Law & Order: SVU 24×22 “All Pain is One Malady” is an episode with a very difficult job to do. It’s the middle part of a trilogy (or, if you want to really stretch it, part three of a quadrilogy), but it’s also a season finale. For the most part, the episode works in both respects. The season itself started some kind of way and ended another, with not much of a major arc. So, as a finale, there’s not much to tie up anyway. Which, ok. This is a procedural. Things were maybe promised and nowhere near delivered on…but it’s a procedural. And its final series-specific case of the season hits some good beats, with all the squad getting some time to do its thing.
And even in the absence of a crossover, were we to have to wait until next season (assuming the WGA ever gets a fair deal so there even is a next season written by someone/something other than AI…), the episode ends this 24th season in a place that fits comfortably enough within the TV landscape. Or, rather, it’s not a comfortable place to find out there’s a hit out on Benson and Stabler — not by any means — but your girl grew up with much more foreboding cliffhangers. So, it weirdly works for a season finale and for a lead-in to everything else that comes after. In a parallel universe, that ending would’ve left us desperate to see how the partners get out of their latest mess.
So, yes, the finale does finale things. Since there is a crossover, though…yes, the final minutes blend seamlessly with all that comes next. The episode serves its purpose in both respects, though an even better balance with the gang from Organized Crime would’ve been nice.
Is that to say this episode is at all perfect? Of course not. And, if you told me after the first chunk of this season’s episodes, that this is how things would be in the end, would I have believed you? Also of course not. But, despite whatever happened there in the middle, SVU 24×22 is much closer to that earlier level of strength and promise — mostly! — than a lot of the more recent hours. Now, all we need is some well-rested writers with a fair deal from the AMPTP to carry that on forward. While we wait, there’s plenty of
EO story to discuss. And we’re going to do our best here to evaluate this particular episode without letting major feelings about how Organized Crime wraps it all up.
Imagine if this man would STFU
So, of the two series in the
EO SVUxOC universe, this show is easily the one that’s more “pure” procedural. As such, it makes sense that Law & Order: SVU 24×22 spends a lot of time on…well, the procedural stuff. And we don’t spend time with only the overarching Shadowërk case — there’s another entirely separate rape investigation, as well. Heartbreakingly, this new case is not without a connection to the revenge-for-hire business, but that link turns out to be just a coincidence. As longtime viewers of this series know painfully well by now, sometimes, survivors are victimized again. That is, of course, what happens with Kate Wallace here.
Kate’s second assault functions as both a misdirect in terms of what’s going on with the bigger case and a way to kick off the newest one. It feels very nasty to say it’s a good plot device, given what it is. But…well. Unfortunately, one of the downsides here is that victims can, on occasion, feel more like plot devices than characters whose stories take center stage. Kate and the later victim, Manny, get much more of a voice than some of the victims from more recent cases have, though. So, also finding a functional way to tie everything back together isn’t really a bad thing.
(Even if, again, it feels really gross to discuss what happens to Kate through that lens.)
The serial rapist investigation brings with it some extremely unwelcome elements, though. One in particular, actually. With yet another case on the squad’s hands, it’s just more fuel for…Chief McGrath’s latest tantrum. Dude remains about as deep of a character as the average cartoon villain, and it’s long past time for him to go. Or, you know, gain some substance.
If nothing else, he certainly didn’t deserve so much focus in this particular episode. McGrath’s nothing more than a distraction in the form of a toxic-male-flavored pain in the tuchus. In fact, the heavy focus on McGrath in this finale is probably one of its weakest points. Nobody needs so much time wasted on him — not when SVU is supposed to really be for victims and survivors. And certainly not with so many other characters already floating around, needing their own stories to get ample time and care.
Whelan and Reyes, for example…yeah. That’s the one place we really can’t separate this from Organized Crime‘s concluding chapter, actually. If you’re going to do that to such a core member of the family, someone we’ve come to care a great deal about over the course of the season and whose loss should affect that series’ entire team in huge ways, maybe…don’t shove him aside for more stale “McGrath is an opportunistic bully” nonsense? (And if this was a matter of cast not being available or whatever, just let EmotionallyDumb and EmotionallyDumber talk more?)
