatoes don't have to be cooked to be eaten and proves his point by taking a bite out of the raw potato. He wins the case.
  • Family Versus Career: Used as an excuse by Glen Maskins when he steps down as Attorney General-elect. (In fact he was pressured into resigning due to his unethical and illegal actions).
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Marie presents Aaron with divorce papers after he's been in prison for a number of years. He does not sign them until Marie's father (unbeknownst to her) visits Aaron in prison and implores him to let Marie live her life. (Marie ends up reconsidering and does not file the papers after all.)
  • Forbidden Love: Prison homophobia is Played for Drama in one episode, when an Aryan Brotherhood member turns out to have been so terrified of his "brothers" finding out he and his cellmate (who's also Asian, so even worse in their eyes) were lovers he got himself into solitary for hitting a guard so he'd be safe.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: The Aryan Brotherhood naturally despises queer people. After one of their members thinks he's been outed, he hits a guard just to get into solitary so he'll be safe from them.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • Even if Aaron applied to the bar in Vermont where convicts can do this, it's highly improbable they would admit him since bar members must satisfy good character requirements-even a former New York state senator's endorsement likely wouldn't stretch that to include anyone serving life without parole. The real man this is based on had to wait for nine years before he was admitted even after being exonerated. Aaron wouldn't be admitted then in New York for the same reasons, plus he would lack the legal experience out-of-state lawyers need.
    • ADA Reilly would not only learn at the last minute Aaron's opposing him in court. The name of the opposing lawyer is always on the briefing their opponent gets ahead of time.
    • In the Jose Rodriguez appeal, it's said he was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with his fifteen year old girlfriend at age eighteen. However, in New York (like most US states) they have what's called a "Romeo clause" which exempts consenting sex partners between ages fifteen and twenty one from the statutory rape law. Jose therefore couldn't have been legally convicted of the crime. At worst, it would be a misdemeanor (even in New York, consent is a defense when the participants are those ages).
    • In the same case, the attempted murder conviction gets reversed when the witness who'd testified indicated he was recanting. You'd need a sworn affidavit minimally, probably testimony in open court subject to cross-examination, or else the judge certaintly wouldn't do this (and probably not even this, if there's other evidence, like this case had). It also comes out that the original attorney didn't put on an exculpatory witness-that alone might have been enough to get the conviction overturned for ineffective assistance of counsel, though no one mentions this.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Safiya along with her wife have a feminine hair and clothing style.
  • Loophole Abuse: Aaron carefully played the rules to become a lawyer. After receiving his degree, he takes the bar exam for Vermont because the state allows graduates from unaccredited schools to take it while also having a reciprocity agreement with New York. Since he wouldn't be allowed to leave prison to take the exam, he claimed an exemption through the Americans with Disabilities Act (mental anguish due to being imprisoned) so that the proctors would bring the exam to him. Once he passed, he leveraged his connection with Henry Roswell to gain sponsorship and argue his way to passing the character requirement and get called to the New York Bar.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Cassius manages to contact his goons on the outside to do his dirty work, such as tying up and threatening the family of a guard.
  • Military Moonshiner: Jamal makes hooch in his cell. This leads to the start of his and Aaron's friendship after Aaron abuses the wording of prison regulations to get the two of them out of trouble after guards find Jamal's stash of potatoes.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Aaron was wrongly convicted of being a drug kingpin due to circumstantial evidence and false witness testimony. He also helps other people who were victims of legal injustices.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: It seems that every corrupt government employee in New York has every other corrupt government employee in New York on speed-dial, regardless of the fact that they work for completely different departments or governments, and they are able to completely bypass procedure and regulation on a moment's notice without leaving a paper trail.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Warden Masry's reforms lead to a better prison environment for the inmates, but draw the ire of the prison guard union, who believe she is making their jobs harder. Consequently they endorse Maskins for Attorney General over Masry's wife, leading to major complications in their marriage.
  • Out of Focus: Glen Maskins, Jamal, Huey, and other recurring characters from the first season are hardly to be seen (if at all) in the second season, since Aaron is out of prison. Only his family and his associate Henry carried over, and later Safiya Masry rejoined in her capacity as a lawyer.
  • Police Brutality: Season 2 is largely about Aaron prosecuting NYPD officer Edgar Lindsley, who's White, over shooting unarmed Black motorist Andy Josiah in the back after a "routine" traffic stop for reaching inside of his car (to get his son's toy). Lindsley gets convicted of criminally negligent homicide.
