“I have zero interest in politics,” declares Jack Turner, an attorney at the law firm of Lyon, LaCrosse and Levine in Washington D.C. and the main character in NBC “The Lyon’s Den.” It’s worth noting that the line is delivered slyly by “The West Wing” alum Rob Lowe, who bailed on the NBC hit after falling out with producers. At the time, many wondered if Lowe was making a career misstep of David Caruso-proportions. As it turns out, Lowe is hitched to a show that is dark, complex and richly sinister — and destined to be a knockout paired with Sunday’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
Show opens with Daniel Barrington, managing partner of L, L & L, taking a header off the side of his office building into the street below. He was a mentor to Turner and instrumental in keeping alive the younger man’s pet project, a free inner-city law clinic.
Soon, firm topper Terrence Christianson (James Pickens Jr.) proposes making Turner the new managing partner. Turner suspects the offer stems from his political connections — his father (Rip Torn) is a powerful senator on the judiciary committee.
Taking the position saves the clinic and the job of his colleague, George Riley (Matt Craven) but comes at a price. Turner becomes embroiled in office politics that has a body count. Fellow attorney Grant Rashton (a fantastically evil Kyle Chandler) and his assistant, Brit Hanley (Frances Fisher), make it their duty to suss out the dirt on the apparently squeaky-clean Turner.
All these machinations occur as the firm goes about the day-to-day business of suing and settling. Turner deals with an immigration case, Riley is defending a mentally handicapped man accused of rape and murder, and hovering in the background are the troubles of client Zero Tech, which is now being investigated by the feds.
Dan Sackheim’s direction clearly sets up the good guys and the bad guys at the firm, but it also gives the characters who fall in between with just as much attention. Kudos to exec producer-writer Remi Aubuchon for creating characters with shades of gray, such as Ariel Saxon, (Elizabeth Mitchell), an ambitious attorney who tries to navigate allegiances with both Turner and Rashton.
Writing like this sets “Lyon’s Den” apart from other dramas this season. While the twists and turns are entertaining enough, there is subtext to each of the developments — all of the various plotlines are tied together by the theme of family, be it in the form of the death of Turner’s father figure to his client’s confrontation with her village elders in Nigeria. If the writers can keep up this kind of depth throughout the season, look for them to be rewarded at Emmy time.
Sets are well-appointed with all the requisite East Coast blue-blood dark woods and antiques — one of the characters refers to L, L&L’s main office as “the Crystal Palace.”