Law & Order: SVU 23×18 “Eighteen Wheels a Predator” was one of those episodes that makes you sit back and think, “this is what I’m here for.” There’s really no other way of putting it, honestly. It’s actually kind of difficult to get into the ins and outs of what may or may not have worked about this hour of television because, at the end of the day, this just…felt like our show. The one we’ve stuck with all these years, despite ups and downs. The show that makes us aware of everything wrong with how the system treats victims of sexual assault…and the one that is, more than anything else, just kind of there to be a vehicle for bragging rights on how much Dick Wolf Entertainment and NBC won when they got Mariska Hargitay as their lead.
We’re in an era where Olivia Benson is tired—and not just because, as she says at the beginning of “Eighteen Wheels a Predator,” she gets up at 5:00 in the morning. (Even the magical power of coffee is not going to fix the exhaustion when you work these kinds of hours.)
No, Benson is tired because of a lot more than just a broken sleep schedule: She’s been in Special Victims for over two decades. She’s seen and survived the worst of the worst, come face-to-face with pure evil made flesh and won, has clawed her way back from defeat, after defeat, after defeat.
“I mean, this job is hard enough. But the politics?”
And now, on top of all of that, she’s stuck dealing with the bullshit that comes with not only being SVU’s Captain, but being in that stressful position while answering to an unworthy, uncaring, and unintelligent Chief McGrath.
Olivia Benson is exhausted to death because she’s sick of everyone’s bullshit—the suspects’ lies, the increasingly vile crimes (she was never not sick of those first two things), the inner workings of the NYPD…and McGrath’s entire existence. Hell, at this point in the series’ run, even SVU‘s biggest, most dedicated fans are sick and tired of quite a lot of things, too.
As Law & Order: SVU 23×18 made very clear, Captain Benson still has so much fight left in her. There are still stories to tell and lessons to be learned. Liv could easily be exhausted to the point of being jaded and bitter…And maybe, at times, some of that creeps in (see also: McGrath breathes. Liv cringes). Overall, though? It’s just…It’s not who she is. She can give off that “totally fucking done with everyone and everything” vibe, yet still be the one who finds justice for the victims. In fact, she somehow, as I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned other times this season, has more fire inside her now than ever before.
And we point, yet again, to just kind of putting a camera in front of Hargitay and saying, “ok. Show off,” because you can’t get all of that energy without someone delivering it. And she delivers it.
(I mean, I doubt anyone has actually said that to her, exactly…But they probably should. Just saying.)
As Captain Benson worked to find justice for over 20 years’ worth of a serial rapist’s victims in SVU 23×18, she reminded us just how much she has learned in her own 20+ years worth of taking down scum like Wes the truck driver. This guy was getting away with attacking women all over the country because the system doesn’t work. There are places that don’t do their due diligence, whether by actually investigating incomplete rapes or simply just including their evidence in shared databases. So, sometimes, it takes someone who’s been solving crimes for over 20 years to…put everything scattered across 20 years together, to know that you have to find the broken patterns and the failures, to find your way to success.
Kind of like the lesson on untested rape kits in season 12’s “Behave,” “Eighteen Wheels a Predator” reminded us that there are victims who fall through the cracks—their cases, like Raelynn’s, being the ones lesser cops don’t consider “real” enough to investigate. And, quite often, because they do, they are the key to showing people like Wes how to get away with everything.
“Incomplete rape doesn’t mean that there was no assault.”
It takes an Olivia Benson, who refuses to turn her back on any victim, to fix things. And as a reminder, friends: She is fictional. We don’t have her in the real world. But we truly wish to whatever God may be listening that we did. (We’ll take her imperfections over real folks’ any day.)
So, the reminder that Liv is—well…Liv— and the whole “voice for the voiceless” of it all certainly made SVU 23×18 work. But then, there’s the part that Liv is Liv that made it 500 times better.
