Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×06 is, much like this season’s fourth episode, an opportunity for Rick Gonzalez to shine as Bobby Reyes. And, in both outings — though, to an even higher level here — Gonzalez takes that opportunity and runs with it. Unlike “Spirit In The Sky,” though, “Blaze of Glory” isn’t about what kind of cop Detective Reyes is. Instead, this is a much more personal story and, as a result, a much more powerful and meaningful one. (With that being said, though…Wouldn’t it be nice if literally any of these people had happy backstories? Like, ever?)
While this is a Reyes episode, overall, there’s also plenty of content from everyone else. Six episodes into this third season, we’re still just barely scratching the surface in terms of Sergeant Bell’s leadership in the face of pressure from the higher-ups, and Detective Stabler’s…Stablerness, really, we’ll call it.
Who are these people, and where does “Blaze of Glory” leave them? Let’s take a look at some of the key points from Organized Crime 3×06 and find out.
Those of us who have watched SVU for two-plus decades aren’t new to stories like Bobby Reyes’, but that doesn’t mean Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×06 doesn’t do a fantastic job of telling his story, specifically.
There’s a lot of material here, and all of it works incredibly well. Even if we stick solely to the “police work” side of things, there’s movement here. In a very short amount of time, Sergeant Bell and Detective Stabler have come to trust Detective Reyes. So, it doesn’t take much convincing — though it does take Stabler’s endorsement — for Bell to allow Reyes to be the one to question Dante.
But it is, again, the really personal, character development stuff (and the Acting — capital A) that really gives viewers the most to think about. It’s not at all surprising that Dante isn’t as forthcoming as Bobby expects him to be. And, while certainly frustrating — if you weren’t screaming “ok but this is Elliot’s area of expertise. He was at SVU for 84 years” at your television, were you even watching? — it also makes perfect sense that Bobby felt he had to deal with Leonard on his own.
This was personal to him, and it was his past, his trauma, to deal with — no one else’s. Even if he’d been with OCCB much longer, it would’ve been incredibly difficult for him to fully open up about his childhood abuse, much less his foster siblings’ additional suffering.
So, as viewers, we get the full backstory through flashbacks, and through what Bobby experiences when he enters Leonard’s house and sees he’s still abusing little boys. But, even if we know Elliot Stabler — and perhaps that former partner of his?????? Hello???? — would’ve been the perfect person for Bobby to ask for help here, even if Bobby would’ve known to suggest someone else reach out, there are just way too may barriers for him to do what we’d consider rational here. Because, when you’re dealing with that kind of pain, rationality goes out the window. Period.
There are a lot of layers at work here, and I know what stands out to me may not even occur to another viewer. (And vice versa.)
But with that being said, I think there are two big takeaways that, while — again — certainly aren’t new to those of us who have either been there or have simply watched SVU for all these years, don’t necessarily get attention on TV as much as they should.
Honestly, the first one ought to be as obvious as it gets and should be and repeated forever, but…the world is dumb, for lack of a better way of putting it. And it’s simply this: People like Leonard are far more common in the foster care system than anyone, especially forced-birthers, want to believe. And they get away with it, for years and years, ruining lives…all while pretending to be good guys who help.
Within that same scene, we get our second highlight. Or, well, “highlight feels like the wrong word, considering. But it’s the second kind of…instructional place that deserves to be highlighted here, if you will.
“Why didn’t you do anything to me? Is there something wrong with me?”
A survivor who knows others had it even worse can experience all the guilt and shame of being victimized while wondering what’s wrong with them for not getting hurt as badly, or in the same way, as the others. Which, to be clear: We probably shouldn’t be comparing trauma here anyway. But again with what’s rational from an outside perspective not really applying in these situations.
Even as Leonard’s trying to gaslight a Bobby and play on that piece of him that’s still “Little Rey” — more abuse! — he’s wondering why not me. Sometimes, that can manifest as “what did I do right,” but just as often, maybe even moreso, it can be “what was wrong with me.” Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×06 does a phenomenal job of showing that in a way that keeps us from thinking anything’s wrong with anyone.
Or, well. We know something’s very wrong with Leonard. But otherwise…there’s no “fault” to be had on the part of his victims.
