TV Review: Should You Preside Over Netflix's 'The Trial' Season 1?

The Trial Il Processo Ruggero Barrone Francesco Scianna Canale 5 Netflix
Image by Arianna Lanzuisi/Canale 5/Netflix
Order in the Netflix queue. Italy’s “The Trial” (“Il Processo”) is presiding. Should you join it? That is the question viewers must ask before diving into the eight-episode binge that is Season 1. A courtroom drama anchored by a spectacular character-driven twist. “The Trial” knows how to make a compelling case to watch it.

If you miss the thrill and legal allure of the 90s’ spate of courtroom dramas, you will want to watch “The Trial” on Netflix. A breezy binge for streaming enthusiasts. There should be no issues accepting the time investment. It does fly by despite some aspects getting hyper-extended.

To its credit, it has been a long time since any content was personally reminiscent of “Primal Fear” or “Guilty as Sin.” As a fan of the once-popular genre, “The Trial” finds massive leverage. Set in present-day Italy (aka, many years after the Medici), “The Trial” follows a prosecutor and a defense attorney as they mount their case in a high-stakes murder trial.

The victim is a young woman with a secret life that is quickly brought into the blinding light of day. As the case proceeds, each attorney is faced with the realization that their personal lives and feelings have become inextricably intertwined with the case.

For those familiar with the Amanda Knox/Meredith Kirchner murder trial (itself the subject itself of a Netflix documentary) that rocked Italy and inspired a fictionalized telling, “The Trial” provides an in-depth view of the Italian legal process. Or at least, this outsider hopes that it does.

As someone curious about any and all legal processes, “The Trial” provides an intriguing insight into a system that was thrust into the global spotlight years ago. It is in that way and more “The Trial” echoes Michael Winterbottom’s “The Face of an Angel.” Thankfully, “The Trial” is far less meta than the 2014 film.

“The Trial” centers on the drama of the courtroom, and yet it is bolstered by the presence of Ruggero Barrone. He is one of the more interesting and dynamic male characters to slide across my screen in a while. This is no two-dimensional defense attorney caricature. Francesco Scianna’s portrayal of Ruggero conveys him as a complex and captivating individual.

Thanks to Scianna, Ruggero is a character that could have anchored the show entirely. However, there is a 50/50 split between him and Elena Guerra (Vittoria Puccini), the prosecutor. Sadly, for Guerra, she presents as one of the least sympathetic characters to cross the small screen in some time. Well, since “Money Heist” Season 4.

You can practically feel “The Trial’s” yearning to make you feel for her, but this viewer could not get there. That said, Vittoria Puccini does make Elena glimmer with enough sincerity to keep her from being grating. A feeling no character wants to produce, be they a hero or villain.

The outcome of “The Trial,” both in the courtroom and out, can be predicted. While many might correctly guess, it is worth trying to get lost in the ride watching. There are some strong performances to relish. Plus, a new entry into a genre that has sadly lost prominence in the U.S., much to my personal dismay.

The main issue with “The Trial” is that it makes Elena so unlikable. It is pretty self-evident that the show remains firmly in her corner no matter what terrible thing she does. Elena does not earn that solidarity, and as a viewer, I never like to observe the apparent narrative leanings of the writer. As is the case with a judge, the best writing comes across impartial.

When it comes to the case of viewers and whether they should binge-watch “The Trial” on Netflix, there is only one verdict – watch. It is an absorbing and atmospheric thriller that builds with every episode. Giorgio Giampร ’s musical score brilliantly provokes that sense with its classical and modern sensibility.

“The Trial” is a compelling human and legal drama that leaves Netflix viewers with a lot to think about after the verdict. Sadly, Season 1 ends grasping for a second season when a limited-run could easily suffice.

That said, there is a sense of closure when all is said and done. As it stands, “The Trial” Season 1 is currently streaming on the mega-popular platform alongside a lot of other tempting television options.

Rating: 8/10