Not to mention, it’s just plain infuriating to have to watch that man yelling at Jet. So, while it’s great seeing Elliot step in and try to diffuse the situation — really skirting the line as a lowly detective — and Olivia just snapping back at his every ignorant comment — tip-toeing around the same line as the captain — that character is just a waste here. The press conference makes sense, especially since it provides a great little moment for Benson and Stabler. But otherwise…small edits could’ve made huge improvements.
A little nip, a little tuck…if you will. While we’re at it, he just gets way too many gorgeous lines that don’t fit the characterization. At all. “It has been said that evil thrives in the darkness and cowers in the light”? The voiceover for that whole speech is great, actually. Inspiring, even. But…from McGrath? That’s a no. It’s like it was written by a human, yet then assigned to a character at-random by a robot.
Furthermore, given the way McGrath has always treated Liv and the way he behaves with Jet here, the Muncy stuff…doesn’t add up. Her moment with Velasco is something interesting to unpack, given how her story ends in the last part of the crossover, and it’s entertaining enough. But the idea that McGrath would approach Muncy to compliment her and offer her…whatever…is suspect. Like, girl, what? What, specifically, about Muncy makes her beat the “McGrath has zero respect for women, no matter how much we are all better than him” characterization?
Yes. Mazel tov on getting Elias. You even won the “this story got sprinkled throughout the season and actually didn’t have multiple levels of problems — unlike Velasco’s” award! But also…girl, what?
Sometimes, family…is hard
One thing Law & Order: SVU does incredibly well is remind us that not every victim gets the support they need. In fact, most…don’t. Kate Wallace’s mom was already pretty awful after the first attack, and we even get the treat (derogatory) of her still sucking as a parent, basically, as the finale kicks off. Then, there’s whatever weird bickering about the city somehow being the problem now? Eh. Basically, the long and short of it is, Mama Wallace sucks.
The Lopez family is in its own crushing sort of situation. First off, there still is this completely inappropriate stigma around male victims, one that often veers into extremely unhealthy ideas around what it is to be a “man.” On top of that, there’s the internalized homophobia part. Even Fin, with a gay son, opts to tell Manny “that’s not how it works” when he says his mom thinks he’s “gay now” without saying there would be nothing wrong with being gay anyway.
Which, ok. Maybe that’s being “over sensitive,” or “looking for things to be negative about,” or anything else someone wants to throw out there as an accusation. But…look around at what’s happening to people who are, in fact, “gay now” and get back to me.
Now, when Bruno asks to speak with Manny’s mom alone, and she speaks about wanting to raise a man, that also speaks to multiple layers of cultural norms. I’m only going to talk about the Murrican ones, as that’s all I can speak on. And just…this idea of a man has to be a certain kind of way that the U.S. puts on everyone is, frankly, unhealthy. It’s also tired. More to the point, it’s making Manny’s situation even harder on him, much like it screws up plenty of people in this country.
What Bruno tells Martina about how his own dad tried to raise him the same way, thinking he’d make him “tough,” resonates here. (Kinda sounds like a lot of what screwed Stabler up, too, no?) He makes a very good point that all it did was make him hate his dad. And, of course, placing the emphasis on Manny’s need to heal is also important. Not sure if it’s “the only way he becomes a man,” but the point’s there. Something feels off about having the white dude be the one to talk to Manny’s mom, though? But again, not my lane. And there are certainly elements here that are at least somewhat universal, regardless.
At any rate, there’s a heart and a real human element here. The mother, just trying to raise her son the way she feels is right, who’s shocked when Bruno inadvertently tells her something about her son that he didn’t even want her to know. And the 14-year-old boy, who experienced this awful thing and now has to deal with not only the pain of what he’s been through, but so much misplaced fear and shame, too. Cisco Lopez is fantastic from the first minute we see him as Manny. And the shot we get of Mariel Suarez as Martina after the Bruno talk speaks volumes.
Even if things aren’t easy at first, Manny is probably in much better hands than, say, Kate. And to just add a note on her story as a second-time victim, that sense of self-blame is another very common problem. So, even within the exact same “B” investigation, we see two different perspectives and strong, if brief, messages.
Aaaand we’re back
The thing about Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni is that you can write them 21 episodes — each! So, really 42 episodes! — of…nothing, and they can still give you absolutely everything. Having already deconstructed (for the eleventy-billionth time) all the nothing leading up to this point, we now simply are where we are. And no, it’s not just in the big things like when Olivia and Elliot are alone together. It’s also all the little things that they do — have done all along — that make these performances so good… and the two most frustrating lovebirds in history worth rooting for.
