Law & Order: SVU 24×14 “Dutch Tears” is proof that this series has, for many years, wasted some of its best resources in Ice T and, by extension, Fin Tutuola. It’s also Exhibit A for “see? You can absolutely tell a fantastic, character-driven story that shows how ‘strong’ someone is without repeatedly torturing them.” We’d also like to submit another claim for which this episode provides more than enough evidence to convict: Mariska Hargitay’s poor back is probably hurting from all these years of being forced to single-handedly carry this series on it. And the damage was done for no good reason, whatsoever. She never actually had to do all the heavy lifting on her own. Which, to be fair, that last part is probably just another way of crafting our opening statement. It is, however, worth repeating forever and ever, until the end of time.
While keeping this review from becoming nothing more than a litany of frustrations with the past is our goal, the past itself is impossible to separate from the present. After all, it always finds a way to bite us — just when we think we’re safe. Which, coincidentally, is what happens to kick off this first Fin-centric episode in a very long time. And the story itself takes a very damning look at why, despite rooting for the “good” guys and wanting bad things to happen to the “bad” ones may be instinctive, all the threats cops — even on this show! — make to suspects about what will happen to them in prison are…very bad, actually. We also get a decent reminders of how prison can ruin lives and how corrupt the system is. Although, for that last part, the series still doesn’t quite put enough responsibility where it belongs.
Overall, though, “Dutch Tears” is a strong, if frustrating, installment for the series. After all, returning to the initial point, its success means we could’ve had this kind of quality, while giving our leading ladies — both real and fictional — a much-needed break, all along. Somewhere along the line, though, someone made the decision not to deliver. Or, rather, they chose to rob us.
“I don’t want to relive it.”
Let’s get this one in as early as possible: Richard Cabral makes this episode. Now, that statement might seem like it’s at odds with the one about Ice T above, but it’s really not. Because for this type of story to work, it needs even more power coming from the opposite “side.” Otherwise, there’s nothing for Sergeant Tutuola to do, out of character choices, and nothing for Ice to work with either. Basically, no matter how excellent all things Fin are here, without Cabral providing that fantastic embodiment of Dutch’s trauma responses, all we’d really get out of SVU 24×14 is some sort of bland, one-sided hero worship.
Case in point: We can’t appreciate how “steady,” to use Olivia’s word for him, Fin is without all that instability as a counterpoint. As another prime example, while the squad is all about justice and Captain Benson is always willing to put a victim above both herself and all logic (except that one dumb time), Fin’s always seemed just a wee bit more grounded. Which, look: I’ve never made a mystery of how much I adore Olivia’s near-perfection and how superhuman she is. (Or whatever.) But Fin’s more “real,” so to speak, and that’s not remotely a bad thing or a slight against either character.
So, back to the point. Without a really convincing argument, Fin going from “this dude broke into my home and pulled a gun on me,” to everything that followed, wouldn’t make sense without Cabral’s work here. In short, it would be very hard to understand why Fin would even bother helping the guy at all, much less pulling for him so much. Or maybe we’d get it, but it would be kind of a…”sure, let’s copagandize some more” understanding. Instead, “Dutch Tears” gives us this gift of exploring who Fin is at his core, as well as what he’s willing to do for others.
If we’re looking at this through the lens of an ideal for justice, Fin’s deescalation tactics in the moment are far, far better than the “shoot now, ask questions later” stories we hear far too often. It again goes back to both character development for Fin — as we’re reminded of his more aggressive methods from back in the day — and really, truly humanizing Dutch. We’re watching a man in pain, having had so much taken away from him, suffering for years with no help. So, while nobody’s exactly saying, “sure. This is how to ‘fix’ what happened to you,” empathy goes a very, very long way.
It’s a shame there are far more Captain Ryans in the real justice system, who view people in holding as a “zoo” that needs to be kept under control — rather than, you know people. But at least, with the seemingly small (but actually kinda a big deal) details like Fin talking to Dutch about fatherhood and making that connection at the end, we get to see what we’ve always known about one of this series’ central characters but haven’t often gotten to see, other than as a support for Liv. Fin Tutuola is not as unbothered as he comes across. “Steady” (again stealing Liv’s word), sure. But he’s got a lot under that tough guy exterior. He cares, maybe even as much as Benson.
Let’s talk about partners for a minute.
So, this new partnership between Fin and Detective Bruno has been fun to watch grow, even in a short amount of time. But Law & Order: SVU 24×14, being a “big” one for Fin, gives a nod to longtime viewers with the conversation about Munch. Now, the armchair pseudopsych about humor as a defense mechanism is a bit muc and continues to be a really, truly weak and annoying way of spoon-feeding some of this season’s themes to viewers — especially since most of us are capable of getting it without out-of-character lectures like this. Putting that aside, though, hearing about where Munch is now and what he’s doing is a nice little treat.
It’s almost as if characters who played an integral role in building this series and had a huge impact on our remaining main characters…shouldn’t be either indirectly demonized, much less completely erased from the conversation? Wild, I know.
