TV Recap: Law & Order: SVU, ‘Downloaded Child’

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Plot: Single mom Jenny Aschler (Meghann Fahy) is arrested for child endangerment. Not trusting anyone to take care of her young daughter Maddie (Ella Anderson), she instead leaves her home alone for days. Jenny’s fierce motherly instincts and fear of men leads Sergeant Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to suspect she may have been a victim of child abuse. With help from Dr. Lindstrom (Bill Irwin), Jenny recovers deeply repressed memories of violence, rape and neglect.

What was that?

No seriously. Someone explain to me what in the hell is going on with Law & Order: SVU.

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

In “Downloaded Child” the detectives arrest a woman who has left her daughter on her own with no adult supervision for days. It’s discovered that this woman may be the victim of a traumatic, violent and potentially sexually violent childhood.

So far, so good, right? (From a plot perspective obviously.)

When her past is revealed, the detectives of the Special Victims Unit beg District Attorney Barba (Raul Esparza) to not only go easy on the woman by completely ignoring the charges but to also prosecute and demand restitution from the men who saw the young on a kiddie porn tape her step-father made of her when she was 10.

Umm…well, stranger things have happened on this series, especially the past two years.

Then Olivia, on her own dime, takes this woman to her personal shrink to be evaluated and not report it to Child Services or the courts because it could hurt her chance keeping custody of her child. Yes, the same child she left alone for two days in a locked apartment because she was locked up for drug charges.

Okay, this is getting a bit ridiculous. But again, still somewhat plausible, they’ve bent the rules of justice for victims before.

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

Then Barba gets super zealous about defending this woman. He starts going after the thousands of men who saw, downloaded and shared the video. He ends up getting boat loads of money from offenders including squeezing a billionaire for $4 million (and it took no more than a threat). The SVU detectives assist her in helping her get her child back as well as down the right financial path.

The once broke, strung out, mess of a mother whose kid nearly died because of her negligence is now a millionaire, has retained custody of her child and is on the slow road to mental recovery…and did not get charged with a crime.

Are you shitting me?

In this episode, the SVU detectives did everything but be detectives. They were financial advisers, shoulders to cry on, magnanimous benefactors, an emotional support system and advocates for one woman, who in all honesty had a pretty traumatic life, but still committed a serious crime that demands some sort of punishment.

Why does this victim deserve such special treatment? In no way is she any better or worse off than any previous victim. In fact, haven’t we seen worse victims on this show? Did they help her plan her financial future? Did they beg the D.A. for not just leniency but justice and restitution? No, they didn’t. But this victim is special. Why? They never give us a real reason. I guess it’s because they feel bad?

Now, as good as any cop can be in real life, in no way does it seem possible that entire squad of detectives plus a district attorney would focus all their energy on one victim and go to such lengths to make sure they were okay — including sweeping crime under the carpet. It is utterly unrealistic.

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

It seems like the writers wanted to make a big stand against child pornography (and they should), but instead of creating a well-written, morally gripping episode they just threw all logic out the window in order to get on their soapbox. Bad move on their part. But it’s a mistake they’ve made all year — taking on big issues when they can’t even get their tried and true formula down.

Also, will they do this much for future victims on the show? It’s kinda shitty if they don’t, right?

Oh, and then they decided to book end the episode with the threat of Olivia and Cassidy (Dean Winters) breaking up. This story line is shoe horned in the beginning with some ghastly dialogue and quickly dropped, only to be resumed in the last two minutes. The final two minutes really don’t give us much. Do they break up? I mean it seems that way, but they also seemed like they were dating still.

How much longer can this once great series continue to produce absolute such absolute crap episodes and remain on the air? I just want this season to end and for the writing team to get their heads straight and try to come up with a reasonable, rational and well thought out plan of action for Season 16.

To make matters worse, Olivia’s stalker returns next episode. Pardon me while I put my head through a brick wall.

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Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named 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