Law & Order: Organized Crime continues to not miss a beat. “The Good, The Bad, and The Lovely” was yet another shining example of how you can mix compelling, high stakes drama with plenty of character development and personal stories. A truly strong television series doesn’t just sneak relationships in while trying to advance the plot. No. A good creative team knows that fully developing characters, especially in terms of how they relate to the important people in their lives, is a valuable component of the plot.
Viewers don’t show up for the cases—even when they’re as well thought out and well executed as the ones on this series. We show up because we care about what happens to the people. In some cases, we even show up because we’ve been fed crumbs for over 20 years and want to finally get a full meal, with bonus cake.
It certainly didn’t hurt that Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni were back to doing that thing they do, but even without that, Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×05 “The Good, The Bad and The Lovely” would have been an experience.
Stabler Family Values
Elliot Stabler spends more time at home with his family in 2021 than he ever did back in the day, and that’s while he’s undercover as Eddie Wagner. When the great Ellen Burstyn first returned as “Mama” Stabler in Law & Order: Organized Crime season 2, Bernie was not doing well, to say the least. So, when she’s stressed out and accusing Eli of stealing her medicine in this fifth installment, everyone just assumes she’s “having an episode.” And the accusation upsets her, as it should—especially when she’s not having one—which only strengthens everyone’s misinterpretation of events.
If someone who is mentally ill is “freaking out” or passionate about something in a way that might track with their illness, this is what we do to them. We just write off their emotions, try to convince them that what they’re feeling and/or experiencing isn’t real, and actually traumatize them in the process. We almost never get to see a situation where the sick person in question was actually right all along on TV; and it’s so nice that this series at least did people like Bernie Stabler justice. It gave her back the smallest shred of dignity after so long, and it even gave viewers a chance to get some more insight into where Elliot is in his own journey and his ever-changing relationship with the mother he once just let people assume was long gone.
“So what? She’s nuts. Nobody will believe a word she says.”
Eli, kiddo. You need to get new friends. And I’m not going to be mad in the least bit when your dad breaks this one in half. To Eli’s credit, he defended his grandmother and pointed out that bipolar “is not whatever. It’s a medical condition,” but it was way too little, way too late.
The gaslighting, especially of someone who’s bipolar and has had a lifetime of constant struggles with it? That’s abuse—guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the gaslighting tree.
When Elliot learned, through Liv—because of course it would be the woman who always sacrificed her own heart and soul to try to help Elliot and his family for so long who’d have to tell him the ugly truth now—that Eli actually had been taking the pills, we saw shades of the old Detective Stabler. The anger was there, as was the threat to start tracking his kid’s phone…
But we also saw something else.
“Sorry I doubted you, Mama. You were right.”
“You don’t have to reassure me, honey. I know I’m right.”
They had this beautiful conversation about life, with Bernie reassuring Elliot that Eli was going to be alright. And then, they had that touching moment of Elliot leaning, both literally and figuratively, on his mommy for support.
I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face and until I’m no longer capable of forming the words, but this guy will never fit with whatever folks’ pre-conceived, “toxic” notions of Elliot Stabler are. This is the man Olivia Benson fell in love with. The hints of him were always there, but Law & Order: Organized Crime is giving us a much fuller picture.
And dare I say, he’s happier now that he’s no longer trapped?
Meanwhile, Eddie Wagner has no values
Just the dialogue about mental health and the chance to see Elliot spending more quality time with his mom would have been enough to make this episode a winner, but this series is, technically, still a procedural.
Elliot Stabler still spends most of his time as Eddie Wagner these days. Unfortunately, that includes doing whatever he did with Flutura Briscu in that camper (gag me) and Olivia Benson absolutely knowing about it.
