TV Recap: Law & Order: SVU, ‘Undercover Mother’

Photo Credit: NBCUniversal
Photo Credit: NBCUniversal

The Scene of the Crime (Episode Summary): During a routine prostitution ring bust, a “madame” (Lili Taylor) reveals herself to actually be a woman who’s been desperately looking for her daughter, Ariel, who was sold into the world of prostitution and sex slavery. Barba (Raul Esparza) wants the book thrown at her, but Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and company want to go undercover themselves to help her find Ariel. The eventual undercover operation leads to a shocking return to the series and an equally shocking end of episode revelation.

Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC
Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC

The Lead Investigator (Favorite Performance): Well look who decided to return? Donal Logue returned to the series as undercover ace Declan Murphy in a completely ‘didn’t see that coming’ cameo. It’s not shocking that we’d see him in an undercover role, but you know, he’s one of the main stars on Gotham…which airs on FOX. It’s rare to see a cross-network cameo like this. As always, Logue brings his A+ game to SVU and brings everything’s performance up at least five notches. The character of Declan Murphy is the kind of character this series desperately needs — tough, gritty, funny and edgy. It sounds like a broken record, but they have not successful replaced the gaping hole in the series left by the departure of Stabler.

The Devil in the Details (The Little Thing You Loved): For the second week in a row the series brought back a supporting character from an earlier episode this season to play a part in the current one. This time around they brought one of the hookers back from Episode 1 of this season to give us background on this episode. Nice touch.

Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC
Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/NBC

Objection, Your Honor! (The Worst Part): We said there was a shocking end to the episode — and it turned out to be the worst part of the episode. When the SVU squad takes down John D (Constantine’s Charles Halford), the mastermind of the sex trade ring, we figure the episode is over. But, wait it’s not. Tamara Tunie returns to the episode as M.E. Warner to deliver some terrible news to Olivia. Turns out her foster son Noah is actually John D’s biological son. SERIOUSLY? No, SERIOUSLY? Did we need that twist? Do we constantly need Olivia Benson in some state of absolute emotional ruin? Can there be anything more wrong with Noah? He was abused, he’s constantly sick, he got shot at, now he’s a notorious sex trafficker’s biological son? Is this going to come into play for the rest of the season?

The Debriefing (Thoughts on the Episode): SVU rebounded nicely from a string of really subpar episodes, including last week’s brutally terrible #GamerGate-inspired episode. The series returned to a formula that worked in the beginning of the season — focus on crime, no personal drama (for the most part), and inject plenty of action and tension into the episode. “Undercover Mother” does all of this, minus the personal drama, terrifically. The guest spots from the fantastic Lili Taylor (who could’ve been given a bit more to do) and Logue were special. The most recent string of notable guest spots has been rather tepid, outside of Chad L. Coleman’s performance a while back. It’s nice to see a guest spot mean something again instead of having a famous face there for the sake of having a famous face there. It’ll be interesting to see if they develop the John D vs. Benson plot. While it sounds absolutely horrible (we’ve had enough Olivia drama the past few seasons), the fact it’d be Constantine’s Charles Halford, who’s a really strong actor, going up against the always solid Mariska Harigtay, could deliver some really well-acted scenes. Then again, we’ve been down the ‘Olivia’s life sucks’ road once too often, so maybe it’s time to give her a happy season. Regardless, ‘Undercover Mother’ was definite ‘must-watch’ in this season’s run.

Undercover Mother Rating: 6.5 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 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
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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