All good things must come to an end, and it’s a shame that it’s looking like this might be more than a season finale for Trial & Error. If this is the final ending for this great show, at least it’s a stellar one. Trial & Error: Lady, Killer is the second season of Trial & Error, a comedy mockumentary created by Jeff Astrof and Matt Miller, and follows lawyer Josh Segal (Nicholas D’Agosto) and his associates, Dwayne Reed (Steven Boyer) and Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd), as they defend someone from murder charges being brought about by Carol-Anne Keane (Jayma Mays). In these episodes, Josh is trying to prove that Jesse-Ray Beaumont (Michael Hitchcock) wasn’t responsible for the murder of Lavinia Peck-Foster’s (Kristen Chenoweth) brother, Chet, and that it was really Lavinia who was his murderer.
“A Big Break”: Josh and his team continue to find themselves at literal dead ends in their casework until they unearth game-changing evidence with the help of Jesse Ray Beaumont. Meanwhile, in court, Carol Anne tries to finish the case before she has the baby. (Written by Jeff Astrof and directed by Jeffrey Blitz)
“Barcelona”: As Jesse Ray Beaumont’s trial begins, the team struggles to keep him under control while they discover more of Lavinia’s secrets. Now that the baby is born and awaiting the DA election results, Carol Anne discovers who is the baby’s father. (Written by Jeff Astrof and directed by Jeffrey Blitz)
This review will contain spoilers for the season finale of Trial & Error. Read at your own risk…
I didn’t get a chance to review last week’s episodes, but, in summary, they were just as funny and enjoyable as you’d expect them to be. They brought forward a series of reveals, each more surprising than the last, culminating in a cliffhanger where Josh, Dwayne, Anne, and podcast host Nina Rudolph (Amanda Payton) discover that Lavinia’s passport is a forgery due to the fact that November 2008 had no Saturdays (because the town moose didn’t see his breath, a joke that was last mentioned in the third episode), meaning her alibi is flimsier than a piece of torn tracing paper. Naturally, these final two episodes pick up directly from there and the final conclusion is wholly satisfying and completely surprising.
Throughout episode 9, it is revealed that Lavinia is slowly killing off each of Josh’s witnesses (Forge Clooney, the man who created Lavinia’s forged passport that was discovered at the end of episode 8; Mickey Moose; and Reverend Tats, the man who gave Chet an interesting tattoo on his back) in order to keep them from testifying. Josh, Dwayne, and Anne quickly figure out that there must be a mole feeding information to Lavinia as she always seems one step ahead of them. After a session of blaming each other (including a beautiful scene where Dwayne thinks the documentary camera crew is the mole and turns out the lights to thwart them), Josh and Anne discover the bug Lavinia placed on Dwayne’s tie during the previous episode. I’m really glad the gang found the bug Lavinia planted on Dwayne pretty quickly, but I’m also glad that it led to such a ridiculously fun series of events prior to its discovery. Kristen Chenoweth is great as this serial killer version of Lavinia and the scene where the gang discovers the bug is genuinely priceless.
From there, the team discovers that Chet got a tattoo of some GPS coordinates on the back of his neck before he died. Those GPS coordinates lead Anne and Dwayne to Peck Gardens where they find a chest filled with bars of gold. Meanwhile, Carol Anne’s water breaks during court and she’s ushered off to give birth to her baby – Princess Anne Keane (there’s a great scene where her voice drops several octaves as her water breaks and it’s comedy gold). While all of that is happening, Lavinia continues killing off Josh’s witnesses until there’s essentially nobody left. Josh finds out that another man was arrested for Chet’s murder prior to Jesse Ray. That man was Andy “Handy Wojo” Wojohinski (Trent Redekop), although he says that while his hair was found at the scene of the crime, he wasn’t actually wearing it. He’d sold some of his hair to someone for use as a wig. Turns out that someone was Lavinia Peck Foster, and that wig was the one she wears as Ronnie del Mundo. Lavinia later shows up to Josh’s office and asks what was found in Peck Gardens; they tell her about the gold, but she’s suspicious that something else is in the trunk.