No, but seriously. When Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×05 “The Good, The Bad and The Lovely” opened up with Liv watching El’s six (best view in the house, to be honest), while clearly being irritated when he pointed out Flutura? I’m pretty sure my entire body was healed from everything that has ever ailed it. Mariska Hargitay said, “I’m going to let the shippers know Liv knows and is not happy.” The eyebrow? Her glare? That giant look of “wtf” when Elliot said Flagellum wasn’t the one working the girls? That inflection on “your friend, Flutura? Is that how you say her name?” God, all of it. Inject it in my veins.
This was obviously the most important aspect of the investigation…No? Ok then.
Here’s what actually happened: Organized Crime and Captain Benson’s Special Victims Unit infiltrated a supposed “charity auction” held by an Edmund Bass. But the men had different items to bid on than the women: Jewelry, which was used to identify which trafficked girls they would get to buy for a good time.
Elliot, as Eddie, managed to get himself inside by continuing to “work” Flutura Briscu…And for the record, no, nobody needed to see him being so hot whilst fake flirting with her. (But if he’s that hot when he “works” someone deplorable, are we going to be able to handle it when he fully turns on the sex appeal with Livie Love? No. NO, we are not.) The rest of the team found their way in through Congressman Kilbride, who’se been trying to get Sergeant Bell to team up with him for pretty much the entirety of Law & Order: Organized Crime season 2.
Just as he’d gotten all the information he needed for the team to come in and do their thing, Elliot…got caught. Because of course he did. His heart remains far too big. So when he saw Rita, the girl whose disappearance really got him digging deeper, he had to try to save her. That’s just who Elliot is and always has been. He’s her “Officer Monte Cristo” and got all emo over finding the book he’d given her and seeing her notes all over it, after all. A really hot ride on a stolen bike and a carefully-executed crash later, Elliot was able to rescue Rita.
…but was that one girl worth the threat that’s obviously out there in terms of the rest of the KO realizing there’s a rat? Everyone saw how he interacted with Rita at the diner; he also disappeared into the night and decided to stay home—Elliot‘s home, not Eddie’s—after the cops crashed the big party. Not to mention, he upset Reggie by going behind his back to get the job at the party…
Elliot, sweetie, Liv can’t be looking over her shoulder, making sure you’re ok…
Partners for life.
Every single time I rewatched the EO scene at the end of Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×05, it was one hundred percent for analysis purposes and not at all for screaming purposes. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Don’t @ me. We really do need to talk about how there is so much to unpack in such a relatively “small” part of the episode, though.
“Well, your partner came to check up on you.”
Technically, Captain Benson doesn’t “need” a partner and hasn’t had Stabler as her partner for over 10 years. But neither one of them acknowledges that, and it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with keeping Bernie comfortable. Whatever they’re building toward, Elliot and Olivia are partners first—always have been, always will be. They don’t know how to function any other way.
And they’re so comfortable with each other now? Back to bickering like old marrieds—something they’ve done even since they were much younger, before the darkness of the world seeped in and hardened them both up.
While everything on her own series is constantly about traumatizing Liv at every available (and forced) opportunity, Mariska Hargitay gets to pop over to Law & Order: Organized Crime and play the carefree Liv who, while absolutely not there in terms of “more” yet, is perfectly comfortable and carefree in El’s home. She interacts with his mom like the family they are, whether she knows it or not (Bernie totally knows, even if Olivia is still playing dumb with herself), and she just has this…sense of lightness and belonging about her that is so rare and precious.
Between Elliot being undercover and everything at SVU being a total shitstorm, we don’t even have any evidence of Bensler having interacted much since Elliot’s “parallel universe” confession. But what we can most certainly tell, from Liv feeling like she could just go to the Stabler home for a check-in when she didn’t see him in the mess that was the end of the charity auction, is that we’ve taken another step forward here. Did she get the voicemail? Seems likely.
We definitely see the progress in Hargitay and Meloni’s acting choices, as well. Their characters are open with one another, playful, kind of flirty at times. The wariness is almost gone, and while it will almost surely make a reappearance before that giant leap forward, choices were certainly made. And it gets deeper.