Because make no mistake: He is the problem. So is Vaughn. But who even knows what, or who, Vaughn might’ve been without having grown up in that house?
It even just simply works that Sergeant Bell is the one to find Bobby. And we get to experience all her compassion for her detective — not to mention her relief that he didn’t actually kill Leonard and ruin his own life in the process — in a quiet moment that really stands out on a series that’s almost always “go, go, go. Fast, fast, fast.” That’s important, too, slowing down to make the personal touches stand out.
(But still. Literally, Stabler…Special Victims…come on. Anyone??? Not trying to contradict myself on this one because Bell works…but we’re not leaving Stabler in the dark forever, right? Right????!)
Rick Gonzalez is phenomenal here. There’s just so much coming out of his performance in “Blaze of Glory,” whether it’s in all those scenes where he’s alone, clearly struggling but unable to say so, or in Bobby’s confrontation with Leonard, or in those heartbreaking moments when Bobby learns that Dante didn’t survive. That certainly bears repeating.
And then…there’s business.
While Reyes is confronting his past, the rest of the team is very much in danger in the present. If nothing else is clear about Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×06 it’s that just about everyone hates Elliot Stabler. Criminals? Check. Other cops? Also check. Viewers? Well. It’s often love/hate hours.
But Elliot’s still trying to do his job, no matter how many roadblocks — necessary or otherwise — are in the way. And unlike a certain other series, this one does a decent job of having a protagonist with his own set of rules who viewers can actually still root for. (Eh. Mostly, at least.)
“I don’t give a damn what they think. We’re just trying to do the right thing here.”
You’d think that at least the higher-ups would appreciate what Detective Stabler did, at great personal cost, to get rid of bad cops. But, well. Cops gonna cop, and anything that makes them “look” bad — even when they are bad — is, apparently unforgivable. Why applaud someone who rid the NYPD of people who were abusing the badge, when you can just be mad he didn’t stick to some “rah, rah. Let’s support each other, even when we’re doing the opposite of what we supposedly signed up for” code, right?
Even with the way he’s been made an outcast for doing the right thing with the Brotherhood, Elliot still doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt — even the “brothers” calling him a traitor and a rat. So, sure. He’s probably not setting the best example in the world by talking back to his superiors, or by continuing to follow a suspect after he’s been told by Sergeant Bell to sit tight, but at least Elliot’s doing gray area things — not outright evil ones like that cop on that other show — for good reasons.
So, we continue to have an actually interesting, not-quite-anti hero here. (I am, in no way, endorsing actual cops who do stupid shit. This is fiction. Keep up.)
Along the way, “Blaze of Glory” reveals this idea of Vaughn having tried to become a cop himself, only to show some really disturbing tendencies and wash out of the Academy. That’s not the most surprising thing ever, and neither is the way the training officer tries to make some kind of common ground statement with fellow “old-timer” Elliot, only to have Elliot put up a clear wall. Then, there’s the Brillo shower bit, and the leadership turning a blind eye despite claiming to be against that sort of thing now…
We’re clearly admitting, even in our “your cop who used to beat the shit out of suspects is the good guy” copaganda show, that there’s a lot of criticism to be had here. That’s appreciated, even as we tune in every night and root for the (occasional?) poster boy for rage. He’s human, imperfect, and trying to be better in an overall system that has no such desire.
More on the Sergeant
Rooting for Elliot, and worrying about what type of bad example he may be, at times, setting for Jamie…brings us right back to Ayanna Bell. As Elliot’s Sergeant, she continues to have her hands full and even…kinda gets hit from both sides here. When Elliot’s done sassing back at the brass, he gets a little bit sarcastic with her about supporting him. And, unbeknownst to most of the squad, she’s fighting this behind the scenes battle to just keep the task force alive.
Honestly, while not at all a Bell episode, Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×06 still makes sure to have her be a major part of both sides of the action. She’s centered here, in a big way, even if it’s not in the traditional way you’d think about centering a character within a story. As she should be, considering she’s our leader. Although, I would be very happy to get more episodes where the focus is more heavily focused on her.
Bell’s trying so hard to make all the right choices and play all the right politics, even going as far as to make lunch plans with Goldfarb.
