Hey, a case!
Yes, after weeks of focusing on the personal struggles of the detectives of the Special Victims Unit, the long-running crime drama goes back to what brought them to the dance — cases.
“Betrayal’s Climax” revolves around a upper class teenage girl who is brutally gang-raped by The BX 9, a local gang, of which her new boyfriend belongs to. Neither the girl nor the boyfriend are forthcoming with the details or are willing to testify as they fear the gang will take vengeance upon them or the boyfriend’s elderly grandmother. It’s then up to the detectives to convince the girl and the boyfriend to put their fear in the rear view and testify in order to bring the BX 9 to justice.
This was a classic SVU episode. No superfluous drama, no extraneous personal issues — it was casework plain and simple. Some might complain the series just took a massive step backwards by falling back on a tried and true episode formula, but SVU really needed to do this.
For weeks, the SVU team has looked completely inept, unhinged and frankly it didn’t seem like they could do anything right. Just look at the mid-season premiere, how foolish did every one of them look on the stand? Look at last week’s episode, “Jersey Breakdown,” Amaro comes off as a man on the verge of a breakdown and Rollins is neck-deep in gambling while Benson can’t keep anyone in line. The chaos and disarray of the squad, while intentional, doesn’t come off as a good thing. For years the squad room of SVU has been portrayed as tight and organized with moments of volatility and high tempers, but never unfocused and chaotic.
Tonight, that all changed and this changed needed to happen for storyline purposes and for the sake of the show’s direction.
The episode begins with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) being sworn in a sergeant in the NYPD. She’s the boss of the show now, so the audience, needs to see her as one, not as the detective who’s still trying to deal with everyone’s drama and be out on the street. Hargitay owned her new role, almost seamlessly hitting all the notes that Dann Florek mastered for well over a decade.
By adjusting Olivia to this role, the spotlight can be shifted to the duo of Amaro (Danny Pino) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish). In effect, they’ve become the “new” Benson and Stabler — the detectives out on the street. Pino and Giddish must now become the center of the on street action sequences and the high intensity interrogation scenes. Pino seemed to step into the new role easily, channeling a nice blend of the Elliott Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Law & Order original star Benjamin Bratt. Giddish wasn’t as solid in her new featured role as the show is still having the character work through a gambling addiction.
Then there’s Ice-T’s Finn Tutuola who has now assumed some of the humor and crankiness that Richard Belzer’s Detective Munch left behind. Ice-T kills it in every scene and is the perfect supporting player to the two burgeoning new stars of the series.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that tonight, the detectives of Law & Order: SVU finally looked like a fine-tuned machine. It was a breath of fresh air episode that long-time fans who have been frustrated with this season will definitely enjoy.