Law & Order: SVU 24×02 “The One You Feed” is, in many ways, the real start to the new season. And what a start it was. The hour flew by. And yet, it still managed to pack in so much.
While we love watching The Olivia Benson Show™ and always will, it’s nice when a drama that’s supposed to be about an entire squad is actually just that. Of course, we’re not saying we didn’t still focus primarily on The Olivia Benson Show™ — we did — but there’s just a different feel here. Even with an irritating guest Captain on-site, all the members of our SVU squad still had their own time. Fin and Velasco! Olivia and Amanda (more than once)! New girl and Velasco! New girl and Liv!!!
…and all of this occurred, with giving justice to the victims and with actual continuity and addressing trauma.
It’s almost as if our broken record, all last season, about how you could do it all without making sacrifices — was…right??? Wild.
We’d apologize for the sarcasm, but we’re inspired by Captain Olivia “Shade” Benson here…
Anyway. Get ready to exhaust your eyes…because we’ve got a lot to cover from Law & Order: SVU 24×02 “The One You Feed.”
So, one of the things this series has recently been decidedly…not great about is following through and dealing with trauma. See also: Remember when Liv shot a guy on Christmas…and talked to no one about it? We do, and it was a hate crime. What about when Noah was in a cage, came out..and then nothing? Hi. A fangirl never forgets (and she burns with rage, forever).
Law & Order: SVU 24×02 breaks with tradition (and, hopefully, buries it) in a huge way. After Amanda Rollins was shot and almost died in the third part of the Mega Premiere Extravaganza Movie Thing™, it was the biggest breath of fresh air to see Liv talk it out with her. Not only did the moment provide for one of the best performances by Kelli Giddish on this series to date — which, to be honest, makes us more WTF than ever that she has to go — but there was just so much more here.
In the first, unpleasant place: Based on some of the things Rollins was saying, this is probably the best possible outcome for a terrible situation. It seems, at least for now, as if she’s going to decide the job’s just not worth it anymore. She has so much to live for and can’t risk it, kind of thing.
Do I hate seeing this happen to any character, especially a strong woman type? Absolutely. But is it infinitely better than death on the mothership, completely out-of-character ghosting (hi, Elliot), character assassination a la New Amsterdam, a waste of development (hi, Jay Halstead), or having her kiss Liv on the forehead and blame her for her own shortcomings just before abandoning her?
Um. Yes. Forever, yes.
There are ways to make this a meaningful ending for the character. Or, again, best version of a bad situation at least. While I don’t necessarily trust every writer to make it work, based on this episode alone, new showrunner David Graziano has the ability.
I have…something like optimism? Weird.
But wait: There’s even more!
Another huge win about this Rollins/Benson scene? Hear me out: Women can talk to women about something other than the men in their lives. (Though, yes, we’re still exhaustedly awaiting the moment when Liv takes that advice.) Yeah, Carisi’s name came up…but it was about a much, much bigger picture. Work, too, does not need to be the only basis for a friendship. (Which, again. Yeah, it came up…but wasn’t the focus.)
Honestly, the only complaint I have here is that it’s Liv taking on more emotional weight from others, which she already does so much. But Amanda is someone she loves dearly. And someone who has had her back. So, since it’s not this disjointed thing where Liv always gives, and gives, and gives while nobody gives back, it’s really not even a problem. It’s just…Let her, I don’t know…collapse with someone sooner rather than later, please. Even if it’s not that someone.
(Although, to be fair…when Rollins leaves…yeah…)
Back to your regularly-scheduled Olivia Benson Show™
Look: Just because it’s nice to know this series is actually about an elite squad again, rather than a one-woman show, doesn’t mean we’re not still going to be all about the Benson. It just…it is what it is, ok?
Like I said in the reviews for two out of three parts of the premiere event, Mariska Hargitay elevates everything and everyone. She just gets to have people and things to elevate that aren’t “Olivia is being traumatized again” or “Olivia is sad” now. #SoBlessed. (Do the kiddos still say that? Whatever. Bringing it back, just for her.)