…not exactly mad she canceled those plans, though.
And, just like with Reyes’ core piece of this episode’s plot, Bell is involved in the personal aspect of Stabler’s piece. Here, instead of it being about childhood or family trauma like with Bobby, Ayanna’s personal moment with Elliot is just them, as partners and friends, sharing a drink at the end of a rough day. I can’t stress enough how much seeing these connections is vital to keeping everything else worth following.
And even if I certainly miss Elliot’s massive biological family and — brand new information, I’m sure — am exhausted to death of waiting for him to have a real conversation with his former partner, this new family he and Ayanna have built hits all the right notes.
It’s also far from a consolation prize and doesn’t at all feel like it’s somehow trying to be a replacement for any of the above. Bell, Stabler, and the rest of the group are their own, unique thing. And a damned good one at that.
More on Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×06
- …bald pig. I—.
- They’re randomly attacking cops all over the city, but Elliot Stabler’s NYPD Captain of a…whatever she is…has no idea and doesn’t get a call. Sure, Jan.
- “Is anyone besides you gonna really believe I’m guilty of anything?” ELLIOT STABLER AND OLIVIA BENSON WILL.
- Another car bomb. PTSD should have entered the chat.
- Can we take a moment to appreciate Ainsley Seiger? The breathless, terrified reaction in that opening scene was brilliant. Seiger is underrated AF. Jot that down.
- …and then, there’s Elliot Stabler being, as my notes say, “SUCH A DAD” afterwards. When Olivia Benson’s new
girlfriendrival Lena Hess purges the men, I’m petitioning to get to keep Elliot.
- …but I would also like to petition to be allowed to take turns smacking him with pool cues. (Olivia is obviously first in line and gets to take as many extra turns as she
- “You really shouldn’t have backed me up like that. I mean, people are going to start to think that you care.” The way I’m tempted AF to use this line at my other job on the regular…
- I just think that sassy Christopher Meloni is the best Meloni, actually. Just that whole scene with the big bosses…Gold.
- But we all know damned well Stabler doesn’t have a problem with respecting authority. See also: Bell and Benson.
- “What kind of drama?” “I think that’s where you take over.” I can’t with them.
- We don’t even need to finish this thought with the cigarette burns and…nope. Not finishing it. But uh. Between that and the guy at the Academy talking about how you can’t really prepare officers for certain kinds of criminals, it’s like we’re being baited toward something long overdue. But I refuse to put my clown makeup back on, so. Probably a coincidence with no endgame, as usual.
- “…these, uh, millennials. Or whatever you call them.” “Gen. Z.” 1) Great. I’m so old, Elliot’s new adopted Detective Son is a younger generation. And 2) Thank you for realizing millennials are not “young people” anymore.
- Thank you to Wardrobe for the tight shirt and tight pants, as always.
- “You gonna tell me what this is about? Because we got rent due. And I can’t have him go to prison until he pays his share.” Priorities!
- That bit where Elliot and Jamie pretended to fight over Fink was fantastic.
- Elliot: “Whatever it takes.” Me: Bitch, this isn’t Degrassi.
- When Sergeant Bell tilts her head like that, watch out.
- “Canceling last-minute on top brass is not a good look, Ayanna.” “You know what else isn’t a good look? Letting a cop killer get away.” Nothing but respect for my Sergeant.
- As a (debatably) good Jewish girl with a good Yiddish name, I’m always here for the use of “schmuck.”
- Taking video on a smartphone is way too newfangled for Old Man El. That’s why he had to ask Jamie to use his. Prove me wrong.
- “Relax, this is on me.” What isn’t, Detective Guilt Complex?
- Criminals: Hello, yes. We want to kick Elliot’s ass. Me: Absolutely not. Elliot: *fails to communicate with Olivia* Me: I’m going to beat his ass with a stick.
- “Tell Rey he was the lucky one.” Everything hurts. I’m literally out here, letting my heart bleed out over this criminal. Trauma isn’t something anyone should ever use as an excuse…and yet. Oof.
- That “I didn’t get to tell him” from Gonzalez is going to haunt me. Just…such good stuff.
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