Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×09 “Last Christmas” is a bit too heavy on the action to really honor the emotional impact of the task force’s impending doom. That’s not to say that the emotion isn’t there — but it’s more the very heavy lifting done by the cast that contributes to it than anything else. And, to be fair, it’s always down to acting to really make feelings work. But, at least in the case of this fall finale, the story’s pacing doesn’t bring enough of a support to the table.
So, where does “Last Christmas” go wrong? Oddly enough, it’s in one of the areas where we’ve previously praised the series: all the action. Yes, it’s amazing that a procedural on primetime network television has always kind of felt like a bit of an action movie. And Organized Crime‘s episodes are the epitome of “keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.” That’s not in doubt and never will be.
However, an episode can not lump in so much back-to-back action to the point where it’s just…there to just take up space. And, unfortunately, that’s what this fall finale felt like. Just a lot of “plot? What plot” that eventually built to the only logical conclusion, given that the series isn’t going anywhere. Surprise! The team isn’t breaking up after all. With the tendency for big cliffhangers before mid-season breaks, especially in Dick Wolf’s world, it’s actually refreshing that the “what’s happening to the task force” part managed to resolve itself.
…but I just wish Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×09 would’ve taken more time to breathe and slow down for all those emotional beats that, ultimately, led to Sergeant Bell’s decision. The moments were there, but taking a second to blink, or sneeze, or even compose a quick tweet about Zaddy’s ass poking out meant viewers would miss them. That’s a disservice to the viewers, as well as to the characters and the really touching connections they’ve formed. And let’s not even start on how that kind of rushed action wastes the incredible work this cast does.
Basically, if you’re going to remove the entire Stabler family, split up Bell’s family, and pretty much pretend there’s nothing to go home to for the others, too (Reyes has a wife, but…she’s mostly a random comment here or there, not a real player. Whelan appears to have no one. And WTF happened to Malachi???), then the found family aspect of the series had better stay as strong as it was earlier in the season.
Unfortunately, with rare (and brilliant!) exceptions, “Last Christmas” neglects that in favor of flashy action. We get it. They’re badasses. Let’s move on.
A partnership, in good times and bad
The single greatest aspect of Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×09 — and really of this third season in general, so far — is the Bell/Stabler partnership. Or maybe it’s just the magic that Christopher Meloni and Danielle Moné Truitt make whenever they’re in a scene together.
Stabler and Bell’s argument at the very beginning of the episode both tugs on the heartstrings and makes perfect sense. Of course, Elliot’s going to be kind of an ass and push Ayanna away when she’s trying to help him figure out what comes next. And of course, she’s not going to take any bullshit off of him — that’s never been their relationship before, and it certainly isn’t going to be now.
When Elliot convinces Ayanna to take on this one last case, it might take that pleading way he says her name — twice! — to get her to come around, but the trust is still there. It might be kind of bruised, as are Stabler and Bell’s feelings here…but it’s still there.
Even when at odds, these two still work extremely well together. So does the whole team, really. But this partnership in particular is a special one.
It’s difficult to decide which scenes are Meloni and Truitt’s best ones. Are they the heated arguments? Or is it the halting, emotional way they have their characters open back up to each other in the car? Is it simply the way they move as one when lives are at stake? Or maybe it’s the very welcome return to Stabler and Bell’s friendship that concludes “Last Christmas.”
For me, maybe it’s not really one particular scene but just all the little things these actors do to bring viewers that depth of feeling. The slight catch in Meloni’s voice when Elliot mentions that last case to Ayanna. Or the deep breaths Truitt takes before Bell starts giving…not an apology — because she doesn’t owe Stabler one for considering a promotion — but just an explanation, of sorts, of where her head is at. Maybe it’s just how much they both portray all the pain their characters have in common.
But, at the risk of being too repetitive here: I just wish Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×09 had even more of this content and slightly less of the rest. Not even significantly less of the case stuff — the series is a procedural after all — but just a tiny bit more balance. I just needed a chance to slow down and breathe with these characters and appreciate these actors’ work a touch bit more. That’s all.
More on Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×09
- Whelan is so cute, trying to give everyone presents when their world is falling apart.
- “You need my input” sounds a lot like “hey, fuck you” when it’s in that tone and accompanied by that bitter smirk. Ouch.
- “I never abandoned it.” Can’t say that about SVU or your last partner, though, huh?
- “We’re also your family.” Again. Sir. Take a seat, considering your history.
- I have never heard a better sarcastic delivery than Ainsley Seiger’s “Merry Christmas, everyone.” Never.
- I, too, blare my radio. Especially when I’m in a mood.
- No but “I don’t even know who I am anymore” was a lot. I just need y’all to know that Danielle Moné Truitt owns this show, and anyone who disagrees can go.
- We’re really supposed to believe Sergeant Bell and Old Man Stabler, with all 100 of his years in the NYPD, would have gotten themselves into that situation in the first place? Him, maybe. Her? Nah.
- “Became a home away from home, actually.” Recent EO content has entered the chat.
- “All men make a choice at some point. To be a good father, good husband…or good at your job.” If Silas could shut up and stop playing on all El’s regrets about work/life balance, that’d be fabulous. Meloni’s whole display of pain and classic Elliot Stabler guilt complex is hella good here, though.
- Bell running with that limp…
- Action, action, action…
- Great shot of Bell’s utter shock when Stabler shoots that one guy…but I’m over being like “Stabler shoots that one guy” every episode.
- “I’ll go with you.” Help.
- “You keep saying that” sounds a lot like “like hell you are.”
- The Bell/Jet scene is heartbreaking. But this is definitely one that would’ve benefited from more time, especially to let viewers sit with both characters’ reactions to the conversation. Then again, maybe giving Seiger and Truitt that time would’ve outright destroyed us all.
- Zaddy is confounded by buttons but knows to throw a brand new phone as far and as hard as he can to make it register that it’s been in an accident. Make it make sense.
- Not to mention, has he figured out how to program “Liv” into his contacts yet? So far, signs point to no.
- “We’re going to make it! We’re all going to make it. Just stick together. Have each other’s back!” Found family, teamwork, and more from Elliot Stabler, motivational speaker.
- Everyone’s reactions to realizing they made it…My heart.
- “We have a hell of a team. I’m really proud of us.” I’m emo.
- …a Sponge Bob tattoo???
- “I know. I didn’t consult you on this either. I guess we both need to work on that. You want to work on it with me?” “Sure. I’ve got plenty of time.” I love them!
- “Do I look like I’ve ever done a cleansing?” This show is a comedy.
- Confirmed via Meloni on Twitter: This man is contractually obligated to emphasize his ass like that.
- Even with all the excess “bang, bang. Pew, pew,” I do love ending 2022 with that friendship back intact and that laugh from Bell. What a great final image.
Thoughts on Law & Order: Organized Crime 3×09 “Last Christmas”? Leave us a comment!