Law & Order: SVU 24×21 “Bad Things” does a fairly good job of opening a new case, which leads to the crossover with Organized Crime, all while revisiting a totally different case from earlier in the season. If the arc that’s purely SVU suffers at all, it’s in assuming the viewers need far more reminders of how we got here than have ever been necessary. The story that eventually brings Detective Stabler into the mix, however, has more serious missteps. And they’re not exactly easy ones to discuss either, given the decades of emotional attachment to the Benson and Stabler of it all.
As viewers, there are certain things we want to see. There are certain things we enjoy seeing. But, when held up to scrutiny, those scenes need to still be earned. (Yes, throw rotten produce in this direction for using the E word…) Here, though, they’re anything but. Not because viewers haven’t more than earned it — and then some — but because the story just isn’t there. The pieces simply don’t fit the way they should, and that’s about both the EO stuff and some other developments here. So, let’s jump right in…
The Captain & The ADA
Y’all though we were starting with EO, didn’t you? Oops.
Law & Order: SVU 24×21 features some touching moments for Benson and Carisi, but they feel forced in some places. With a case involving so many seemingly-connected, yet also very much unconnected victims, there’s definitely enough case complexity to warrant (no pun intended) an ADA being more involved with the initial investigation. But it just seems like he’s brought out to Staten Island with Liv as a plot device, more an excuse to get Olivia and Sonny alone together for a few minutes than because of any utility someone in his role might have. Which, ok. Fair. But the two spend more than enough time together in elevators and Liv’s office for that big discussion to take place.
Arguably, even, distracting Captain Benson with that kind of personal chatter right when she’s in the middle of something so difficult to figure out is unfair, at best. Again, though…fine enough. Where the real stain comes in is in what the personal moments imply. Evidently, Olivia and Amanda don’t talk much these days — if at all — with Liv only finding out about anything important in the other woman’s life through maintaining a working relationship with Rollins’ husband. It just doesn’t make sense.
Flush those errors down the toilet (right along with that dirty baby diaper stuff), and you’ve got yourself some good television, though. Olivia doesn’t get to be happy often, so having those few moments to witness her pure delight at finding out about Baby Rollisi is more than welcome. It’s also never a bad thing to see Liv in “reassuring” mode, especially not with someone she cares about who’s actually not in the middle of a trauma and/or causing her trauma. And, knowing her journey as a mother, there’s something extra special about her being the one to get to comfort Carisi (who is, basically, already a dad anyway. And has been for a while — as Liv rightfully points out). So, we’ll even go ahead and forgive all the talk of the meconium (which, by the way, actually wouldn’t have been normal by the time Noah came home).
Because these personal moments are sweet. They’re precious, necessary in a series that’s otherwise so dark. And because both the moment of joy and the moment of doubt are particularly strong work from Peter Scanavino, who doesn’t get nearly enough time to show what he can do, much less credit for doing it. Especially not on a personal, outside-the-courtroom level.
And, yeah. Actually letting Mariska Hargitay play something other than “badass cop,” “empathetic,” or “our lady of pain” is the type of gift horse we’re not particularly prepared to look in the mouth. Now, if all of this begs the question of why Olivia doesn’t get to have her own personal happiness, or why her relationship with someone very much still in the universe is in disaster mode, we’ve got thoughts there.
Aside from snarky lines that are basically meaningless here and there, nobody has really had any clue what the state of EO has been after “I want to.” So, if the two least emotionally mature people on the planet had to get together to discuss work, why are they sneaking around in the middle of the night for a meetup? Oh, right. Just because…to give the fans something to try to brain-bleach all the failures away.
“You can have some shameless flirting in the dark. As a treat! These aren’t the dropped balls
droids you’re looking for! Sonic Screwdriver away all the not-screwing!” Or whatever.
And sure. There’s something delicious about everything Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni bring to these characters, their dynamic, and everything about what they could — no, should — be. But it’s sugar without substance, unfortunately. The conditions of the meetup are odd, especially when you add the Kathy ghost of it all into the mix. And…let’s not even start with how that gets deal with in the Organized Crime hour. It is, however, worth pointing out that there’s even less of a reason for the evening stroll if Captain Confused and Detective Dumbass were going to just go to his office anyway. Just saying.
