Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×22 “Friend or Foe” was the type of season finale that, while predictable in some places, was still quite good. It wrapped up the current mini arc, focused on Detective Stabler infiltrating the Brotherhood. Which, of course, we knew was just a vehicle, all along, for teaching Elliot about his father’s legacy—and, more importantly, what his own could be.
The finale also took care of the case that dominated the entire season, namely, Sergeant Ayanna Bell’s quest to take down the corrupt Congressman Kilbride. Just like with Stabler’s undercover investigation and the accolades that followed, though, Bell’s success came at a personal cost.
And even with all the loose ends tied up, Organized Crime‘s latest still left viewers with plenty to look forward to for a third season. So, join us for one last look at this always-entertaining series’ many moving parts as we review the Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 finale.
The Sergeant and the Congressman
Honestly, we have to give it to Law & Order: Organized Crime for this one, even as we do have some problems with the outcome (which we’ll get to). The Kilbride investigation always seemed kind of…tangential? And yet, it wasn’t. It was the Big Thing for the season.
All season long, Sergeant Bell was busting her ass to deal with The Marcy Killers, Mr. Webb, and—most importantly—Congressman Kilbride. So, it was kind of perfect that, by the end, she busted his ass. All the pieces just fell into place in Organized Crime 2×22. And when we think about it…Yeah, that’s how things work. Women—especially Black women like Ayanna Bell—kind of quietly do 10 times the work as anyone else, for 0 times the recognition. But they always get the job done.
However, there’s a big problem here. Just as Stabler’s marriage was always on the rocks thanks to his unwavering commitment to the job, we saw Bell’s fall apart here. Ayanna warned Denise about taking a job with Kilbride. She didn’t have to warn her, and she probably shouldn’t have. But she did. Because she loved her wife and didn’t want to see her get hurt.
Then, as we know, Denise took the job anyway. And…look where that got her—and everyone. Danielle Moné Truitt has absolutely knocked it out of the part since minute one on this series. The Organized Crime Season 2 finale was no different. She hit all these wonderful emotional notes—both for the Stabler of it all and for the utterly devastating moment at the end, when she returned home to find Denise gone.
But the message this plot point sends, on theme with a lot of the Law & Order universe, is not a good one. Bell’s the cop on the cop show. Denise was “the wife who didn’t get it.” We saw it from Kathy for 12 seasons, and it was garbage then. We really didn’t need it in 2022, on this series, with this relationship.
What we’re saying here is: Do better, Wolf Entertainment. For God’s sake, women do not need to either be Strong™ or irrational spouse types who don’t get it. And it’s actually worse that Denise had a career of her own (unlike Miss Letter Liar). You don’t get brownie points for inserting Black, lesbian love into your usual white, hetero trope either.
Just. Do better from here on out. Please. Sergeant Bell kicks so many layers of ass, and she deserves better than this. Your talent deserves better. And your viewers really, truly deserve better.
“It’ll just be me, my family, and the ghost of my father.” Elliot Stabler, Combat Cross recipient
There’s a lot to be said for the action of it all and the details of how we got there. But the real takeaway from Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×22 is this: This was our hero’s time for an emotional reckoning.
At the tail end of a storyline about the dishonest way Elliot Stabler’s father got labeled a “good” cop and earned a Combat Cross, Elliot…was presented with his own. And he didn’t want it. He felt guilty (shocker, coming from Mr. Catholic Guilt, I’m sure) for betraying other cops. And he felt responsible for Frank Donnelly’s untimely end.
But, of course, he did good. Stabler couldn’t accept or come to terms with that right away. Hopefully, in time, Elliot will. Until then, we can appreciate the raw, emotional performance Christopher Meloni gave throughout this season—but especially in this finale. Forget the car chases and the shootouts (although, Action Hero Zaddy is forever a favorite).
The images that will remain with us, long after the generic formula of “Stabler goes undercover, almost gets killed, eventually saves the day” has worn off, are those of a man who can’t take pride in his victory. Who breaks down in tears when he gets the call about his award, who tries to turn it down. It’s a man who stands up in front of (almost all of) his loved ones, is given something he thinks he doesn’t deserve, and accepts the congratulations with a halting grace and poise that takes so much inner strength to project…all while he’s struggling so much inside.
Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×22 is the final chapter in the story of a man, trying to find out who he is as a cop. He doesn’t want to sell anybody out, but he can’t stand the way people like Donnelly have abandoned their vows either. (He should hop over to Chicago and beat the shit out of Hank Voight, if he ever gets into one of his UnStabler moods again, honestly…Now, there’s a corrupt cop.) He is far from perfect and has the history of sanctions to prove it, but Elliot Stabler wants to be a good man. And he actively picks himself up and tries, over and over again.
