Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 4 Review: Fire In a Crowded Theater

The issue of free speech is a tricky one.

On Bluff City Law Season 1 Episode 4, Elijah compares hate speech to shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. But are they the same?

Yelling “fire” inside a crowded theater when there is none is taken from a 1919 case where a man’s conviction for distributing flyers protesting the draft was upheld. 

The actual phrase from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ opinion is: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

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The key word here is “falsely.”

In terms of Elijah’s case against Cambell Mathers, it has more to do with Mathers’ opinion of people rather than shouting a falsity.

Just because he’s a racist and Tweets hateful speech does not mean his right to free speech should be restricted.

This was Sydney’s argument which is why she stepped away from the case.

And to take it a step further, if we start limiting people’s speech, when does it stop?

Elijah believed that Mathers’ Tweets were the root cause of why his clients’ daughter was killed. Mathers himself didn’t shoot the gun, but one of his followers did.

It’s faulty thinking, and it’s disappointing that Bluff City Law would go down this path.

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The way it was presented was almost a political statement in how people blame President Trump for the mass shootings that have taken place since he’s been in office.

Even though he didn’t do the shooting, he’s still responsible because many believe he incites people with “hate speech.”

It’s wrong. And it’s wrong for people to use that excuse for anything because they don’t like what somebody says. Or, because it’s not politically correct.

We’ve got to the point in this country where even comedians can’t be comedians because if they cross the politically correct line, they suffer numerous repercussions.

Guys like Richard Pryor and George Carlin would never be allowed to say today what they said in their acts back when they were popular.

And that’s a serious problem.

I don’t like Rachel Maddow. Should her speech be restricted because I find it offensive and obnoxious? No. 

Why? Because it’s free speech and she has the right to express her opinions the way she sees fit.

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So, what Elijah did was open the door for more limitations on free speech. By limited one kind of speech, other kinds of speech will be limited. It’ll have a domino effect.

Today, saying “purple” is wrong. Tomorrow it will be “blue.”

Sydney was smart enough to stay out of the case, but her thought process wasn’t fully developed. 

It seemed like the show wanted to be fair but only really wanted to present one side.

Briana wasn’t happy when she learned Sydney wasn’t going to be on the case. That particular point should have been developed more. 

Instead, it turned into a joke about Sydney’s burgeoning crush on Jake.

And that’s what was most annoying. It was lopsided and presented a view that isn’t shared by many Americans.

If you speak out against the “tide,” you’re automatically condemned as being a racist. 

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Briana doesn’t think that way about Sydney, but how she approached Sydney is the way it was leaning.

Of course, the Websters’ won their case, because that’s how it is with this show.

But, the problem (besides the free speech controversy) is how Elijah used a “false” tactic to sway the jury

Lawyers will do all sorts of crazy things to convince a jury, but what Elijah did feigning outrage — and some of it was real — was questionable.

What he did was no better than what he was accusing Mathers of doing. 

Only in this case, he was using his tactics for what he believed was “good.”

Not only was that charade bothersome, but also the fact that  he was having dinner and conversation with Rachel while the case was active.

It seemed like a conflict of interest on both their parts.

Rachel’s job was to represent Mathers and win the case for him. While her not liking him was one thing, she still should have done her best to win the case.

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She didn’t even try. So, why represent him?

It was infuriating to say the least.

At least we had some good moments between Sydney and Emerson to buffer against the ridiculousness of the free speech case.

Those two are getting closer, and it’s heartwarming.

Neither of them is at fault for their situation. So, for them to be able to move past it and build a relationship of their own is a move in in the right direction.

It was absolutely adorable when Emerson said she can lean on him. He almost didn’t say it, but he did.

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Sydney was surprised, but it meant a lot to her. She has a brother now, and she won’t always have to depend on her dad.

It’s sort of a reprieve for her — and for Emerson, too.

It will be interesting to see how their relationship further develops.

What did you think of “Fire in a Crowded Theater”?

What is your opinion on free speech? 

Was the jury wrong? 

Did Elijah go to far with his outrage tactic?

Should hate speech be banned?

Are Sydney and Jake headed down romance lane?

Hit the comments and share your thoughts.

If you need to catch up, you can watch Bluff City Law online right here via TV Fanatic!


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Lisa Babick is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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