TV Recap: Law & Order: SVU, ‘Padre Sandunguera’

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Padre Sandunguera Episode Summary:

Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) is surprised in the squad room by the appearance of his estranged father, Nick Senior (Armand Assante). Senior’s in town to make peace (or so it seems) with his son and invite him to his wedding — to a woman in her twenties. At the wedding rehearsal, Nick Senior incites a bar room brawl and is accused of beating up his fiancee. Now, Amaro must decide if he will side with his family and protect his father or testify to his father’s history of physical abuse — particularly the abuse the father inflicted on Nick and his mother.

Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht/NBC
Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht/NBC

The Lead Investigator (Favorite Performance): For the first time in his run on SVU, Danny Pino is great in an episode, truly great. His entire run has been very ‘meh.’ That’s not a knock on the actor, but more on lukewarm material and over-the-top direction. Bot have forced the Amaro character into portrayal’s that are just either crazy over-the-top or way too silky smooth. This season was really no really no different. Well, we take that back because he’s been far less involved with the series than in year’s past. In ‘Padre Sandunguera’, however, we get a true, honest and pure take on Nick Amaro. It feels like finally got to know who Nick Amaro is not just the quasi-Stabler-lite caricature that’s been trotted out for the past few years. In this episode Pino gets show a lot of emotional range that doesn’t involve yelling and puffing out his chest. We see a raw, emotional and wounded Amaro. We finally get to understand his motives and it gives a brand new perspective and appreciation on the character.

The Devil in the Details (The Little Thing You Loved): The small doses we got of the always-brilliant Raul Esparza, are in fact, brilliant. Esparza knows his character so well that he’s able to take the smallest opportunities and run with them. His quick scenes with Amaro are fantastic. They really need to give his character more air time because they could get something special out of him.

Objection, Your Honor! (The Worst Part): For 90% of the episode, Armand Assante plays the Armand Assante character we fell out of love with — the Al Pacino-lite, marbled smoothed, too-cool-for-school type. At times the performance is laughably bad. However, he knocks it out of the park when the show needed to at most — the very end. The poignant, emotional end this episode needed was made perfect by Assante’s performance. Sadly, the rest of the episode did not benefit from this last second emergence of his A-game.

Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht/NBC)
Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht/NBC)

The Debriefing (Thoughts on the Episode): ‘Padre Sandunguera’ is sloppy and overwrought at times, but for the most part, it’s a vast improvement over the past four episodes of SVU. It has great performances from Pino and Esparza as well as a last second home run from Assante. The episode was one of the few “personal” SVU episodes that is really emotionally wrenching and impactful. It isn’t over-the-top or complicated, it is extremely straightforward and that’s what it needed to be. Kudos to the writers on this episode, it is one of their better episodes of the 16th season.

Padre Sandunguera Rating: 7 out of 10

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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom
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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites