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WE tv's 'The Divide,' more than just a legal-thriller wannabe

Marin Ireland stars as Christine Rosa in "The Divide."
Marin Ireland stars as Christine Rosa in "The Divide."WE tv.

It might seem easy to dismiss a scripted drama making its debut on a network that brings viewers such unscripted fare as “LA Hair,” “Marriage Boot Camp,” and “Mystery Millionaire.”

Don’t do it. Not with this show. Don’t for a moment count the new series “The Divide” out, assuming it will be a low quality addition to a network simply looking for a dramatic show to promote.

As WE tv’s first original scripted drama, "The Divide", debuts with a special two-hour premiere on Wednesday, July 16th at 9:00pm e/p before moving to its regular 10:00pm e/p timeslot beginning on Wednesday, July 23rd . The series is written by the Academy Award® and Emmy® nominated Richard LaGravenese (Behind the Candelabra, The Fisher King, Water for Elephants, The Ref, The Bridges of Madison County), with Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, Conviction, Justified, Damages, Dexter, A Walk on the Moon) directing the premiere episode. Co-created by LaGravenese and Goldwyn, the series is produced by AMC studios.

"The Divide" is a thought-provoking and suspenseful drama that explores the personal cost of morality, ambition, ethics, politics, and race in today's justice system through the eyes of Christine Rosa played by Marin Ireland (Homeland, Boss, Side Effects), an impassioned caseworker with The Innocence Initiative, and Adam Page played by Damon Gupton (The Newsroom, Prime Suspect), an equally passionate district attorney and political rising star.

The initial eight episodes of this season center on an extremely violent murder case that is by no means cut and dried in any aspect and this is painfully evident moments into the premiere episode.

The Butlers, a wealthy African-American family living in a predominantly white Philadelphia neighborhood, were brutally murdered by two white men 12 years ago. The lone survivor of the massacre is youngest daughter Jenny (Britne Oldford), who for obvious reasons continues to be traumatized by the events that unfolded that night.

The senseless deaths of this family, seemingly at the hands of two shiftless construction workers, Terry Kucik (Joe Anderson) and Jared Bankowski (Chris Bauer), threatened to ignite a racial firestorm in the City of Brotherly Love. Adam Page (Gupton), himself an affluent African-American and the city’s District Attorney as well as a political rising star, made a name for himself by securing convictions for both men, leading to a death penalty ruling for Bankowski.

Now, Christine Rosa (Ireland), an aspiring attorney with the Innocence Initiative, believes Bankowski was wrongly convicted of the murders and struggles to stop his impending execution, while tirelessly working to exonerate Kucik.

Christine’s investigation uncovers evidence that puts her at odds with Adam who will do everything in his power to uphold the verdict, keep his reputation intact, and protect Jenny who has maintained a close relationship with the prosecutor and his family.

Right from the start, “The Divide” moves at a frenetic pace switching between Christine and Adam’s involvement in not only the main plot but also as a way of rapidly picking away at the undertones of their personal lives as well.

There are layers and layers of issues here with every character. Christine alone has a bevy of problems to deal with in her personal life – her boss at the Innocence Initiative is none too happy about her pursuit of this particular case, her ‘boyfriend’ feels used by her and her father sits on death row for a crime she believes he didn’t commit. Sure, that last one feels like a tired plot device, but here it’s handled in such a way that it doesn’t devolve into something that’s the least bit predictable or unsatisfying.

Add this to the intricacies of the Butler case and there is hardly a moment to ponder who could be right and who could be wrong, which is just the point – there’s so much gray that viewers will have a tough time deciding who to root for, and that’s a good thing.

Given the legal setup, one might think that “The Divide” is merely a procedural with some backstory thrown in to give the featured case context, but it’s clear that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The serialized nature of all of the storylines allows for a thorough examination of truth, violence, corruption, racial issues and the value of family in a manner that can only be accomplished within the framework of this legal conundrum.

Writer LaGravenese, primarily a feature scribe, undoubtedly knows how to get into a scene late and leave it early which keeps the plot moving along at an extraordinarily pleasing pace. He never makes anything easy for the characters and the weighty choices and decisions he forces upon them make for surprisingly welcome complicated turns. Under Goldwyn’s direction, the visual look of the series, with its almost monochromatic palette, accurately adds to the frosty feeling prominent among the characters. He’s also keenly aware of the fact that some scenes require specific movement to keep them flowing while others require a certain stillness to convey the underlying emotion of the characters truthfully. All of these elements woven together are what make this series more than just a legal-thriller wannabe.

For their first scripted outing, it’s safe to say that WE tv has made an excellent choice with “The Divide.”

This series deserves to be a hit. Tune in and make it so.

“The Divide” debuts on Wednesday, July 16th, at 9:00pm e/p.

Note - Each episode of “The Divide” will be complemented by an Inside-The-Episode featurette with the cast and crew that breaks down the story and scenes in further detail. Fans can also learn more about the Innocence Project organization, the inspiration behind The Innocence Initiative. All assets will be made available on a multitude of platforms optimized for desktop and mobile. Please visit www.wetv.com for more information.