Deputy Chief Garland’s visit was welcome news.
Even better: he was pursuing a cold case that got pushed aside thanks to the 9/11 tragedy.
Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 19 tackled both that story and another about unethical investigative procedures without giving either short shrift. Well done!
Garland’s case was challenging because so many years had passed since he first started investigating.
I’m a sucker for cold cases for precisely this reason. They’re nearly impossible to investigate, and the detectives need a major stroke of luck to get anywhere close to an answer.
Rollins: So after 9/11, the case was put on the back burner?
Cop: More like pushed off the stove. There were cases before and after, but during? There were so many tragedies that just got forgotten about.
In this case, it was doubly difficult because the original search was called off after the planes hit the World Trade Center during the September 11 attack. As the cop in charge of the original investigation pointed out, a lot of cases fell through the cracks during the chaos.
This isn’t an aspect of the 9/11 attack that TV often discusses, so I appreciated Law & Order: SVU bringing it up, even though it was ultimately a small part of the story.
As soon as the cops interviewed Cora and her father, something felt off about him. He seemed to forget that the search happened the day after Aretha went missing while retrieving her scooter.
That could have been an age-related memory slip, but it was unlikely that someone would forget details of their beloved granddaughter’s disappearance.
The most surprising thing about the resolution of this case was that the grandfather only molested Aretha. Usually, sexual predators within a family don’t focus solely on one member, and since Nina had a severe drug problem, I was sure he’d molested her too.
Instead, the grandfather seemed to think that having sex with a thirteen-year-old was okay because he wasn’t her biological grandfather.
The reveal that he killed Aretha was anticlimactic. Other than Garland saying that he didn’t miss a cop after working a case like this one, there was little emotional reaction from anyone.
Cora and Nina reconciled, and Cora never wanted to hear from Aretha’s murderer again. It felt like too neat an ending, which marred an otherwise excellent story.
I would have especially liked more emotion from Garland.
He cared so deeply about this case that he remembered it after almost 21 years and wanted SVU to finally close it so that he could give the family closure. Yet his reaction was subdued and almost intellectual after finding out that Aretha’s grandfather had raped and killed her and had pled guilty off-screen.
Maybe the years of experience have left him detached, but I expected something more from him after his determination to close this case all these years later.
It seemed like all the emotion was reserved for the other case of the hour, which is one that is sure to have plenty of repercussions as SVU’s season moves toward its end.
Szabo resented Benson exposing her inappropriate use of rape kits to catch criminals, and it’s unlikely that that’ll go away now that the DA was more or less blackmailed into doing the right thing. Her comment about Benson putting her finger on the scale for a partner was telling, too.
Stabler keeps getting in over his head on Law & Order: Organized Crime, and most of the time, Benson comes to his rescue. Could Szabo’s comment be foreshadowing of things to come?
Either way, Benson made an enemy out of Szabo, and Szabo is unlikely to go quietly into the night. I don’t know what she’s going to do, but I’m sure there’s more trouble for Benson or SVU ahead.
The other interesting thing here was that the victim-turned-suspect was connected to Henry Mesmer.
Henry’s already gone head-to-head with SVU twice, once as a young child and once as a young adult. With one of his victims ending up in jail for grand larceny, I have to wonder if he will be back a third time.
Last time, Rollins made a connection with him, and if he escapes or is released for whatever reason, he’s sure to exploit that. That could cause some drama in her burgeoning relationship with Carisi.
Talk about upping the drama! I’m excited for whatever SVU is planning for Henry.
As for the case itself, this featured Benson at her best. She was willing to go to bat for rape victims’ rights to privacy no matter what it took.
She didn’t care that Libby was guilty of grand larceny or that the DA’s office had a case against her unrelated to the unethically-obtained DNA evidence. Nor did she care about Szabo’s hurt feelings.
She was fighting for victims’ rights, period, no matter the cost. Those stories are always Benson’s strongest; she’s in her element, fighting the good fight and pushing back against a system that cares more about closing cases than justice.
It was somewhat convenient that the Queens DA had forged a judge’s signature on some wiretaps so that she could be compelled to do the right thing, but that kind of corruption didn’t seem out of character for her.
Lucky for her that she works out of Queens rather than Manhattan, as I doubt Jack McCoy would put up with this kind of behavior from any of his DAs.
Your turn, SVU fanatics! After you watch Law & Order: SVU online, hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and share your thoughts.
Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9 PM EST / PST.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.
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