Law & Order: SVU 23×05, “Fast Times @TheWheelHouse,” was a prime example of what happens when bad episodes happen to good seasons. Or maybe it’s better to put it like this: This storyline is what happens when people who aren’t part of the social media community, who aren’t “hip,” or “in touch,” or whatever, try to tackle something that’s out of their…how you say…Ah. Yes. Wheelhouse.
That’s not to say that the misguided episode didn’t have at least a few redeeming qualities. There’s always the obvious: Mariska Hargitay. Olivia Benson. What are words in the face of her, of them? You don’t stay on the air for 499 episodes (and counting) without something truly special being involved, and for this series, that something truly special is always, always, always someone—it’s forever going to be her.
But at some point, no matter how much you want to love something and be supportive…it’s just not possible. So, let’s check out what worked, what didn’t work, and whether or not we can still take something worthwhile away from it all.
The good: Women.
Eh. You probably get the point.
Somewhere in the TikTok influencer house something or another of it all, this episode of Law & Order: SVU was supposed to be part of a crossover with Law & Order: Organized Crime. It wasn’t a crossover in the usual sense of “Elliot and Olivia stare longingly at each other a lot” but was, instead, just enough setup for the cooperation (and Bensler feels) that would exist between the two units in the second half.
On that front, if no other, this episode fully delivered. Big time.
It was so interesting seeing Jet Slootmaekers (Ainsley Seiger) make herself at home in Captain Benson’s territory. She interrupted the case of the week to share information about Rita Lasku and the other girls being trafficked in the Kosta Organization. Anyone not familiar with the character might have taken as a slight, but it’s just kind of how she relates (or doesn’t quite relate in the same way) to social situations. And then, of course, she wound up being a key player in the Special Victims Unit’s case.
She’s younger, actually knows how social media works, and was even aware of who the influencers from The Wheelhouse were. Jet also knew who the victim was…and was just the right age to try to follow her to the content house, undercover, when she was invited back by Diggy Wheeler for an apology that turned out to be a setup for more bullying.
Like, that wardrobe? On Jet? Girl, yes. The complete and total fire when Jet got in one of the manbros’ faces? That strict confidence? We continue to believe we could get behind a Law & Order: She Is Sloot spinoff.
“Back off. And shut your mouth.”
“A frisky one. Who the hell are you?”
Liv borrowing Ayanna Bell’s (Danielle Moné Truitt) version of her younger self for her operation and letting Jet just take the lead at that cringe party? Iconic, women supporting women, giving the next generation the chance to be the most badass? Yes. All of the above. And more.
And then, there was Sergeant Bell herself, coming over to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and being just..totally everything. Every time these two women in actual power in a male-dominated profession share even a blink together, all you see is the potential for how to fix the world: Just let women like Benson and Bell be leaders. Please.
Was it weird to see them collaborating so well, even briefly, after the betrayal during their last case together? Sure. So, “weird lack of continuity” or “leaves viewers to just make guesses about how that all got cleared up” could probably go on the list of cons for “Fast Times @TheWheelHouse.” But really, we can also just chalk it up to Bell and Benson knowing what really matters and being true professionals who put it behind them, knowing they were both doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.
It’s kind of a little bit…uncomfortable that the best parts of Law & Order: SVU 23×05 “Fast Times @TheWheelHouse” aside from our star, involved Organized Crime characters. But we’ll take what we can get at this point.
The…really, truly not good
Everything about the case of the week was just bad. This is actually the kind way of putting it. I’m sorry, but just…no. It was a no from me. A big, fat no, in fact.
In the first place, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 23×05 “Fast Times @TheWheelHouse” opened with folks partying it up and doing TikTok dances…Which, sure. That happens. Nobody’s arguing that it doesn’t…But no way in hell did anyone, on any planet, need to see the most awkward and poorly-executed version of TikTok dances on the planet. To be fair, there’s a lot of that to be found over on TikTok—but it’s because of talentless white folks stealing “trending” material from Black content creators. A conversation about that never showed up, probably because nobody did their research.
Worse: We were told, through Noah—a dancer on the show and a talented one in real life—actually calling Willa Bartola “a dancer.” Sweetie, no. Ask Mama Liv to send you to a better studio if you think that’s a dancer. I’m begging.
Of course, if that was all that was wrong with this episode, it could have still been saved (for everyone but the adult ballet student who stayed home from class to watch the crossover, at least). The thing was, while there is certainly rot on social media—most especially all over “influencer” culture—and while it’s perfectly believable that a victim might disclose online, only to then be bullied for doing so, there was just too much effort involved here. If you have to try that hard to try to seem like you know what’s going on with the youths, just, like, don’t.
