The Scene of the Crime (Episode Summary): Teenager Jenna Davis (Haley Lu Richardson) is drugged, wandering the streets of New York City. She stumbles into a pizzeria bathroom where she is eventually confronted by employee Jerome Jones (Kamal Angelo Bolden). The two end up in the streets yelling at each other, in front of Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) who were out for dinner. After claiming Jones raped her, he is arrested, but has a pending lawsuit against the NYPD. Combine that with a lack of evidence, he gets released. Jenna’s father (Jamie McShane) hunts Jones down and tries to force a video confession out of him. Jones dies from a heart attack related to his asthma and Jenna’s father goes on trial for murder. Jenna then confesses to SVU that it wasn’t Jones (who had been cleared post-homicide) but her uncle, Neil (Paul Adelstein – Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce) that raped her. However, a major cover-up comes into play and SVU must try and prove the squeaky clean doctor is actually a rapist.
The Lead Investigator (Favorite Performance): Kudos has to go to guest star Haley Lu Richardson. This role, the conflicted teenager pressured by the police, her family and the horrifying truth, is one that can easily be hammed up to the max. However, Richardson really gives an honest, emotional and most importantly, focused performance. This performance could’ve been all screaming and flailing about, but Richardson plays the conflict beautifully. Her performance at the end, where she finally traps her uncle into admitting his crimes is particularly well-acted.
The Devil in the Details (The Little Thing You Loved): It’s blatantly obvious who committed the crime. In fact, you know that as soon as Paul Adelstein walks into the episode you know he’s the guy who did it. However, the episode keeps you guessing midway through if he’s guilty or not; then they make you wonder if he’ll ever get caught. Nice writing work.
Objection, Your Honor! (The Worst Part): For Jerome Jones to scream, “I Can’t Breathe!” is pretty tasteless on SVU’s part. Do we really need that? This is just an unnecessary reference that really lead nowhere in the episode.
The Debriefing (Thoughts on the Episode): If “Decaying Morality” kept its focus on just trying to convict Jenna’s uncle Neil of rape, this could’ve been an awesome episode. The Bill Cosby-esque “bulletproof reputation” angle works really well and Adelstein plays up the saint card really well. However, the writers kept shoe-horning the Eric Garner case into the mix. The “I Can’t Breathe” line, plus the ending where Barba (Raul Esparza) tells Jones’ mother that they’re going to go easy on his killer (due to the fact he was duped into doing it) and her reaction, really detracts from the episode. Instead of focusing on how a girl who was raped outsmarts her killer, we end on a “Black lives don’t matter, do they Mr. District Attorney?” note. That’s the wrong note to end this episode on. Make the Garner case a completely separate issue, because it deserves its own episode. To mix it in here just didn’t work and in the end, leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Decaying Morality Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty 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