Actually. The stupid bird that’s, repeatedly, slammed its head into my balcony door at roughly the same time every day — for at least the past week? That’s the kind of lovebirds EO are. But, like, stupider. Prove me wrong.
As mentioned above, Benson and Stabler’s moment as McGrath talks to the press is a fun one. They practically don’t even say anything to each other, yet it’s the embodiment of “partners, shit-talking the assholes in charge.” Then, there’s the way Elliot’s back to his usual style of support. He speaks up for Jet because Jet is someone he feels responsible for as
his adopted daughter a younger member of his team, but with Liv, he just keeps a watchful eye as she defends herself against her crappy boss. Stabler’s there and at the ready for in case Benson needs help getting a little bit, well, stabler…but he doesn’t insert himself for the sake of inserting himself. He’s got his girl’s six.
Obviously, their alone time is…something. There’s a quality to it that is, at once, both familiar and new. El’s so comfortable in Liv’s office — which of course the dude that stole her orange juice and snooped through her travel brochures is. And her utter irritation with him as he helps himself to her still-wrapped Christmas present from the McCanns is hilarious. (These actors in a legitimate romantic comedy together when.)
It’s not a big moment, or even really a big scene, but Hargitay and Meloni make it matter. Her irritation, his caught look…it’s really quite good. Which is what makes the lack of even mentioning the baby steps that got EO this close again so frustrating, all over again. It’s not fun having to keep harping on that, but it is what it is. To go back to an even older grudge: No, this type of interaction doesn’t make the show less of a procedural — much less turn it into a soap — either.
The working partnership has always been the way in, and that’s exactly what makes the EO scenes work here. There’s no inexplicably clandestine meeting, just two partners partnering. Liv fields work calls while El snoops and hovers; she reacts, even as she’s getting shit done. The remaining team members go to get some rest, but the two that just have never been able to do that…don’t. And it even gives them time to have a bite to eat and, at least on a superficial sort of level, actually talk! Not just talk — but talk about Olivia. About whether or not she’s patched things up with Rollins (she has) and just how much she’s afraid of normal.
While the Christmas thing might be kind of weird to bring back, it still works well enough as a device to get Stabler pushing Benson to open up a little. Elliot’s the only person who would ever be able to get away with prying into exactly why Olivia has never bothered to open that gift. And while he gets to be a bit much with explaining Liv to herself, it doesn’t become too awful for two very simple reasons: One, Olivia Benson loves Elliot Stabler and is, for some reason unknown to mere mortals, even smitten when this dumbass is being…this. And two, to revisit a frequently-visited point, it’s Hargitay and Meloni.
For as strong as all that is, though, there are still so many more important things EO need to discuss before they go there. And time has, without a doubt, gone to waste. For where they are, though, it works. And for what it’s worth, I, too, wish I could bottle this. Somehow, Olivia giggling over the perishable comment and getting very offended that that’s her gift (and snatching it back) simultaneously makes a lot of years melt away while speaking to this thing that’s been built, broken down, and (though we don’t see a lot of it) painfully slowly put back together.
It’s the little things, the small moments, that we often miss the most when we miss someone. For Olivia to actually get some of these precious crumbs back is a much bigger deal, at this point, than anything physical. (I hate me for saying that, too.) But, whenever shows are back in production — with a good deal for the writers — we have got to move forward. Otherwise, well. We can, and will, break down all the failures with surgical precision.
Oh! One more thing: Not going to write entire novels about how there’s never a question of Elliot leaving that office when everyone else does. Or about how Olivia is hella quick to get Fin to go when he offers to stay. But…just saying, it’d be possible to do so.
More on Law & Order: SVU 24×22
- This woman is about to go off about her strawberry Chobani like that time Ross Geller lost his shit about his moist maker sandwich.
- “Despite an education system that churns out people like Krispy Kremes…” Jet Slootmaekers recognizes the superiority of Dunkin. Confirmed.
- I’m sorry, but I don’t know whether to fangirl about Olivia Benson coming onto the screen and with Jet like that as “OMG. Jet EO love child, confirmed” or laugh at Captain Benson being so “Mother” with a detective from a completely different squad. Maybe both?
