Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you have not yet watched the season finale, Who Gets Hung.
Just when we thought it was curtains for Jodi, her made-for-TV sex-murder-and-T-shirts trial ended with a real cliffhanger Thursday, shocking viewers and characters alike. The jury, which had already found her crime so cruel that they voted unanimously that she be eligible for the death penalty, took a surprise turn when they announced the only hanging they could agree on was their own. It seems they'd had enough of the gruesome sex-soaked show, leaving HLN-TV viewers with the surprising news that the Jodi show is far from over, pass the popcorn please.
Facing the utterly implausible laws of the Arizona judicial system (who writes these goofy laws anyway?) which gave the jury the choice of death or life -- which the judge could define as 25 years -- the jury did indeed have a tough choice to make. Put a woman to death, or risk her being released before menopause? No wonder they couldn't agree. Bloodlust aside, it is and ought to be, troubling to sentence another human being to death, and this trial illuminated that moral dilemma perfectly, if not to the shameless contempt of many a viewer.
But in Arizona, it appears, one shot at the death penalty is hardly enough, so tune in this summer when a new jury gets to decide if pretty young Jodi lives, dies or astral projects for her heinous psycho-shower-killing rampage that left one man brutally slaughtered in both life and death, and his family's grief showcased for television viewers in a ratings game that at times became so macabre that HLN's press release boasted of how one woman's plea to spare her life had boosted its ratings to an all-time high. High fives all around for that achievement, all hail to Nancy Grace.
This season's trial by reality-TV ordeal has been as much a game-changer for the entertainment industry, as it has been for the judicial system, which now finds justice served on a celluloid platter with the viewers left to wonder with each episode whose heads are going to roll? We have already seen two leading characters get the axe -- defense witness Dr. Richard Samuels who explained Jodi's brain sort of the way that Mr. Science explained Voyage to the Planet Balloono, and defense witness Alyce LaViolette who said she didn't know the difference between a blog or a Facebook page, but she knew the difference between abused men and abused women and found Jodi's curiously bent finger far more disturbing than Travis's butchered body. If only the man who claimed he could see Jodi in the reflection of Travis's eyes had been allowed to testify, we just might have had the perfect trio for a spin-off comedy series, The Experts
Speaking of which, what about those HLN-TV experts? Are they just a tad too over-the-top or is that just me? I mean, really. "I don't know, Nancy," they all seem to say, shaking their heads in bafflement at whatever question they've been asked. "It must be because she's evil?" Well, okay, that works in cartoons, but shouldn't we expect a soupçon of erudition from our learned experts? Something like, "We can't objectively evaluate anything about this case because we are making bucketloads of money by gushing like a clique of schoolgirls about how awful that psychopathic murderess is." (And while we're on the subject, perhaps Jodi could make a killing, ahem, by teaching some of these TV show experts how to apply their makeup. I'm just sayin'.)
Speaking of bad makeup, whoever cast Nancy Grace as herself was absolutely brilliant. I'm guessing Lorne Michaels, but it could just as easily be the folks who gave us Sarah Palin. Watching Nancy's face contort in 50 shades of disgust as she gushes on about every horrific detail of the victim's butchery and Jodi's one-week cold sore is just too funny -- were it not for the fact that this was a real man whose life and death have been turned to televised tabloid fodder. I mean, who among us would like our dying moments used in a ratings game spectacle complete with histrionic re-enactments of our dying moments by the "news show" host?
And let's not forget our legal team, starting with Bulldog Martinez, who has become an overnight superstar with his channeling of Columbo imitating Al Pacino in Justice for All. "The prosecutor is out of order? Did I ask you if the prosecutor was out of order? You're out of order. Judge, make her answer me. Yes or no?" Ya gotta love him. And many apparently do, calling for him to be made President of the United States, photoshopping him as God, and no doubt sending them their musky panties in hopes he'll ring them up. Even he must agree, life is sometimes just too weird..
Now I know a lot of people were unhappy with the casting of Jennie and Kurt, but they had their priceless moments. Jennifer's cozy cuddling with her identical twin defendant, whispering in her ear things we can only imagine went like this, "Don't worry, Jodi, these are just mean people. They don't get you like I do," was so out there that there can only be one explanation--she's watched one too many episodes of The Good Wife. But she was the perfect foil for Kurt, what with his John Candy on Quaaludes thing going on. Just when we thought we couldn't take another one of his long drawn out confused-as-hell cross examinations, along comes Queen Bee Jennie to so annoy and irritate us that few would not give their spleen and a rib to have sluggish Kurt back, just so we can gaze at his tie and sock ensemble rather than listen to yet one more of Jennie's nasty lines.
Despite rumored efforts by the Kurt and Jennie team to get out of their contacts and not return next season, it's unlikely that Judge Sherry "Sidebar, Please" Stephens will allow it. She has played her role with a subtly and nuance that have escaped many viewers, but the pursed lips tell it all. She's not falling for the whacky "he made me do it" defense and is doing her utmost to ensure her decisions aren't overturned on appeal because she doesn't want to see Jodi get off (ahem, again) in this geological era anymore than viewers do. (To all those who are so certain that she will, may I remind you that you do not get to be a criminal court judge in Maricopa County by being soft on crime. Judge Sherry's going to revel in telling Jodi she's going straight to jail without passing Go, much less a Starbucks on the way.)
But will her decision to televise the trial and not sequester the jury undo all her efforts? That's the $64,000 question. Jodi has been howling that her nearly three million dollar defense did not provide her with a fair trial, a claim that would be incredulous were it not for the fact that HLN-TV is showing 24-hour coverage of her life and trial, keeping the audience addicted to their bloodlust in an effort to boost not just ratings, but advertising dollars. No wonder Jodi wants to be a star of her own series by going on the talk-show circuit and plugging her soon-to-be-unreleased Manifesto, I Did It My Way.
What will the summer season bring us in the Jodi Arias Televised Trial? Will Kurt and Jennie return or will they be replaced by Gerry Spence and Alicia Flourick? Will Juan Martinez realize he has too much damned work to do on other cases and will settle for sending Jodi to prison for the rest of her life, forget about lethal injection? Will we see the return of The Experts who will assure yet another jury that despite her premeditated conviction, Jodi has a heart of gold and she's the one who is the victim? Will we see a new character, perhaps an intrepid reporter who will ask--What Price Justice?--while exposing just how much of the Maricopa County budget is left for the investigation, prosecution and defense of other gruesome crimes? And will the viewers, calling for the return of public executions and burial alive, become all the more interactive by storming the gates of Jodi's jail and delivering her to lynch mob justice? No one knows what's in store next season except that one thing is certain: When justice is televised live, it isn't justice anymore. It's entertainment. And that's not very funny.