Law & Order: SVU 24×03 “Mirror Effect” is, admittedly, not quite on the same level of quality as its predecessor. Also admittedly, though, it was kind of doomed from the start. Focusing on a fictionalized version of the Depp/Heard case, which got used for the public’s entertainment fodder to a disgusting degree before ever being “ripped from the headlines,” SVU-style, just isn’t a winning strategy.
And, in fact, regardless of the Depp stans screaming about “he won, and that makes him ‘innocent,'” no, he didn’t. Nobody won there, and a defamation “win” doesn’t make you “innocent” of abuse anyway.
Despite being set up in a way that seemed all but guaranteed to be a major, epic fail, Law & Order: SVU 24×03 is still…actually not a major, epic fail. And there’s both a simple explanation for that and a more in-depth one. The simple explanation? Balance.
The longer one? Keep reading.
Honoring Amanda Rollins
It’s actually rude the way Law & Order: SVU season 24 is showing us just how good Kelli Giddish is, and what she brings to the table…while she’s on her way out. Rude in the sense that it’s going to hurt that much more when Amanda Rollins eventually leaves us.
But also? Honestly? Let’s be real: The writing and acting are both, basically, the right kind of petty. There’s no other way to put it. I don’t know, or claim to know, about any business decisions. However. The general feeling of “you think I’m replaceable? Replace this” and “you think the show can be just as good, if not better, without her? Think again” is just…we love to see it.
Of course, there’s more to what makes Amanda Rollins’ storyline this season, and in Law & Order: SVU 24×03 specifically, just work than my favorite kind of petty. Much, much more.
Amanda’s struggles here are true to the character, unlike whatever that was on that other show. She’s been through it, and she’s only human. So, the story really honors not just her journey but also what the series claims to be about. It’s easy to “case, what case” this episode (thank God). But that doesn’t mean that, by focusing on a very personal arc for Detective Rollins that we’ve — clutch your pearls here, gang! — somehow abandoned the show’s mission to give voices to survivors.
Because…Amanda is a survivor in her own right. Her most recent trauma is, obviously, being shot. But she’s also had so many more terrible things happen to her in her life. And for all the days, months, weeks, years she’s pretended to be okay, she has not been. As a Strong Female Character™ (y’all know by now how much I love to drip sarcasm on that trope), she’s had to push through with no concern for herself. No concern for the wounds she needs to heal.
But, even if it’s on her way out the door, Detective Rollins is getting the opportunity to go after those monsters in her closet. To lean on the people she loves, like Sonny who she can just openly tell she doesn’t want to be alone right now. He’s someone she knows loves her, knows she can trust to tell “boring is really good. It’s about all I can handle right now.” And he won’t see her as any less.
In different ways, she can also turn to Liv. Sure, Amanda can’t really break down with her while they’re working because that’s the Captain. But Olivia’s also her friend. So, she’ll keep checking in — in that gentle way of hers — both personally and professionally. And when the time is right, Amanda gets to admit that everything is hard right now to her, too.
So, while we do see Amanda dissociating, and being trigger happy, and even just…not being herself around the victim, her very real, very palpable pain in “Mirror Effect” isn’t sensationalized. It’s not suffering for the sake of suffering. Instead, Rollins’ pain is just there for the people around her, the people who love her, to bear witness. I believe it was Olivia Benson herself who once told us that’s where healing begins.
So, as continue our slow goodbye to Detective Amanda Rollins, we can talk about the parallels she sees between the victim’s life and her own — the “mirror effect,” if you will. It’s that tipping point, to show her she does need to take a look in that mirror and realize the person looking back at her is not ok. But it’s ok not to be ok. What matters is what you do with it.
Her relationship with Carisi isn’t going away just because she’s hurting. And she gets to see that, to really, truly feel what she has now — to grasp how it’s so different than anything that could’ve come before. Which, again, that doesn’t hurt the episode, or the series’ messages to survivors. It highlights it.
And everything Amanda experiences here is also a message to viewers, in its own way. It says, “hi. We see you. And we know you hate that this is happening. We know it hurts. So, we’re going to do what we can to reflect that. And, if you’ve ever been through something like what Rollins is going through, we’re going to treat you, and her, with care.”
