Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×16 “Guns & Roses” did a great job of bringing some much-needed focus back to Sergeant Ayanna Bell’s role in…well…everything. To be clear: This is still, overall, Elliot Stabler’s story. But if one thing about the “Nemesis” arc was consistently annoying, it was the way everything just got shoved aside for yet more Wheatley. Bell has had her C.I., “Nova,” under with the Marcy Killers since the very beginning of the series’ second season. During that second mini-season within the season, though, her investigation was kind of…just…background noise. At best.
With Detective Stabler undercover as a dirty version of himself, the storytelling possibilities are all over the place. If Organized Crime 2×16 is any indication, we’re going to hit a lot of the most important points.
One of Them?
We don’t talk enough about how much this world does not deserve Danielle Moné Truitt’s performance as Sergeant Ayanna Bell. So, let us make sure we say it here and now: We’re not worthy. Bell’s not just a woman trying to navigate the nonsense of the NYPD, but also a Black woman. A Black, lesbian NYPD Sergeant with a wife and baby at home…and an unhinged white dude to babysit.
Ayanna Bell is the second best partner Elliot Stabler could ever have hoped for—second best only because, well…Benson. And the fact that Bell is even someone who works as Stabler’s partner is a huge accomplishment, especially since that fit has been there since day one. We’ve talked a lot about her unwavering support when everyone was buying Wheatley’s lies, as well as her take-no-shit stance when El got out of line.
…but take the old white dude with the nice ass out of it for a moment.
Bell is a Black woman in a corrupt, racist system full of misogynist good ol’ boys. And not only is she surviving it, she’s thriving in spite of all the ways the institution tries to make it impossible for her to do so. People respect her. She’s running a squad, and she’s kicking ass while she does it.
Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×16 did fantastic job of highlighting two sides of the same struggle during Bell’s heated discussions with Nova. And seeing Truitt go toe-to-toe with Nona Parker Johnson, with each of their characters accusing the other of being part of a Them—yes, with a capital T—was just spot on.
Bell was so quick to believe Hugo Bankhole had definitely killed those two women and was, somehow, involved in trafficking. As a cop, the evidence pointed her toward him, so that was her frame of reference. But for Nova, being undercover with the Marcy Killers for so long meant she knew they weren’t involved in that kind of business. And she believed, in her heart of hearts, that Hugo wouldn’t have committed the murders. He’s a criminal of a certain kind, with a certain code (and a particular type of leader in Mr. Webb)…
…but all Bell saw was a gang member. An “other.” Just as, for Nova, Bell became a cop only—a different kind of “other”—when she was operating from her frame of reference as Webb’s young, Black right-hand woman.
In those moments, it didn’t matter that Nova was, technically, also with law enforcement. And it shouldn’t have. See also: It didn’t exactly matter that Kevin Atwater was a cop when he was undercover in Chicago P.D.’s “Night in Chicago” episode (or at countless other moments along the way) either. Sometimes, who you are and where you come from matters much, much more. And that’s especially the case when it comes to race and policing. Full stop.
Actually…come to think of it…Someone bring Eriq La Salle over to Organized Crime for a minute. The things he could give us with Bell…or just, honestly, in general.
But I digress.
A lot of times on this series, you can completely remove Stabler from the plot and still have decent content. We lost that with the second Wheatley arc—aside from the whole Jalachi of it all, of course. But, the strongest part of Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×16 was seeing that struggle play out between Bell and Nova, between who they were, who they wanted to be, and who they might not realize they were becoming. I could take a whole series of just them and love it—and easily so.
Meanwhile, in trash cop central…
It’s actually painful watching Elliot Stabler become everything we hate about policing, even if it’s just play-acting. In direct contrast to Bell, the people Detective Stabler is now working for and with…are simply…not good, to put it mildly.
They don’t care about justice. They care about themselves and what they can get out of it, and whatever “honor” they supposedly have is actually less than that which generally tends to exist among your regular sort of thieves.