But ok! Here’s the big moment to finally learn where we stand, where we might be headed (lulz, except…Kathy’s ghost and Detective Deserter’s wedding ring), and just how Olivia Benson might be feeling. Let’s pretend nothing exists beyond this point. How’s she doing?
Well, Liv admits that she wasn’t in a good place on that night (no shit, Sherlock). Elliot, on the other hand, is all Heart-Eyes McGee over her (same) and…willing to admit he didn’t pick a great moment. (Then again, better than no moment!) But he asks about how Noah is doing, as if he doesn’t know. And Olivia mentions “the last time we saw each other,” so they…haven’t seen each other. Which, to be fair, the worst thing anyone could do at this point is have all the big developments happen offscreen, with not so much as a mention they’re happening, and have viewers who’ve been suffering over them for all these years miss out. On the other hand, they can’t move forward until they heal the wounds of the past — or at least have a real acknowledgement of them. And no, they haven’t even tried.
Not great, on a lot of levels.
Now, forgetting anything remotely logical here and just…enjoying the ride: Anyone else absolutely hate them because you love them so much? Because, hi. It’s me.
The soft voices, the loaded looks, even Olivia’s visible nerves as she waits for Elliot (just after seeming almost irritated that “Detective Stabler” was the lead on the related murder case? Huh). And his entire stupid, bashful demeanor. EO remain the epitome of children experiencing love for the first time and having no idea how to speak to each other. They’re sweet in ways they have no right to be, especially without having done anything at all to deal with the lost decade.
The problem, of course, is this isn’t news. We’ve seen it all before. So, mixed feelings are all over everywhere here. And, with Olivia actually being able to look Elliot in the eye instead of avoiding him this time, plus with them even so much as acknowledging that something nearly happened, the heartbreak that comes later (or that comes in the moment, knowing what he and his corpse bride have been up to) becomes that much more mediocre of a storytelling choice. Olivia’s not fighting herself. Elliot knows when to change the subject so things don’t get too scary for her this time. And still, we walk it back.
…but Hargitay and Meloni keep delivering on something no one else can match. Not only do they keep delivering, but they also just keep getting better at it. At this point, it’s almost overdoing it, seeing as how the storytelling doesn’t remotely “earn” — or support — it. But it’s so good, what they do. Yes, it’s a lot to watch. Screaming can happen. But it’s also exhausting beyond all thought. So, let’s just say this: The actors are the reason we keep coming back and rooting for EO. No other reason, whatsoever.
Cagney & Lacey
Oddly enough, the partnership that works best in “Bad Things” turns out to be Muncy and Churlish. All the classic television references are great and, frankly, make me think of other great partnerships and their constant pop culture references. (What up, my favorite Harvard
lawyers lawyer and fraud? Batman and Robin, represent! Among others.) Aside from being entertaining and cute, though, they have a purpose. In spite of the botched introduction that made the youngest members of Captain Benson’s squad have poor early impressions of one another, they’re in a much better place now. They’re building something, and all signs point to it being a very good something indeed.
There’s also a lot to be said for the way Churlish supports Muncy when she’s convinced the killer is Elias Voit, yet no one seems to believe her — yet. And, she checks in on Muncy when she’s clearly rattled by the visit to the M.E.’s office. The two detectives also work incredibly well together when they search that basement for Voit. Now, should they very much have called for backup? Yes. But do they cover each other well enough and have a (thankfully) safe resolution, even after all the suspense? Also yes.
So, screaming “CALL. FOR. BACK. UP.” at the television (or in notes, actually) aside — and, in some ways, that’s just the fun of watching TV — these two are the strongest part of SVU 24×21. Hands down. It’s also nice to see a character who is capable of growth — two characters, actually.
And wow, does Molly Burnett kill it here. 12/10, no notes and an extra bonus point because I can.
It’s the desperation to make things right, all that guilt over her previous mistakes, the anguish when the detective finds out Mark is dead…It’s an outstanding performance throughout. There’s not a ton more to be said on this point, actually, because the work speaks for itself.
More on Law & Order: SVU 24×21
- “So much for Sunday waffles with Noah.” Oh, ok. We’re starting right off with Captain Irritated AF. Kinda one of my favorite Livs.