I’m not sure about anyone else. But, for me, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to really get that feeling of being seen, or of these characters being taken care of the way they take care of others. Of at least trying to get it right, and of listening — even if there are some clunky things along the way.
If we must discuss the case…
This is me, discussing the case from “Mirror Effect” just to get a chance to point out a few things that don’t fit elsewhere. Hi.
So, with Captain Benson mentoring Detective Muncy, it would’ve been nice to have seen them actually working together. But, at the same time: With precious little Rollivia time left, and with how beautiful that story is unfolding (as incoherently rambled about above), it makes sense that we’re waiting a bit on that. When the time is right, I don’t have much doubt that we’ll get some good stuff. Can’t wait to see Muncy try, and fail, to master the art of Livterrogation, in fact.
Unfortunately, Benson’s idea of mentoring (apparently) in SVU 24×03 includes some superficial mess about investing in a blazer. Which…To be fair, we’ve given Liv the advice to invest in better blazers before. And, thankfully, the boxy things appear to, in fact, have wound up in the incinerator.
With that being said, though, that was mostly a fluffy joke. Not real career advice. So, honestly…just why. Why did Liv need to tell Muncy how to dress for success on the back of her (very wise) comment on the case? Like, this is the same Olivia who traipsed around in leather jackets, jeans, and the occasional over-sized hoodie (borrowed from P4L — argue with the wall — right?
And, let’s not even get started about what kind of internalized misogyny that speaks to, considering the double standards at play. Look at the way Fin and Velasco are allowed dress. Fin’s a damned Sergeant. Give him “business” attire advice first, Captain. And whatever you do, don’t give hair advice. It’s perfect now, but uh…Choices were made in the past. (Respectfully. Ma’am. My love.)
Probably the only redeeming quality to the case itself is that Carisi actually gets to shine in court for once. There were, again, a few lines I could’ve done without. But you could almost let it go as him doing what he had to do. At the end of the day, while he didn’t quite get a win — again, nobody wins here — the outcome was at least something. At least the jury acknowledged that Kelsey was a victim, regardless of her own behavior.
As Liv told Muncy, “there are no perfect victims.” So, just because Kelsey might’ve fallen for the whole engagement thing, and might’ve wanted to stay in this very bad relationship for career reasons, or even got violent herself, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t telling the truth about what happened to her.
I know that’s hard for some of y’all to understand, considering the way social media has behaved around the real-life case that inspired the procedural aspect of this episode. But. Too bad.
There’s also the issue, which really ties back into Amanda’s situation, of what Liv has to say to Kelsey in the end.
“You need to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else.”
Somewhere along the line, that love snuck up on Amanda Rollins. The only question is…when does Olivia Benson get to take her own advice?
More on Law & Order: SVU 24×03 “Mirror Effect”
- Choose your fighter: Rollisi scenes or Rollivia scenes. I…lean slightly on the side of Rollivia.
- It’s really, truly beautiful — using that word a lot here — to see those two very different, yet equally vital, kinds of love thriving in this episode. Friendship like what Amanda has with Olivia and the romantic love like she has with Sonny are so hard to come by. So, respecting those bonds enough to spend quality time with them — especially when we’re losing a key part of those two relationships — really goes toward much, much better television. Weird how it enhances the series instead of being a distraction, huh?
- The progress of Rollins being able to tell Carisi she doesn’t want to be alone, though. And the care he takes with her…I feel like I’m suddenly all-in on this ship just in time to lose it? Typical.
- Instead of carrying everything, Mariska Hargitay actually gets to be more of the support here. (I know that’s blasphemous. But it works.) She gives us all these subtle moments where it’s obvious Olivia is picking up on how off Amanda is. So, even when Liv’s not directly addressing her concerns — which she checks in and does on more than one occasion in (obviously) excellent scenes — the signs that she’s got them are always right there.
- What I’m saying here is she’s very good at this whole acting thing. I know I’ve never said that before, right?
- “…a safe room inside of yourself…” Been there. Have also been to the “this place isn’t safe either, but you survived it so it’s easier in a way” place. Don’t recommend.
- “It hasn’t been easy, pretending like things are normal.” “The goal is not normalcy.” The things this could apply to outside of the obvious context…
- That shot of Rollins just staring up at the artwork. And, somehow, that wasn’t even the best thing Giddish gave us in this episode??? How.