Donnelly and his gang of tattooed wannabes are supposed to “protect and serve.” Instead, they exploit and attack. Sure, Donnelly protected Stabler when the bullets started flying in Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×16…but would he have done the same for someone who couldn’t offer him anything in return? Almost surely not.
But Elliot believes in certain things, has his own sort of sense of guilt and duty. He has this idealized version of his father, who was awarded a Combat Cross for taking a bullet to save his partner.
“We’re just like our dads.”
…and then, even that positive image of Joe Stabler gets crushed at the end of the episode, when Donnelly boasts about how it was all a lie. Yeah, El’s dad did something to “protect” his partner. But he didn’t participate in some heroic act to save him—it was quite the opposite. He “saved” a man from consequences.
Stabler the Elder & Garbage-Like “protected” a corrupt cop who shot an unarmed “hothead.” He asked that partner to shoot him, not for any noble reason but… to cover up the fact that the kid was unarmed. There’s no honor there, nothing for a young Elliot—much less a grown-up one—to have looked up to.
It’s worth condemning. Joe was a “Them” if ever there was one.
And the realization of that was just…all over Elliot’s face…It was painful. And there was way too much heartbreak to handle when Chris Meloni was showing viewers how hard that was for his character to process. That scene of Stabler with his dad’s Combat Cross was…it was too much, ok?
Elliot has tried, at every step of his journey, to be the opposite of everything that was wrong with Joe. But he always had this one thing that he thought he could emulate. That’s gone now. What he makes of it, and of himself, after the big reveal, only time will tell. But we’re hoping for good things because we’ve always had faith in this man, who has, at times, fucked up royally—but always had his heart in the right place.
Thoughts & such on Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×16
- Someone please teach this man how to button up his shirts. (Don’t.)
- Oh? We can mention sending information to SVU? That’s. Int. Er. Es. Ting.
- “I got daughters.” What if I told this mess of trash he should be opposed to trafficking, even if he doesn’t have daughters?
- “It’s pretty obvious that you’ve got friends in high places. But they’re the wrong kind of friends. They’re the kind that’ll have your back just long enough to stab you in it.” He’ll be just fine as long as he keeps in touch with his friend Olivia. She’s kind of a big deal and would rather stab herself in the back than him.
- But speaking of “my friend, Olivia.” I know this bald bitch did not need a whole therapy session to talk about his guilt over betraying terrible people he’s known for five minutes, when he was just fine betraying “Olivia, my friend” by ghosting her for 10 years.
- …buuuuut we have no idea if he was “just fine” or not…because they still haven’t talked about it.
- What we didn’t need was Elliot Stabler being that soft when he showed up at the hospital with flowers for Donnelly. Elliot, sweetheart, for the last time: Not all partnerships are like the one you had with her. I’m tired.
- Elliot had to watch Van Aller, a guy who looked weirdly similar to You Know Who, shoot himself in the head…Just like Olivia had to do during her second confrontation with…Nope. I fucking can’t.
- Brilliant the way the Van Aller—dirty white cop—framing Hugo thing made both sides of the story meld together so well in Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×16, though. Top notch, believable…10/10, would watch again.
- The shot of Bell and Nova as shadows when they had that last meetup in this episode? Gorgeous.
- Jet: “Preston Webb?” Hugo, in his Mariah Carey voice: “I don’t know her.”
- “Now get yo ass out that mattress.” Queen.
- “You, my friend, are my lucky charm.” The fandom @ Meloni’s ass, tbh.
- I enjoy the use of KN95s, even when clothing is (apparently) optional.
- “This is weird. I think I’m going to miss you.” Weird because he never told Liv that, or.
- Glad he’s in therapy, not glad he’s guilting over all the wrong people/things.
- I don’t like Darnell. Send McGrath to be his Chief. Release Liv…
- …and let El give Liv a release already.
- “I care about you, girlfriend.” No, really. We do not deserve.