Rebel has a lot on her plate. In the first scene, she confronts a corporate bigwig (Adam Arkin) about a heart valve that has apparently caused more harm than good, killing too many patients with its defects. Rebel is working this case against a major corporation from every angle, and there’s something interesting here about how hard it can be for David to take on Goliath. It takes more than just passion and commitment. Outside of the public eye, Rebel is pushing the widower of her best friend, an attorney named Julian Cruz (Andy Garcia) to take the heart valve case. She’s also visiting patients, including a dying woman named Helen (Mary McDonnell), and trying to get her gynecologist son Nate (Kevin Zegers) to help lead a study into the defects.
Of course, even that’s not enough for an ABC melodrama. Rebel has two other children, superficially feeling like yin and yang balances to their mom. On the one hand, there’s the supportive Ziggie (Ariela Barer), a recovering addict who works with Rebel. On the other hand, there’s an attorney named Cassidy (Lex Scott Davis), who works with Cruz and is being wooed by her more corporate world father Benji (James Lesure). There’s a BFF/investigator that Rebel uses named Lana (Tamala Jones), and even a case of the week in the premiere about an abused woman who fought back against her husband with a knife. I almost forgot: Rebel has a husband named Grady (John Corbett), who may or may not be cheating on her.
Heart valves, abuse, miscarriages, death, addiction, infidelity—it’s a lot, and it’s all handled with the same superficial sensibility. Yes, Erin/Rebel fights the good fight, but the fight is diminished when plot points are used to push and manipulate. “Rebel” also doesn’t trust its audience, and it often doesn’t make sense—too few reasons are given as to why Cruz wouldn’t take a massive heart valve class action lawsuit beyond manufactured conflict, for example (although that’s given some depth in the stronger second episode). Dialogue and plot points seem like they’re actively working against the cast. These are talented people, especially for the state of network TV in 2021, and the cast is enriched even further by the addition of the always-great Abigail Spencer in episode two.