Well, initially, nothing.
Season 3 of Boston Legal, however, has put the character in grave danger. There are two reasons, not one, for why Alan Shore had been such a fascinating character in The Practice, and in the first episodes of Boston Legal. He had been (as he yet continues to be) quirky – and more importantly he had been (and by Season 3 he has lost this) – scary.
This has been lost. We are no longer terrified at the extents to which Alan Shore might go in order to set things right. Alan Shore was the ultimate ‘egg breaker’ – when it came to omelette’s.
In an episode of The Practice – he illegally obtains a document with which to effectively blackmail a pharmaceutical company into paying a settlement for a widow whose husband had apparently been driven suicidal by their drug. Her husband is dead, she has three children – Alan Shore knows what he must do – and yet – that a force for good should be quite so corrupt – is eerily disturbing. On the one hand, you are repulsed by his complete lack of faith in procedure, and yet – you have to admire, and this is a careful phrase, his willingness to sacrifice his own professional integrity for the sake of the particular good.
In the same episode, he refuses to walk into a conference room at the office, because he suspects that his client has left a murder weapon in there. He maintains that since he hasn’t actually seen the murder weapon, then he has no real knowledge of evidence that he is suppressing. He chooses, in what can only be described as pragmatism, to remain sincerely ignorant of the contents of the conference room.
In all cases, he is certain that he can do a better job than the system, and in most cases, we see that to be true. I remember perhaps one exception in season 1 or 2 of Boston Legal where he had just won a case, and then had caught a glimpse between two involved parties, a glimpse that seemed to have meant he had been duped. That his sympathies had been played upon, and that he had used his skills to help the bad guys.
In any case…
Alan Shore represented nothing short of the triumph of morality over ethics, now he’s been nipped, fixed, sterilized – and all we’re left with is…quirkiness.