What stands out in SVU 24×02, though — aside from everything — is the fact that Liv gets to have layers again. She’s the friend and the Captain in that stunning scene with Detective Rollins. But that mind of hers also gets to work a mile a minute, calculating her own life and choices. She doesn’t have to say anything; it’s just there.
She’s one of two female colleagues, fighting for justice in a man’s world with Betty Buckley’s Division Chief Maxwell. And she’s a total badass, with her partner-slash-Sergeant at her back, fighting for justice in a more physical way. (Before their suspect went splat, of course.)
There have been times in the past where we’ve recognized one clear, vivid aspect of the “old” Olivia Benson. More often than not, it’s the “completely sick of everyone’s —especially men’s — shit” version and/or “Elliot Stabler’s best partner.”
But what Law & Order: SVU 24×02 does so incredibly well here is give Hargitay the opportunity to hit all of the above notes. And then some. It’s the type of episode that makes Benson feel like a real, living, breathing person. And not just any person either. It’s her. I don’t know where she’s disappeared to in recent years, and I especially still don’t know wtf that was…
But. If Liv was a real person, I’d be running into her arms, sobbing, and telling her “I’m really glad you’re back” right about now.
She can be the queen of empaths and the warrior who refuses to compromise survivors. And she can be the best friend. She can even be the irritated AF Captain, who can’t stand her Chief forcing some asshole into her space. Going forward, unlike all those years ago when green detectives were dumped in her lap in the aftermath of Elliot’s dumbassery, she even gets to willingly be a mentor to Muncy.
Yes, she can be utterly gorgeous and leave behind the boxy blazers forever while she’s tough AF, too. (So glad someone heard us and burned those.)
It’s all of the above, and — not just one or.
Some top times Olivia Benson was Done™ in “The One You Feed”:
Decided to do this one as a separate list of bullets from the usual bullets for…reasons. But. Also! Just to be clear: Yes, there were some parallels to the Stabler situation here. No, they’re not anything to be worried about.
In the past, any time Stabler was mentioned in a negative way, there was a much different feel to it. As in, “yes, we absolutely mean this.” In Law & Order: SVU 24×02, though, it’s just…different. You get the feeling that, sure, there are some issues Liv needs to work through. And yeah, she was projecting a bit with that undercover stuff. Or, at the very least, she was thinking about it. But it wasn’t demonization. It’s all about tone, framing — everything, really — and let’s just say we’re no longer purposely creating content that leads to furthering the Elliot Stabler Hate Club™ here.
Wanna argue? Do it intelligently, or you can scream into the wind. Ok. Without further ado:
- Every time she remembered McGrath exists.
- “Fin. Run interference. Keep him the hell away from me.”
- “She your zookeeper or something?”
- “Well, it’s nice to see you so relaxed. It must mean you have leads.”
- The look she gave Duarte when he helped himself to her snow globe. How is he alive??????
- “This is me happy.” When I tell y’all I snorted so hard, my nose and throat burned, I want you to understand I’m not exaggerating.
- “I’m more concerned with cuffing the bastard who gang raped a 14-year-old girl as her father lay dying.” Fights for victims while being sick of this man’s shit! See???? Both, and. Not either or. And those eyes.
- The way she leans back in her chair when she accuses him.
- “You tell me, Captain Duarte” and the smirk.
- It’s the disgust when he just calls her “Benson.”
- And then: “The next word out of your mouth better include…Captain.” People died, Liv.
- This whole confrontation over whether or not Duarte pushed that guy, actually…
- Every physical reaction to this man putting Stabler’s name in his mouth. Exactly.
- She’s stalking him like a damned tiger about to swallow him here?????
- The condescending tone on “neither one of us is going to have a case.”
- “One is good. And the other one’s a congenital pain in my ass.”
- “Do you think this is a game? A young girl’s life is forever changed.”
- The spice (easily Old Bay level of delicious and perfect) when she told McGrath Duarte wasn’t ok.
- “You make it sound like a bad Yelp review for the City of New York. What I care about is justice for Nora.”
- The deep breath and forcing her shoulders to settle before she stalked off…
- “You’re going to let two rapists go for some pie-in-the-sky surveillance deal???? Half of this city is made up of women. There’ll be protests in the streets.”