This happens just about every time Law & Order: SVU tries to get too in-the-moment, so to speak. In this particular case, the failure is certainly the result of the people creating the stories only ever viewing social media users as this caricature they keep drawing up and never bothering to step away from their own biases. If you only care to see social media as a place for toxicity, you’re never going to learn about, much less understand, it. And without the whole picture, the story isn’t going to feel authentic—this one most certainly didn’t.
Trigger warning: We’re mentioning that serial rapist—you know, the one everyone behind the scenes is obsessed with—and showing his face in an ill-conceived meme below…
You can’t have Olivia Benson telling her son, Noah Benson-Stabler, “once you post something on the internet, it stays there forever” and then have a writer tweet—then quickly delete after (deserved) backlash—a meme that shows the continued disregard for trauma survivors exhibited by everyone who keeps turning the William Lewis episode into some kind of joke or brag. It doesn’t work.
I’m begging for this to stop, on behalf of everyone who doesn’t have the platform to beg. Please think before you do things like this. (And some of those things really are still out here…years later.) It is not ok.
A lot of things just don’t work here, but the egregious lack of self-awareness, which is something we had to point out with the previous episode as well, is certainly one of them.
Here’s another huge “no” from me: You shouldn’t have four episodes in a row that set up realistic, timely damnations of powerful people and power structures…then depict your average citizens who record encounters with law enforcement and post them on social media as rabid crazies with slushees. If the cameras are out when cops are around, it’s not the cops (or the cop and the ADA in the case of Rollins and Carisi here) who are being attacked. That’s not how this works. That’s just…it’s not how any of this works.
And it is an awful misrepresentation of reality on a series that, sure, tells “totally fictional and not ripped-from-the-headlines” but is set up as realistic fiction.
Even dialogue, which has been pretty solid in season 23 so far, was just…not great…in a lot of places. It was more of the same in terms of every time SVU tries to tackle “the youths,” so to speak. And it’s like…Yeah, there are some phrases used online, or even in person, that not everyone understands? But nobody’s demanding that people who aren’t “in” with that crowd try to force them onto television.
Fast Thoughts on Law & Order: SVU 23×05
- Here’s another thing that actually worked: Liv’s whole speech about why victims are starting to disclose on social media: “Many survivors like to disclose within their social media networks because it gives them an enhanced sense of control.”
- …but considering how we know what the people behind the series actually seem to think about our online communities…maybe it didn’t work as well as it could have without that extra knowledge. Where’s the brain bleach?
- Ryan Buggle deserves an Emmy for having to make Noah Benson-Stabler say, with his whole chest, that Willa was “a dancer” based off that TikTok mess. Oof.
- Meanwhile, if it wasn’t the whitest attempt at executing it, the choreo involved might not have sucked. And before y’all start: I’m a whitest white, which is why I don’t attempt certain things.
- “You’re as pretty in real life as you are in your video. That never happens.” Like??? You literally have one of the hottest people on the planet on your set??? But you put a line like that in there? Not to mention…So, people really think every single person posting photos and videos online that looks beautiful is secretly ugly? Someone inject caffeine into my veins before I self-destruct. Yikes.
- “Survivor squad” at the house where multiple girls were attacked, with the same house leader who covered it up—and was fine with it until it happened to be a girl he liked. Sure, Jan. Has anyone ever gone to the site of their trauma to “rebrand” it? And if they did, did they talk about it in those terms?
- You know where I have seen survivors support each other? Fandom. This one, in particular.
- Just say you think all TikTok “dancers” are vapid and gullible and move on.
- So, Rollins and Carisi can be romantically involved…have dinner together…and still seek justice for the victims, even during their dinner together? Interesting.
- No but I really want 10 minutes with this man to see why Liv isn’t allowed what Amanda has right now. And if she does get it, it never works out…and is with trash anyway.
- “…homophobic, misogynistic asses.” Go all the way off, Kevan.
- Anyone else hear “Dickie” every time someone said “Diggy,” or are you all normal?
- Speaking of Diggy: The “good guy” in this episode was not at all good, and hearing Carisi tell him he “did the right thing” was gross. He’s just as culpable as Tate and Liam. He stood by and did nothing, covered for them even, until it was the girl he wanted (and who clearly wasn’t that into him). Even then, he had to see her at her lowest to believe her and insult her acting skills as part of his “support.”He’s pathetic, and any “redemption” attempt falls under the heading of “not it.”
- “Wheeler made it all about himself. Not Willa.” Exactly, Amanda. Now, go talk to your man.
- “I got into social media because I wanted people to think that’s what my life was like.” That’s a no from the broad majority. Thanks for playing.
- Are people selective about what they choose to share sometimes, posting photos of only the good times? Yes. But even when that’s the case, it’s still more about connection than anything else.