“I want you to come home.”
This is a huge deal. Olivia Benson is asking for something she wants, for herself, without tying anyone else in to it. That’s a lot for her, even when you don’t take into account that it’s about Elliot. But when you do? There are layers upon layers of meaning there in that statement…and please, don’t start thinking about how that’s all Liv wanted out of her El for a decade when she wasn’t even able to reach him to voice that want.
And Mariska’s quick hand on her chest? Help.
But wait! There’s more!
It’s the way Olivia is the one who goes for the physical contact this time, putting her hand against Elliot’s cheek before she searches his eyes. She doesn’t want to lose her person and is worried that Eddie Wagner might take over if El stays gone much longer. The Law & Order: Organized Crime fandom could probably write multiple dissertations on Elliot’s quiet, open demeanor here.
He hears Liv, he wants to come back for her, and he’s totally torn because he also knows he’s got more work to do.
The whole thing is so beautiful. And again, nobody had to sneak it in or sacrifice a lights-out crime drama for it.
The Good, The Bad and The Fangirlish Thoughts on Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×05
- “It’s better if we separate.” Absolutely, you idiot. Oh, you didn’t mean it like separating your tongue from her mouth, permanently? Too bad.
- Liv’s hand??? On El’s cheek??? God, she wants him so bad…Girl, go for it already.
- Her hand. His cheek and neck…Anyone else just, like, dead from something so small yet so…much???? I mean????? Help????
- Yes, Zaddy hopping on that bike. Sexy. Zaddy hopping on Liv when.
- “I’m not accusing; I’m asking.” Elliot to Eli about the pills? Or Liv’s eyebrow to El about Flagellum?
- Liv giving El hell about Flutura, all while getting the job done? Also sexy.
- Here’s another thing we don’t talk about enough: Sometimes, in an attempt to put childhood trauma behind us, we also wipe out the good memories. So far, Elliot has forgotten chicken cordon bleu and a vegetable garden. Who knows what else he had to lose to protect himself, because his mind just couldn’t hold on to memories so at odds with all the hurt?
- Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×05 episode title: “The Good, The Bad, and The Lovely.” My trash brain: Yes, Olivia Benson is lovely. And she’s Elliot Stabler’s lovey.
- There’s a long-running fandom theory, with tons of gasoline poured on the garbage fire because of Eli’s brown eyes, that Eli isn’t actually Elliot’s son. After learning about the letter, it became more plausible that Kathy the Karen would have manipulated her ex-husband like that. Now, with Eli letting the whole family think Bernie was losing touch with reality, just so he could be cool and sell some pills? Yeah. That’s not Elliot’s son, but he’s definitely his dishonest AF mother’s spitting image.
- Elliot: Blah, blah, don’t need anyone to clean my cut. The future Mrs. Benson-Stabler: I’m going to go get the hydrogen peroxide. Me: I hate them.
- It’s the way Olivia kicks so much ass, yet people are really trying to act like Hargitay is “beginning to strain credulity” for doing this at her age (which is still lower than #BeardedBestie’s), for me.
- If Liv had stayed long enough to see her man snuggling with his mommy, she would’ve suddenly become pregnant with a future Benson-Stabler. What then.
- “Do me a favor: Don’t try. Just be here.” Bernie stole Liv’s line.
- Did I mention that petty, jealous Liv is everything? Everything.
- Still stuck on “howdy,” too.
- Ayanna Bell. That dress. Girl, yas.
- “Is this your first time realizing how beautiful she is?” Liv? Honey? You want to share something with the class? This is a safe space. We’re listening…
- Bernie’s little look when her son was walking Liv out the “shorter” (code: more scenic and romantic) way? Same.
- She really asked where Stabler was before going to check on one of the victims. Livie Love’s got it bad.
- Is it just me, or like. Did the Captain’s man absolutely never respond to that other woman demanding he come home the way he did to Liv’s concern and want (need) for him to finish the operation in Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×05?