- As long as we’re talking about perfect shots: the effect of Rollins getting mobbed by that crowd, immediately followed by her just panicked in that elevator, yet still finally breathing because she was away from it.
- Fake entertainment trash show: “…a vision in pink!” Me, a Hargitay fangirl: But was it a tribute to her mom, though? No? Missed opportunity.
- Daddy Carisi with the monster spray. The most adorable.
- “Don’t worry about your mom. She’s a hero.” Ok, but. Even heroes need people to worry about them sometimes, you dumb male dumb-dumb. (See also: Captain Olivia Margaret Benson.)
- In fact, let’s go there: Sometimes, the heroes are the ones who need it the most but just won’t even let themselves ask. (Again. Liv is the prime illustrative example.)
- Similarly: Ok but is anyone else terrified for when it actually is the Captain’s turn for this kind of episode or. Like, Mariska. Ma’am. Ms. Hargitay. Captain. Please, dial it to 5, not 10. Your 5 is going to kill us enough — it’s like everyone else’s 923874038. The 10 is going to liquidate the universe. Don’t do that. Think of the children. Screw it. Think of me, specifically. I’m weak.
- “This is what we do. We fight…make up. It’s our foreplay.” It’s giving “screw you” in the bullpen. But, like, in a way more unhealthy way.
- “Why does it not feel like enough?” Never does.
- Fin and Liv are the best comedy team, with a fabulous partnership…
- …but that line about millennials being entitled? Stupid AF. The generation that will probably never get to retire and can’t afford skyrocketing rent, much less even worse selling prices on homes, are being called entitled for…what? Wanting basic human rights and to stop a climate disaster? Cool story, olds.
- I’m sad at you, Liv. Expected way better.
- I do love the sassy Benson, though. That “can’t piss her off” was golden.
- Our lady in various shades of blue, especially that ice blue that matched boyfren’s rolled-up sleeves on the other show. OK THEN.
- Hm. Muncy/Velasco, paired as expected. Interesting…
- It is going to take seven to ten business lifetimes to get over that jacket with those aviators, ACTUALLY.
- The look in Olivia’s eyes on the “wasn’t love” part? Tell me more.
- The bench scene. Three little lines with so much meaning and such a strong message on that Benson/Rollins friendship. “Did you get ’em?” “Not yet. But I will. “Good.” Like, that’s it. Liv knew what Amanda was doing, aiming that gun at the girls’ “monster” in the closet. And she believes in her enough to get ’em. Not a lot needs to be said when you’re that close to each other.
- …or when you’ve got two women acting the utter shit out of it.
- “…two people who have suffered grievous and unbearable trauma…” It’d be giving EO if they were, you know, toxic like the fake celebrities at the center of this episode.
- “I’m asking that we try this case in a court room. And not on social media.” Me, screaming into the void all year…
- The alcoholism part, still trash. Better than that one awful episode…but the bar is pathetically low there.
- Meanwhile, “every survivor heals differently.” The Liv from that one awful episode has been found dead.
- Also with the suh-thernnnnnnn family always being messy. Which, I get it: had to show Rollins that mirror, and the damage was already done. But I’m tired.
- “That’s real love.” Begging for you to get yours, Captain.
- “Look: Everybody’s got monsters in their closet. The question is, what do you want to do about it?” “I want to evict the little bastard.” And the way? She was laughing? Through her tears??? Help.
- Real love is driving your girl to therapy and also just…making sure she has that hope in her eyes about you. Even when she’s suffering. And even when she’s coming to you about how she’s terrified she’s already screwed it all up. (She hasn’t.)
- Yes, y’all really did sound that stupid with your picking sides on the real-life case. And uh…the mobs of stans outside the courthouse…Not only were peole really that stupid over the case, but some of y’all are really that awful over how you expect to follow actors around.
- The presence when Liv was escorting Kelsey through that mob, too…wow. Almost makes you wonder if someone got some frustration out getting to play tha—…
- …let me keep myself out of trouble and end there.
Thoughts on Law & Order: SVU 24×03 “Mirror Effect”? Drop us a note.
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.