- …but can we like…not keep interfering in her relationship with her son, mere months after the BX9 attack especially??? No? Silly me.
- “This guy’s not smart.” “No. Just brazen.” Weirdly enough, they’re not talking about Detective Nobuttons McStupidhead.
- Someone should Taekwondo this victim’s mother for sitting here and nagging her after she has been raped. WTF.
- Flashbacks are a bit much, especially repeated like that, but ok.
- The reaction to all that licorice, though! So on point.
- “Black. 30s. He wasn’t scary.” Was he…supposed to be for some reason? Qwhite perplexing.
- “Modern-day Cagney & Lacey.” “Who?” “Iconic female cop duo? I used to watch with my grandma.” Shame on Muncy for not knowing her TV history. And, uh. Maybe as someone who used to watch a number of things with her Grannie, this hurt.
- “I think she thinks I’m a little crazy.” “That probably didn’t start today.” A comedy.
- Fin is really not having this man’s innocent act, and I’m here for it.
- 100%, totally, not here for — and disgusted by, actually — some of the dialogue that followed. Blahblah. Fin’s not “an ambassador for [their] entire gender.” Something, something they’re “screwed” because testosterone. I can not stress this enough: Fuck all the way off with that. Especially on a series like this. Absolutely not.
- “I’m never eating candy again.” Me five minutes before I get up for more.
- …didn’t need to see that garbage that came out of the victim’s intestines, though.
- A Muncy facepalm!
- The comedic timing on the joke about going to high school with the realtor…Scanavino, dump this gig and get on a sitcom. Take the lady next to you with you (preferably after her character and that one guy get their shit together, though).
- Can’t believe Captain Benson, with all her experience, is doubting her theory and the power of her brilliant mind with this “maybe it’s nothing” mantra. I mean, I can. Because she’s Liv. But still.
- “You’re blaming her?!” Spitfire!Liv is back, baby.
- Super rich, manner of speech, Bergman, Atlantic City casinos…this here Jewish reviewer is, um, not comfortable on the coding here.
- “Our…mosaic. Of cases.”
- “One went to Yale; one went to Princeton.” That’s Carisi’s idea of “normal.” Ok then.
- “Carisi, if you and I have learned anything on this job, it’s that everyone is capable of doing the unthinkable.”
- “…and nobody gets worse with practice.” Bff, this season says otherwise.
- “Let’s go, Cagney.” “Oh, I’m Cagney now.” “Lacey had kids.” “Definitely Cagney vibes.” “You know what was so great about them as partners?” “No. But I’m sure you’re about to tell me.” Everything about this is golden. Everything…except that it got interrupted.
- Wee bit convenient that Elias is staying at the church, which was the first lead they had, though.
- “You’re right. I hurt you. But I’m not here to do it again. Ok? What I did was bad. And I’m sorry.” Can someone…can someone show Elliot how to do this?
- “And I bet your father was real mean to you when you were growing up. That’s why you hurt that guy.” Ok but I know we’re not supposed to empathize with a guy who wired a dude’s nuts and forced him into a hole in the ground with no food but fucking red licorice. “I was abused” is not an excuse for actively and knowingly harming other people at an extreme level. It is not an excuse. No. Just…no.
- Ok but her face when Churlish said El’s name.
- And what even with Elias busting through that glass??? And Velasco saving Muncy? It’s giving ick.
- “Where’d the Captain run off to?” “She had to meet a friend.” A friend she has, apparently, avoided seeing. K.
- “Captain. It’s good to see you.” I actually hate this man. And this woman. Look how they suck me in with this puppy love nonsense.
- “I know that you were just trying to make me feel safe. I think we both felt that.” I…think he was aiming for more than safety, actually. Or, uh. Safety for your tongue in his mouth, maybe?
- Hear me out: Have a real discussion. Try some, how do you say…healing…and FIND YOUR MOMENT ALREADY.
- Stop looking at each other like that. I swear to God. Stop.
- …why are they like this? Like, at all. But especially to talk about a case????
Thoughts on Law & Order: SVU 24×21 “Bad Things”? Living in the EO moment and just shutting off your brain for a while? Leave us a comment!
Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.