- For as much as I loathe McGrath and don’t think his massive presence here was at all fitting, I do love the way Benson tears into him. It’s not realistic — pure wish fulfillment — but I made peace with that part ages ago. And Hargitay just goes in when Liv’s in tough mode with him. Basically: great scenes, silly to include with so much else going on in this finale.
- “Justice deferred doesn’t mean that we’re not going to get it. We have to be patient.” We have been patient. For 24 years.
- “Oh, he listened. To his side. Of the conversation.” Her. Rhythm.
- Jet’s little grin before she talks about messing with the Big Bad…We will continue to appreciate all the little details Ainsley Seiger brings us.
- Had trouble with Churlish saying she can barely reboot her laptop, given she’s probably either a fellow Millennial or a Z, but then a wise person told me it’s actually more realistic than I think. Regardless, getting to see her stan the shit out of Jet is never a bad thing. Taste!
- The press conference happens. My brain: We heard you like Benson and Stabler on the TV, so we put a Benson and Stabler on the TV in your Benson and Stabler on the TV so you can Benson and Stabler while you Benson and Stabler. (Please tell me there are some social media olds out there who remember the meme from when we could facebook in our facebook…)
- Also, pour one out for all the people from EO’s past who saw them on the news together and were like “dear God, not this.”
- Fin and Bruno: still a good pair. Same for Muncy and Velasco. And…well. You know.
- “If something feels off, it usually is.” *bites tongue forever*
- “I watched her code it myself.” It’s giving “I met [insert celebrity here],” and I’m not mad!
- “What is wrong with men?” I am once again asking.
- “You’re my only real friend.” Oh, God. Not the “friend” thing with these two, too…
- “We don’t have months. Or years.” Me at EO…but McGrath can still STFU already.
- Liv’s grin when Amanda comes in. Stop.
- Sweet little scene with Benson and Rollins overall, actually. Just two old friends, old-friending. (I made a verb.)
- Also: “Stabler really knows how to gossip, huh?”
- …but we’re still not telling Carisi. Is this a “we’d really like Kelli Giddish back but aren’t sure when/how, so we’re going to leave a marriage oddly in limbo on the communication front” situation or.
- What I’m saying here is justice for Carisi. Peter Scanavino, too, actually.
- Sergeant Fin Tutuola, delegating!
- “I’m not going to lie. I’m a stale sandwich of a human being.” Ma’am, what in the awkward line? (But also same.)
- Ok but imagine if there were more things about Olivia’s feelings instead of her always having to rally everyone else. Like, Liv reassuring Carisi about bringing a kid into this trash world (I get you, Sonny) is good content! But like. Can it be more about her feelings already?
- Lookit: Is it appropriate for Ms. NYPD Captain and Mr. ADA to be like “I’ll take the win” over a perp getting stabbed and therefore being caught when he goes in for medical care? No. But am I petty and willing to take it, too? Yes.
- “Guess you’re stuck with me.” Anyone else think “I’m your partner. For better or worse” after that? Or are you normal.
- Small point of contention on the EO: What’s with the “things just keep changing” line? Eh. Maybe it’s more of a big kvetch because, like. WTF did we miss?
- Huge, forever WTF on the EO: What was the point of the cheap AF Kathy ghost and wedding ring disaster? Oh, right. No point. Look at them here!!!!
- “And it scares you more than anything you’ll ever face in your life.” Weirdly, “it” is not him referring to his own goofy heart eyes in his big, dumb bald head. Huh.
- “Well, thank you, Doctor Stabler.” I actually hate them both. They’re insufferable. How the fuck is this their idea of flirting?
- …I love them.
- “Detective, detect thyself.” Ok but it’s Captain.
- The McGrath stuff and the IT guy stuff…classic cockblocks. Almost feels like Castle, except Miller and Marlowe had a clear plan from the beginning, and it took four — not over 24 — seasons. Unfair comparison? Probably. Do I care? You must be new here if you’re even asking.
- “Just the two of us?” Olivia Benson, Scaredycaptain.
- …but of course Elliot has it covered and brings his boys in. (Kinda wish he hadn’t, though, considering.)
- The shot? Of EO walking in?!!!
- Only $50K for each of them? When they look like that and have tortured us this long? Seems low.
Thoughts on Law & Order: SVU 24×22 “All Pain is One Malady”? Leave us a comment!
Law & Order: SVU will return to NBC for season 25…assuming the WGA gets the deal they deserve.