“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is like your favorite old t-shirt. You’ve started to wear the shirt less and less now because it’s worn out, but you’d never think about getting rid of it. Even worse is your wife asking how much longer the shirt will be around. With all those problems there will still be a day when you wear the shirt and remember just why you love having it around. Last night’s episode of SVU titled “American Tragedy” was one of those moments. SVU can still put together a hell of a show.
The hour started off with a familiar SVU feel. There is a serial rapist loose in the city, and he’s attacking rich middle aged white women. Enter guest star Cybil Shepherd as a Paula Deen-esque Chef who might be the next victim of the rapist. No show uses guest stars better than Law & Order. Shepherd puts on her best Deen drawl, and looks the part. She shoots a black guy in a hoodie, the description used for the rapist in the papers, but it turns out to be a kid on the way home from a basketball game. Law & Order spliced the DNA from the Deen story and the Trayvon Martin case into one story.
The show continued to pile on guest stars when Sonja Sohn, you might remember her as Kima from “The Wire”, shows up as the mother of the dead boy. Then before you can stop talking about how much you love Kima, and how great “The Wire” is, Jeffrey Tambor shows up as Shepherd’s lawyer. This is a stacked show. How many network procedurals are dealing with these sort of story lines?
The show even brought up the controversial tactic of “Stop and Frisk” during Ice-T’s cross examination on the stand. If the NYPD is stopping minorities at a higher percentage of the population than how could Shepherd’s character be blamed for practicing the same policy. The writers made a convincing argument in that scene about race and profiling without tipping their hand into full on preaching.
Shepherd was acquitted in the end, but Law & Order: SVU flexed its muscles once again. After Christopher Merloni left SVU there was a moment of concern for the show’s future. With the addition of Kelli Giddish as Detective Rollins, and the amazing Raul Esparza as ADA Rafael Barba those fears have been put to bed. I can’t say that Law & Order SVU is still can’t miss TV, but don’t give up on it that quickly. There is life in those veins.