The Munch of it all isn’t just there as fan service (which, honestly, I wouldn’t care if it was) either. It also reinforces why Tutuola and Bruno work so well together. No, it’s not exactly the same as working with Munch. And nothing ever will be. But there’s a sort of chemistry, or vibe (or whatever) there that’s recognizable and really, truly works. On the other hand, of course, there’s what Fin and Olivia are to each other. The opening scene highlights a special friendship, a strong partnership, and a sense of found family — of two people who have known each other a very long time and just stayed there for each other, through it all.
Later, when Liv shows up despite being absolutely exhausted (same, Captain) and gets right to work on helping Fin settle this thing, that’s yet another nice example of how these two hold each other up. Sure, Liv’s going to rib Fin a bit about him dragging her out of bed — though, who knows if she was actually resting or just cuddling up to her insomnia. Let’s be real here — but her cracking that joke is just her way of saying, “I’ve got you” without getting overly sappy. Gotta pretend to be unbothered to match the king of “unbothered on the outside,” after all.
Basically, it’s touching, getting to see the different relationships that matter to Fin on display in all their separate little ways. There’s not one way to be a true friend or a true partner. And as the guy who’s usually the glue holding everyone else together, it’s fantastic getting to see him held up by everyone in their own ways.
More on Law & Order: SVU 24×14
- So, with Liv walking Fin home and Dutch still surprising him in his apartment with a gun…Is this our “You Know Who would’ve happened anyway” moment or.
- Did I, like, miss a mention of the whole Velasco drama? It might have no place in Fin’s redemption story as a major plot point, but that doesn’t mean we set something huge up like that and then just…crickets. Then again, this is Law & Order. We love setup that goes nowhere. (Yes, this is a bitter shipper comment. I don’t care.)
- …did all of this really literally happen overnight? Lulz.
- The pickle thing is corny AF. There are better ways to send the same message, and some folks have actual, medical reasons for having trouble opening things like that so.
- “I’d love to say a few words, but don’t worry, I’ll make it short.” Things my rabbi will never say. Or, if he does, he neither means it nor demonstrates understanding of the word “short.”
- “…and a sarcasm that is so sharp, it could cut a person’s break line.” Goals, actually.
- Honestly, Liv’s whole speech is fantastic. It fits the characters, Hargitay delivers the shit out of it (shocker, I know), and there are just a lot of great phrases in there.
- Super hella heavy-handed with the “redemption” talk, though. Show. Don’t. Tell. And if this is some self insert mess over certain news…so much yikes.
- “Fortunately, you don’t have to have a great past to have a great future.” Sure helps, though.
- “It wasn’t Doug’s fault. We all went hard back in the day.” What in the copaganda mess.
- Could it have been something besides schmear that this guy named his attacker after or.
- “23 years is long enough. Don’t you think?” Seeing red, to be honest.
- “Bruno sounds like a dog’s name.” I—.
- Meanwhile, Detective Bruno holding up that phone camera as a mirror is the best “this you” without actually being “this you” I’ve ever seen on television. (And he gets a second one later!)
- The look of betrayal and the way Dutch just melts to the floor…oof. Cabral is so good this whole episode, but damn if this isn’t a highlight.
- And, of course, that gives us a good opportunity for a Big Liv Empathy Moment™ here. Which, I will eat these up at every possible opportunity because that there Mariska Hargitay is good at what she does.
- “That skinny bastard had a punchline for every second of the day.” And you loved it, Fin. Don’t play.
- “At least we’re past the bagel phase of this investigation.” This man isn’t into bagels, has a weird reaction to Fin saying Munch married a rabbi…I have concerns.
- “That’s all Benson. She’s into that hazelnut stuff.” Finally, something in common with Olivia Benson other than suffering!
- “Sometimes, your body remembers what your brain wants to forget.”
- I just think that casual Liv…
- But also, like… How does she seem more physically sore in this episode than in most of the BX9 arc after she get the everloving shit beaten out of her????????? There’s that moment where she’s so tentative about sitting down, like careful not to irritate an injury? But nearly none of that on display for the last two parts of that arc? Make it make sense!
- The little head tilt when Liv asks “Counselor” if he’s ok with the plan, followed by the little half smile when he says it’ll be like old times. Having a lot of feelings here.
- And, just to be clear: While it’s fantastic to see Hargitay not having to carry the whole episode for once, the way she supports every scene she’s in and still gives us the full Liv experience is a lot. I had the same style of comment about that bald guy on that other show this week, but it’s really the type of stellar acting that I don’t think people find as easily recognizable as the Big Emotion™ stuff. So. let’s take note. Here’s yet more of a reminder that it is, in fact, a skill.
- “We all have armor up front. And I know it’s heavy, but I believe that after tonight, you’ll be able to lose some of yours.” It’s like I *get* it…but also no. It’s not that instant.
- “It’s done; it’s over. It’s over.” The way Ice whispers that second “it’s over” is a lot to process. (I’m hurting, ok?)
- “I dislocated more than that kid’s arm, Liv.” “Maybe. But in the last 12 hours, you did everything right.” Again with “I get it, but no.” Gotta ask what in the copaganda. This doesn’t erase the decades of trauma, and one good deed doesn’t undo all the damage from this corrupt system. Just saying.
- Not me sobbing over the look in Dutch’s eyes when he sees his daughter. And Fin’s little smile…and the whole thing, really.
- “You did good, Fin,” “Still trying, man.” I love them.
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