  • Prison Riot: One occurs in the prison gym during which Jamal shivs Cassius and Aaron gets whacked in the head with a dumbbell. The riot results in the death of several prisoners and a guard.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • In its second season, the show has incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic as a plot point (the outbreak in the prison) and more generally, as characters are seen wearing masks, social distancing, and video conferencing.
    • The death of George Floyd is also addressed, with characters referring to the event (although he is not mentioned by name, Jasmine is shown watching a video and saying "they're kneeling on his neck!")
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Warden Safiya Masry, who undertook sweeping reforms of the prison, towards a more humane treatment of the inmates. The reforms do not go down well with the prison guard union, leading to them endorse Maskins for Attorney General over Masry's wife Anya Harrison.
  • Recovered Addict:
    • Henry, Aaron's mentor, is an alcoholic who's sober and is shown reciting the Serenity Prayer, having gone through AA.
    • Hassan, one of the inmates, is a recovered drug addict who leads a group for other recovering addicts.
  • Red Herring: Hector, Aaron's best friend, is dating his wife and the show seems to pose him as having something to do with the crime that put Aaron in prison. He doesn't.
  • Retool: In a sense - the first season saw Aaron trying to survive in prison and clear his name, while the second season had him back home on probation and working as a lawyer.
  • Saying Too Much: Cyrus Hunt does this (in the form of Evil Gloating) which reveals to Aaron that Cyrus has been listening in on Aaron's legal strategy discussions with Henry and Marie.
  • Scary Black Man: Cassius is a frightening prison gang leader who has pull both with other prisoners and the guards, even on the outside. Tall and strong, he never raises his voice but stays menacing nonetheless effortlessly.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Once he's free and has access to Spencer Richardson's financial resources, Aaron forgoes a large salary to be able to choose the cases that are important to him.
  • Secret Relationship: Two prisoners were involved, which is highly taboo-not only due to prevalent prison homophobia, but one's in the especially homophobic Aryan Brotherhood. They're a mixed race couple as well, since one was Asian, even worse in their eyes. When he fears he's been found out, the white guy tries to get in Protective Custody, then hits a guard so he's put into solitary when it doesn't happen soon enough.
  • Sell-Out: Aaron wonders if he would become one if he went to work for Spencer Richardson, whose daughter overdosed at Aaron's club, thus setting in motion the investigation that put Aaron in prison in the first place.
  • Short-Runners: The series lasted 23 episodes over two seasons.
  • Spanner in the Works: Cassius Dawkins, intentionally sent to be so for Aaron, Safiya, and her wife, who was Maskin's opponent in the Attorney General race.
  • Straight Gay: A couple of prisoners are revealed to be lovers, though they keep it secret. Jamal, Aaron's friend, also turns out to be gay. None display any gay stereotypes. Even if they'd been so inclined, it would have dire results in prison if most people knew (i.e. likely rape or murder, thus the secret affair mentioned).
  • Taking the Bullet: Henry does this when a gunman shoots at Aaron, but luckily survives.
  • Tap on the Head: After Aaron gets hit over the head with a dumbbell during the prison riot, he suffers from pain, dizziness, and temporary cognitive impairment, but there does not seem to be any lasting injury.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Aaron and Marie's daughter Jasmine. Unlike many examples of this trope, Jasmine's boyfriend is committed to being a father.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Safiya Masry is an Arab-American (specifically from Egyptian descent) woman who's also a lesbian, as we learn early on.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Each episode ends with a disclaimer saying that the show was inspired by Issac Wright, Jr.'s life, but that the plot is fictional. Aaron Wallace is based on Isaac Wright, Jr., a man wrongly convicted of being a drug kingpin, became a lawyer while in prison, was exonerated and became a full-time defense attorney. Aside from that however, not only do the specific plots differ, but many details of his life too.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Averted with Safiya Masry, played straight with Cyrus Hunt. She is a reasonable, compassionate reformer who tries to always improve things for the inmates, he's an abusive, corrupt jerk.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Jamal is in prison because he beat the tar out of his sister's abusive husband.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Elaine Josiah refers to this in her statement to the court, telling Officer Lindsley that his power as a cop means that he has to be even more careful to avoid "accidents" such as shooting her unarmed husband.