Sometimes you can’t judge an SVU episode by its trailer.
Last week, we got a glimpse at tonight’s episode entitled “Gambler’s Fallacy.” It was a high drama, high emotion trailer that finds Rollins (Kelli Giddish) being swallowed by up her gambling demons. To make good with the gambling she owes money to, she must become their “inside gal” in the NYPD and fix things for them when needs be. Well, as you can expect, things go south and the trailer leaves us with Rollins saying, “I need to leave the country.”
Going into last night, one had to be expecting a complete cluster bomb of an episode. The plot just seemed so over the top and silly and given the show’s recent string of terrible episodes, you had to have little to no hope this episode would be even remotely good.
Yet, by episode’s end SVU proved me wrong. While not a perfect episode, “Gambler’s Fallacy” is probably one of the stronger episodes in the 2014 run. Maybe that’s not saying much since the last two weeks were flat-out terrible, but we’ll give SVU this week — it was definitely enjoyable.
“Gambler’s Fallacy” is bolstered by the presence of the always-awesome Donal Logue, who has been killing it this past year as a dynamic supporting actor. Sons of Anarchy, Copper and Vikings have all benefited from his presence as does this episode of SVU. Here, he portrays Declan O’Rourke, a fully-brogued Irishman, who is the point man of the illegal club that Rollins gambles at. Yes, on paper, Logue with a brogue sound ridiculous, but Logue’s a consummate pro and makes it totally believable. And that’s the thing about Logue and his most recent run of roles — he’s an imposing, charismatic presence that dominates every scene he’s in, no matter how silly his costume, accent or dialogue is.The O’Rourke character is probably one of the richer and more well-crafted guest characters SVU has had in ages.
Kelli Giddish probably delivered her strongest performance to date on SVU. She was able to carry the dramatic load of the series, as well as give a pretty convincing performance of just how messed up Rollins really is. The writing and direction for Rollins has been pretty terrible this year, so this was a marked improvement.
Yet, this “Gambler’s Fallacy” is not without its warts. The show is really trying to push Benson as the new Kragen and we’re not talking about her role on the show, we’re talking about the way she acts. Instead of the normal, emotional and verbose Benson it’s like The Who said, “meet new boss, same as the old boss.” Stern, cutting, to the point, tough and no-nonsense. It’s a suit that doesn’t fit the Benson character all that well just yet. Benson has been the emotional core of the show for years, but now we’re supposed to believe as being cold and all business? It’s a big leap the show is asking us to take and they aren’t doing the best job making this character’s emotional shift all that palpable.
Also, the ending is just a little too neat. There’s a lot of implication and ramifications that should be coming from Rollins’ actions, but instead it seems like the writers are sweeping it under the rug (for now) in order to keep the character involved in next week’s case. For all intents and purposes, it felt like the character was all but done on the series, but no, the show conveniently gets her out of trouble and she’s given the “we don’t trust you” label. Oooh, that sounds like a way harsh punishment.
One sorta left field thought this episode left me with was this — can we make Donal Logue a full-time cast member? Yes, as we said in the beginning there are spoilers here. O’Rourke’s revelation that he’s an undercover cop was a really nice twist, so why not make him a full-time cast member or at least a semi-regular. The series could benefit from someone like Logue who has a track record of giving strong, dynamic performances…something SVU has been missing recently. He’s funny and charming yet tough, conniving and intense. He’s like a funnier version of Stabler and it could really work in SVU’s advantage to make sure a man of his talent on the show full time.
So, after a few weeks of pure dreck, SVU rebounded nicely. The big test for the series will be its splashy new episode next week featuring Alec Baldwin in a major role and the debut of Mariska Hargitay behind the camera as director. This episode has the potential to save this very tumultuous season, let’s hope it delivers.