If this is how All Rise wraps up its legacy, it sure doesn’t feel like a satisfying way for it to end.
Greg Spottiswood’s courtroom drama, which starred Simone Missick as the boundary-pushing Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lola Carmichael, said goodbye on November 18 with a one-hour series finale on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network that felt more like a season ender than an authentic reflection of three seasons worth of work. The final episode, coincidentally titled “Sometimes Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction,” had several loose ends to tie up in just 41 minutes, which made it all the more difficult to give equal attention to lingering storylines while also attempting to put a proper cap on the series.
The majority of the finale dealt with the complicated mess Lola’s best friend, District Attorney Mark Callan (Wilson Bethel), found himself at the center of — thanks in no small part to his father, the trouble-prone Vic (Tony Denison), who got tangled up with the wrong Russian crime family. The timing couldn’t have been worse, with Mark about to walk down the aisle and start a new life with Amy Quinn (Lindsey Gort), a defense attorney who was dealing with her own legal baggage on the side.
As Lola’s latest trial hinged on Vic’s testimony in order to put one of the Russian mobsters behind bars, Mark’s father made the decision to take the stand in exchange for his son’s safety (and those in his inner circle, including Lola). His testimony proved crucial in convicting the Russian goon, though they still weren’t 100 percent clean of the crime family. (It will have to suffice, since there are no more episodes of All Rise.) On a personal level, Vic’s decision to testify meant he was giving up any semblance of a connection to his estranged son. Soon after the trial, he was placed immediately into witness protection, cutting any communication off with Mark – a bittersweet end to their fraught father-son relationship.
There was also a B-story involving public defender Emily Lopez (Jessica Camacho) and her latest case, where she was tasked with defending a woman who allegedly murdered her husband though there was no evidence of a body to prove the crime was even committed. After successfully getting her client off (via last-minute evidence surfacing), Emily later discovered — at Mark and Amy’s wedding no less — that the woman ended up committing the crime she was initially on trial for. The irony.
All of the courtroom dramatics were just a precursor to Mark and Amy’s big wedding day, which thankfully went off without a hitch — for the most part — during the series’ final act. If fans were expecting true closure for the All Rise crew, this would be about as close as they would get to it. Even with the couple tying the knot, there were too many balls left in the air for the series finale to feel like a real series finale — from Amy getting served with papers by a “wedding guest” to Lola’s FBI agent husband Robin (Christian Keyes) permanently relocating to L.A. to Judge Lisa Brenner (Marg Helgenberger) returning to the bench, among other dangling threads. Who knows what the future would have held had there been even one more episode?
While the series’s swan song left a lot to be desired, many of the elements that made All Rise stand out from the swath of legal procedurals when it debuted in 2019 on CBS — before the Eye Network canceled it in 2021 — were still evident throughout its 20-episode run on OWN, which saved Spottiswood’s drama in September 2021. Lola and Mark’s best friendship, for example, remained one of the show’s best and most refreshing assets, and its ability to elevate and amplify topical issues through a diverse social lens made it uniquely relevant.
The show has been celebrated for challenging gender norms, timely storytelling (it was one of the first TV dramas to acknowledge COVID-19 in a well-executed virtual episode in May 2020) and addressing social inequities through weekly cases and complex character relationships inside and outside the courtroom. It’s unfortunate that the final season — at least the last 10 episodes of it — fell well under the radar, most likely due to its Saturday time slot.
There’s a lot that will be missed about All Rise, even if its final episode failed to fully encapsulate what it stood for throughout its four-year run.
Philiana Ng is a Los Angeles-based writer covering TV, celebrity, culture and more. Her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Entertainment Tonight, TV Guide, Yahoo Entertainment, and The Daily Beast, among others.