After Andy Wojohinski fails to show up to court as Josh’s witness, Josh, Dwayne, and Anne are forced back to the drawing board. As Anne and Dwayne take the gold out of the trunk found in Peck Gardens (in order to transfer it to the Bahamas), they find a hidden compartment full of notes from Trig, Lavinia’s long-lost son, address to Lavinia. This gives Josh an idea on how he can finally prove Lavinia killed Chet. Meanwhile, Carol Anne finds out that the father of her child, Princess Anne Keaton, is none other than the mayor of East Peck, Mayor Hiss (Brent Zulyniak) (who seems to be in a coma for the entirety of the series), a fact that shatters Josh’s heart. Ignoring the logistics of how Mayor Hiss fathered Carol Anne’s child, it was a nice twist that it wasn’t Josh after all. I can see how Astrof and the other writers could easily continue this storyline with Josh acting as a father to Princess Anne, even though he’s not actually her father, and getting closer to Carol Anne in the process. It was a nice twist that totally worked.
In court the next day, Josh calls Lavinia to the witness stand. He presents her with the letters from Trig, causing her to “confess” (in that half-joking way she’s been confessing to various crimes throughout the season) to killing Chet (and everyone else) because her she found out her mother had been hiding the letters from Trig from her and that Chet continued that trend, eventually offering the letters to her in exchange for the deed to Peck Gardens. Josh says that he doesn’t think she killed Chet, though; he thinks that Trig killed Chet and brings Trig into the courtroom in order to arrest him in front of Lavinia. This causes her to break and truly confess to all of the murders in order to save her son. She’s arrested for her murders and thrown in jail where Josh reveals that he hadn’t actually found Trig at all, he’d just dressed Dwayne’s brother-cousin up in a wig and taught him some Spanish. I figured Lavinia had actually committed all these murders, but the way in which she finally confessed to them (and her motive for committing them) was totally surprising but completely satisfying. Astrof and the other writers had been laying the seeds of this big reveal for a number of episodes now, and it was executed perfectly.
And with that, another season of Trial & Error comes to a close. I’d argue that this season was even better than the first, with a stronger and more compelling mystery at its center. Having Josh defend someone who was actually guilty and then spend the second half of the season trying to prove her guilt was a nice twist to the Trial & Error formula and prevented the show from feeling like it was just repeating all it had done with the first season. Lady, Killer benefitted from the existence of the first season of the show as the core relationships between our main characters (Josh, Carol Anne, Dwayne, and Anne) have already been established and are able to continue to be developed in new and interesting ways. Kristen Chenoweth was a perfect addition to the cast as Lavinia. She was a perfect foil for Josh to spar with during the second half of the season, and the shift in her characterization between the two halves of the season gave Chenoweth a lot to play with.
Trial & Error: Lady, Killer wasn’t perfect, however. There were some jokes that didn’t always work (particularly the ongoing gag with Judge Kamiltow (Joel McCrary) and his inability to speak above that of a squeak) and the show never did anything interesting with the character of Nina Rudolph. Yes, she was given an actual real-life podcast to host (MTowne), but within the context of the actual television series, she never rises above anything other than a potential love interest for Josh. I understand there wasn’t really the time to develop her, and I do appreciate her existence (and the existence of MTowne as a real, companion podcast to the show), but I wish the writers had actually done something with Nina within the context of the TV show. Amanda Payton was great as the character, it’s just a shame she wasn’t given much to do on our screens. (Seriously, check out the MTowne podcast. She’s great in it and it really helps flesh out the world of the show).
At the end of the day, Trial & Error is still one of the best comedies on TV. It’s constantly clever, funny, inventive, and original. It lovingly satirizes the true comedy genre of reality TV, offers interesting and compelling characters that the audience grows to adore, presents lots of fun and exciting mysteries for the characters to solve, and features a lot of gut-wrenchingly funny jokes. It’s an ensemble show that shines the brightest when our lead characters are on screen together. It’s constantly funny and creative and a genuine delight to watch. It’s a shame that it seems this second season might be its last. There’s genuinely nothing else on TV quite like Trial & Error and it would be an absolute shame for it to disappear. Trial & Error: Lady, Killer was an improvement over the already-great first season of the show and was a delightful way to spend several weeks during the summer. I hope the show comes back in some way. The world needs more stories from these characters. (I really wanna see Josh uncover the mysteries behind the Witch Trial of 1994 and the East Peck Three, two things teased at the end of the episode). Hopefully, someone will pick up the show for further seasons. Until then, if this is the last season of Trial & Error, it was a damn good way to go out.
4.5 out of 5 wands