michael dworkis returns with a look at the classic crime drama…
If the cliffhanger from last season was not shocking enough, how about seeing Captain Cragen get escorted from a crime scene with blood, literally on his hands. Dann Florek does an amazing job as the bewildered, disoriented victim in the midst of probably one of the most intense conspiracies in SVU history. We watch, step by step, how Cragen is subject to the humiliation the suspects go through. Being sent through processing, and even having to strip naked in front of the female detectives.
You have to feel for Cragen. He is an old, but tough guy with integrity. Florek is spot-on and the emotion he feels hits you like a bat to the head.
To quickly recap the disaster, the team was working a case of what could best be described as a turf war between two heavily disguised prostitution rings, and the murders of former mayors, officials, and even the prostitutes caught in the middle. Speaking of being caught in the middle, Cassidy, played by Dean Winters (the Allstate “Mayhem” guy), one of the first detectives on SVU is back and working undercover as a bodyguard for the sleazy Ganzel (Peter Jacobson), who tries to stay in business despite the murderous and discreetly influential Delia Wilson (Brooke Smith).
Paget Brewster debuts as Paula Foster, ADA and the head of the Public Integrity Unit. Also making his debut, is the gun-toting Jayne Cobb from Firefly, Adam Baldwin plays interim Captain Steven Harris. Initially defensive, the team of Finn, Munch, Amaro, Benson, and Rollins were wary of the new addition, but as the episode goes on, he seems to be more on their side than they think.
The theme of the two-part season premiere revolves around secrets that everyone has, and how these secrets are all coming up to haunt the players.
What I enjoy most of the season opener, is that they are not leaving anything out. It is as if the end of last season and beginning of this season is one arc, and no detail was left out. The episodes focused on Cragen, and when Cragen was not on-screen, the team continued to work on finding ways to clear his name. The episodes overflow with bad news over and over and the disaster just will not stop. By the end of part one, the worst is anticipated. There seems like no way out.
There are double and triple crosses by everyone involved. It seems that with each step, the good guys are constantly being hammered on, while the bad guys seem to constantly evade jail-time or even a simple court appearance. Even the villainous Marvin Exley (Ron Rifkin) plays an essential role among all the subterfuge.
As the team is about to put together a case to save their beloved captain, every prostitute who can testify suddenly comes up dead by mysterious events.
While the episodes were incredible and Dann Florek easily stole the show, my faith in our new detectives to be solid characters going forward is still shaky. Amaro’s wife and daughter pick up and leave him, he goes crazy and pulls a gun on Cassidy, goes into an alcohol fueled rant, and pretty much tries to be three seasons worth of a depressive Stabler in two episodes. If I did not like the Amaro character before, I really do not like him now. I have nothing invested in him, and I feel the character and his collapsing life is being forced down our throats and we must care. Except, I do not. Rollins continues to be nothing but short one-liners and has the same lifeless expression on her face. Munch, Finn, and Benson continue to serve as the backbone of SVU, and it becomes painfully obvious we need Stabler back.
Another major flaw, and only if you caught it early, but the solution, so-to-speak, of the entire case was hinted at within the first thirty minutes. In a meeting with Foster, Benson and the anagonists Delia Wilson and her scumbag lawyer (you really hate this guy) Marvin Exley reveal that Foster has an ailing daughter. A daughter who comes with high medical expenses. At first you think, “Holy Hell. Another person with some sort of horrible situation.” Then you realize, why on Earth would the evil lawyer drop that early on? Well, I will not give away too much… Oh forget it, you have to know it by now, Delia was paying the medical bills, which once uncovered by the SVU team, unraveled the entire conspiracy involving mayors, government officials, senators, and a huge list of the highest ranking officials in New York.
Cragen is saved! The problem, is that we have about an hour and 45 minutes worth of roller-coaster drama, and then just like that, in the last fifteen minutes, we get Cassidy sleeping with prostitutes right after Benson professes her renewed love for him, Foster and her corrupt financial records, as well as police officials using Cragen to cover up, well, their cover-ups. While we realized most of these revelations were immenent, it is a bit disappointing to have this whole episode get wrapped up in such short-time.
While the ending was a bit too clean and save-the-day-like, it really did keep everyone in suspense. I really thought there was another swerve coming with Cragen, but his admittance to being a lonely old man only increased my level of respect for the character.
I am looking forward to the next episode of SVU, and I hope we get Cragen back in the driver’s seat soon.