Okay, So Who Is the Killer on ‘Presumed Innocent’?

a man and a woman
Who Killed Carolyn Polhemus?Apple TV+

If you’ve been following along with our coverage of Presumed Innocent, you probably have a few questions: Why is Jake Gyllenhaal in everything lately? Is this show about to become Apple TV+’s next weird-but-I-like-it series, à la Severance and Hijack? And who the hell killed Carolyn Polhemus? Well, we can’t solve all of the world’s issues in a day, so let’s focus on Carolyn.

Presumed Innocent is based on Scott Turow’s 1986 novel of the same name, which also led to a 1990 film adaptation starring Harrison Ford. The plot follows Rusty Sabich, a married prosecutor who is accused of murdering his mistress. Fans of the original may already know who the assailant is, but that doesn’t mean Apple TV+ will stick to the script. Wouldn’t that be more interesting, anyway? So far, the streamer has kept the big reveal under lock and key. Until the finale, we’ll have to investigate each episode for new clues.

What do we know so far? In episode 1, Carolyn (Renate Reinsve) is found dead in her living room. The murder weapon is missing, and the assailant managed to leave without a trace. In fact, the only fingerprints police detected on the scene are from Rusty—Carolyn’s colleague whom she was having an affair with. Aside from that, the police have next to no information. So grab yourself a pen and paper, because it’s time to do some sleuthing.

There are currently two suspects in Carolyn’s death, though I have a theory about a third. Let’s look into the potential killers and their motives.

Rusty Sabich

a man sitting at a desk
Jake Gyllenhaal as Rusty Sabich. Apple

Who: Rusty Sabich is Carolyn’s colleague and lover. Their affair began more than a year ago, when they were paired together on a high-profile case. Given that Rusty has a wife and kids, they broke things off—but the split was temporary. In episode 2, we learn that he and Carolyn had rekindled their affair just a few days before her death. According to her autopsy, Carolyn was pregnant with Rusty’s child.

Motive: There are a few options here. Rusty’s biggest motive is protecting his reputation. He’s a successful lawyer and a well-respected family man. Perhaps he was concerned that Carolyn would tell everyone about their affair, so he killed her in a fit of fear-induced rage. Or maybe he knew she was pregnant and couldn’t handle the responsibility of a second family. Despite his clear link to the murder (the fingerprints!), Rusty insists that he was not involved. I suppose that could be true. If he really loved her, he wouldn’t kill her…right?

Alibi: We don’t know exactly when Carolyn died, which means Rusty could have been at home during the murder. Even if he did stop by that night, he ended the evening with his family. Rusty’s wife and kids can vouch for his presence. As far as they know, he never left.

Michael Caldwell

a person with headphones
Tate Birchmore as Michael Caldwell.Apple

Who: Michael Caldwell is Carolyn’s secret son. According to Rusty, she never spoke about him. He didn’t even know Michael existed! I don’t mean to parent-shame, but that seems odd. Don’t most coworkers talk to each other about their kids? Rusty and Carolyn’s boss, Raymond, didn’t know about Michael, either.

Motive: My only reason for including Michael on this list is that he has the vibe of a scorned teenager. The thing is, I’m not quite sure what he’s mad about it. Is his constant sulking due to a guilty conscience, or is he just another pissed-off kid? Perhaps it’s gauche to level allegations at a victim’s child, but for now I’m keeping my eyes on Michael. That boy knows something.

Alibi: Michael was presumably at home with his dad when Carolyn died. The police ticked his father off their suspect list, but that doesn’t mean Michael was cleared, too.

Liam Reynolds

liam reynolds, presumed innocent
Mark Harelik as Liam Reynolds.Apple

Who: Liam Reynolds is an enemy of Carolyn and Rusty. Prior to the events of the show, he was convicted of killing Bunny Davis—a young woman who was found bludgeoned and tied up…just like Carolyn. Carolyn was one of the lawyers responsible for putting Liam behind bars.

Motive: Liam could have killed Carolyn for revenge. When Rusty visits him in prison, Liam practically laughs at the news of her death. “Carolyn Polhemus ruined my life,” he says. In a flashback scene, we see that Liam threatened Carolyn after his trial. Liam believes that he was wrongfully convicted—and now that Rusty’s looked at his case, it seems like Liam could be right. If Carolyn did set him up, maybe he hired someone to settle the score.

Alibi: Liam’s alibi is the strongest of the bunch. Since he’s serving a life sentence, he couldn’t have killed Carolyn himself—though he may have had some help. Prison does have phones, after all.

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