- “Well, I have all night.” Damn, don’t kill Maxwell!
More on what Law & Order: SVU 24×02 fed us…
- If you don’t watch Evil, then 1) fix your shit, and 2) you won’t understand this. However. If Duarte wants to take down BX9, he literally just has to let Sheryl and Kristen know what they did to Lynn. If Sheryl’s demon besties don’t end the gang, Kristen’s sledgehammer will. Period.
- 100% related to the above: That scene where Nora recognized suspect Number Three was so good. Utterly wrecked me. Mama Katja Herbers would be so proud of Brooklyn Shuck. (And, if not, Grandma Christine Lahti — y’all remember Paxton, right? She’s on Evil. You should be watching it. — will set her straight for that.)
- The main complaint here is so nitpicky. But, it’s important. The super hella stereotypical rebbe type outside the subway station? Can we…not? I’m over it.
- Similarly, intel on the timeline says maybe the Bronx gang stuff…just…handle with care, please.
- “…you thinking about going to Hogwarts for college?” Hard pass on Transphobe Jo’s School For Bigotry. Thanks.
- It’s that sarcastic “what doesn’t kill you” from Amanda for me. Actually though, when she showed up, I figured she was back too soon with more of the same lack of continuity nonsense. It is a rare thing for me to be glad to be wrong, but here we are.
- “So, this clown thinks this is a gang case?” Literally would’ve been Fin’s only line in past seasons.
- It’s like Liv’s shiny again instead of having that dark cloud hanging over her?
- Velasco? Being a total sweetheart with the older sister? Yes!!!
- Do I have to have my fictional husband die or have something heinous fictionally done to me in order to get an Olivia Benson hug or.
- Velasco/Muncy. A vibe, amirite?
- …and she’s literally all of us with “who the fuck is this guy” when we first met Velasco, too.
- “It must be hard for a white woman to work Gangs because you stick out like a store thumb.” “It must be hard for you to earn the trust of a rape vic after they’ve been victimized by a man.”
- That deathly quiet voice when Liv says she’s serious about putting that kid in prison with rival gang members…
- “No one will give up Sleep.” An unintentional comedy. We don’t even know what sleep is anymore.
- “Call me when you’re ready to grow up.” Riiiiight. That’s why everyone is lining up to do Special Victims. Because it’s soooo easy. GTFO, dude.
- Hear me out: A safe word with her actual partner. I’ll see myself out.
- See how Liv believes Muncy when she vouches for Duarte, unlike how literally nobody ever wants to believe her when she says to keep Stabler’s name out of their mouths? Hm.
- El has both of those wolves, too. Liv loves them both. Actually, I think she secretly loves the pain the ass one most. Anyway.
- That Rollisi moment…melted.
- “Do you want a cup of coffee?” “Do I have a choice?” “Nooo. Not really.” I am 100% Liv here.
- “I let my guard down. I just let myself be happy. For once. And this is what happens?” And now, I’m Amanda.
- “Well. This whole planet’s floating in the middle of an explosion. So, is anything ever alright?” Fin gets me.
- No but Velasco getting advice from Fin. More of this!!!
- “Forgive me if I doubt your sincerity, Captain Duarte. Better luck next time.” Benson: I can kill men with sarcasm and lines. Maxwell: Hold my martini.
- Speaking of…”martinis are the lubricant of justice.”
- Everything about the vending machine scene. Just. Shut up. It’s too perfect. (Like, I’m obsessed.)
- But, Liv…You finally got some nice clothes. Don’t get on that probably-filthy precinct floor and go digging in that machine.
- (Please do. It made me feel feelings.)
- Honestly, the way she poached Muncy after Duarte was unapologetic for trying (failing) to do the same with Velasco…Boss move.
- “…but sometimes, it’s nice to just talk to another woman.” And her smile before the “I know what you mean” (many menfolk TV writers can’t comprehend) line?????
- Women supporting women. As besties, working through our trauma. With snack foods. And as future mentors. Love it here!
- The last note I wrote is literally: “WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW.” So, guess I liked it??? Just a bit?