Probably even more important than his reaction to the news of his success story—one that he obviously feels is empty—is how he handles everything else he’s learned along the way. Going to Serrano to explain how Joe Stabler, his father, framed Serrano’s son so many years ago had to be one of the most difficult things he ever did in his life.
But he did it. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
One thing about Detective Stabler: He’s going to fuck up (way too much). And he’s going to “Elliot, yes” whenever pretty much anyone other than Olivia Benson gives him an “Elliot, no.” He’s always going to rush in without backup, try to save the day…However, he’s also always—always—going to aim to do the right thing. Not the easy thing. The right thing.
If we have to fall for copaganda in 2022, let it be the result of Meloni’s unwavering talent in showing the many layers of Stabler. Let it be the result of Truitt’s portrayal of Bell. And, of course, let it also also be because of her.
One last bulleted list for the road. Insert a play on the title for Law & Order: Organized Crime 2×22 “Friend or Foe” here.
- No, but really. Elliot played dead. Zero mention of literally anyone making sure Olivia didn’t hear that on the radio and believe it actually happened. Do better with your continuity, Law & Order.
- Then again, Wolf Entertainment has One Chicago out here, with one brother getting married and another never mentioning it so.
- Also, if you’re having Mariska Hargitay start the undercover arc, and it makes all the sense in the world for Benson to be at Stabler’s ceremony—it absolutely does—then, maybe don’t waste her talent on reading gross cop-bro lines on the mothership when she belongs here. Absolute lowlight of the finale. Continuity matters.Was Liv tied up with work, Noah, therapy, or—fuck it—quarantine? Understandable! Mention that.
- Nova totally shot Mr. Webb’s face off, right? Right. I hope she comes back. If not, may she and her brother live happily ever after wherever they go.
- Donnelly’s out here talking about “exterminate him” like some kind of Dalek, huh. Fitting.
- “If my father were here, I’d be telling him the same thing I’m telling you.” I love one man.
- “…lying prick’s gonna burn us all.” Us at everyone who baits EO.
- “Because the end sneaks up on you.” Right. Sooooo, stop with the 23-year bait and get that hotel room Rollins told Benson about.
- “You’ve been working hard on that. Congrats. Good luck.” The man is about to go rush to his near-death, and he’s giving his partner-slash-Sergeant her credit where it’s due. I’m emo.
- Bell’s look when she told the Feds to cuff Kilbride. I know that’s right!
- The look and the just utter exhaustion when she told Jet to track Elliot’s ass, too. Same, girl. We’ve dealt with it for all these years. Welcome to our hell.
- “Do not go in until we arrive.” “I’ll see you there.” Like we said, he’s gonna “Elliot, yes” in response to “Elliot, no” every time.
- Too many people predicted Elliot would get shot for us not to side-eye the formula a bit. At the same time, the shot of him posed like that damned Jesus tattoo of his…Y’all. That is what we call a lot.
- Not Bell in this much pain over seeing him laid out like that.
- Still waiting for Liv to get to kick his ass or shoot him, though.
- The delivery on “I feel like I’ve been trampled by an elephant.”
- “No phone call. This isn’t like him.” Elliot, bestie, while you’re comforting Bridget over Frank’s behavior, think about the 10 years of damage you did. Ok? Ok.
- “For what? So you could be all righteous like nobody’s better than you?” No. So he could try to prove to himself that he’s better than his dad. Better than his own record. Worthy.
- “You know who’s better than you?” Olivia Benson? “Frank Donnelly.” It’s a no.
- “Nobody cares about cops except other cops. I told you that. We’re all we have.” Gag me. At least this is coming from the villain, not the guys we’re supposed to root for?
- “You broke my heart, pal.” Get in line.
- …ok. Make the guy who ran from his life after shooting someone watch a “friend” (no) go for suicide by train, when he already feels awful. That won’t fuck him up royally at all.
- “What if I just don’t show up?” “When has that ever worked out for anybody, ever, in life?” Or for you, for 10 years, El.
- Just like the medals haven’t changed much in all these years, neither has policing.
- No but Meloni really outsold.
- That crack in his voice on the “Ayanna, I don’t know, man” bit. Oof.
- Oof to the whole, painful everything, actually.
- Here for the little Jalachi moment.
- And proud Mama Bernie. Ellen Burstyn, you are a gift.
- But also this grown man, breaking down like a lost little boy when he opened up to her.
- Nice to see Cragen. But. Where. Was. Benson.
- “Life is so damned complicated. Messy. The choices we make and the reasons why we make them.” Listen to Mama, El. Listen to her.
- Speaking of Stablers (not) listening: “Are you just not going to listen? You’re going to do whatever you want?” “Apparently.” At least we know he gets that from his mother.
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