Because she is about a billion percent done with everyone. And that’s just…It’s so entertaining to watch. Especially considering she truly has every right, in her “over it” era, to just want to rest. Instead, she’s always finding more to bring to the table.
Benson can seamlessly switch from total Hot Girl Shit flirt, to hard-ass cop, to heart-of-gold empath who’s there for victims. And when she does show just how much she’s over an interrogation, or how much she’s on her last straw with 1PP’s neglect for her unit, or even just how much she would actually love it if McGrath would stop breathing, it’s not done in such a way that you’re like “omg, what a bitch.”
“So, the next time I want their attention, all I need to tell them is that we’re looking for a nationwide serial rapist.”
But that’s where we find ourselves in the “wow, SVU 23×18 really highlighted, more than usual, just how great the series’ star is” part of all this. Television is not kind to women—especially badass women, especially ones who dare to show the men around them what they really think of them—and we’ve been more than open about our thoughts on how this series, in particular, falls into that trap.
But when you let a star like Mariska Hargitay just…go…you get a very real, relatable, human character. And, especially when she’s standing up for all the right people while she’s giving all the worst ones the full force of her wrath, you can’t help but absolutely love what you see.
That love and appreciation, along with the message that, while Captain Benson and her detectives may have made great strides in…how you say…”investigating these vicious felonies,” we’re going to need more than just this one “elite squad” to really put the justice in our criminal justice system, is the takeaway from Law & Order: SVU 23×18. Or, at least, 2389473 (or whatever) likely meaningless words later, that’s what we’re going with as our bottom line.
But don’t worry…We’ve still got the fun part…
This is where all 18 of the wheels fall off our Law & Order: SVU 23×18 thoughts…
- Y’all, we got flirty undercover Hot Girl Benson. The TV gods said, “we will bless them.” (But not “bless their hearts.” That’d mean something else entirely.)
- We’re all obsessed with her hair tonight, right? Right.
- And the sweater.
- The beanie, though.
- Goes without saying, considering the plot twist…But like. “Oh, don’t flirt with my sister, but I’m gonna flirt with bar patrons and call Kayla a bitch for not wanting to go home with me” is what we call “all the red flags.”
- Also. “I don’t hurt women” is an immediate “sure, Jan,” especially when you’re watching SVU.
- I, too, would call Olivia Benson “Mom” (“Mommy,” probably) if I woke up and saw her standing there.
- I have never heard “fuck you” louder than when Liv was like, “we’re working the scene” in response to McGrath’s whining about dealing with 1PP.
- So, I raved about Mariska Hargitay and Olivia Benson for 293874398473 words. As one does…But, just as Benson gave credit to Fin and Amanda at the end of the episode, we’ve got to give credit to the rest of the cast.
- And the crew. No crew, no show. No nothing.
- “Great. Now, we’re getting somewhere.” The tone.
- And then, the utter defeat when she realized how long this dude had been getting away with it…I have never felt exhaustion more than when Liv sat down on that desk.
- “It’s like Justice League of America in here.” Truly, STFU, McGrath.
- Olivia Benson: Still a better leaner than Jordan Catalano.
- “How long have the two of you been married?” “22 years.” EO found dead.
- It’s the way she held her finger up when she told the locals to hold off for me.
- “And like you said, Sweetheart. Patience? Is a good strategy.” No, really. Olivia. Benson. Is. Done.
- …it’s the “Sweetheart” being turned on this dude for me. When that word comes out of this woman’s mouth, it absolutely never means anything good. We’ve said this before. We’re saying it again.
- Them: Patience. Us: It’s literally been 84 years.
- Rollins plays the interrogation game very, very well.
- …but nobody does it like the Livterrogation.
- “I took what I wanted because I could.” I hate men.
- The way Liv just got up and started to leave in the middle of Dudebro Dustin’s rant. And the “there aren’t many” as she slammed the door. Have we mentioned: She’s over it all.
- …and we realize, even after actually letting her speak and give credit to her people in that press conference, that McGrath is still going to be a disrespectful little shit, right? Right.
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