Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'Law and Order: SVU' Premiere Review - 14.01 Lost Reputation / 14.02 Above Suspicion

        On the two-hour premiere of NBC's Law & Order: SVU, the SVU squad deals with the fallout after Captain Cragen wakes up with a dead escort in his bed; tension is high at the precinct with the arrivals of District Attorney Paula Foster (Paget Brewster) and new captain Steven Harris (Adam Baldwin); Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters) walks a narrow line as an undercover cop in Bart Ganzel's (Peter Jacobson) escort organization; and Nick struggles with the case and his marriage.

        This series is at its best when it focuses on the characters and their lives as they deal with the hardships of working at SVU. Its less successful episodes are usually the ones where the details of the case are put front and center moreso than the characters. Last season's finale introduced this wonderful and intricate case and this two-hour opener was a fantastic, twisty conclusion. It is always risky doing a two hour premiere. Some shows stretch things out too far while with others it is just superfluous. This premiere was wonderful and needed the two hours to effectively tell this story. Every single scene was well-written and necessary. Every revelation added a nice, wonderful layer to each character.
        This episode was a continuation of last year's finale and all the major players from last year returned to wrap up the case while also teasing some intriguing character details that should make the upcoming episodes this season especially compelling to watch. The episode also introduced two new characters played by Paget Brewster and Adam Baldwin. Brewster's DA character was really wonderful to watch as she went toe-to-toe with Olivia and those scenes were phenomenal. I was wondering what would happen in the last 15 minutes when the cases where wrapped up early. The reveal that she was heavily inside the conspiracy was a fantastic twist and Brewster played it wonderfully. Baldwin definitely was given less material to do as he was meant to be an opposing outside force that contrasts Cragen's style when he came in. That fact meant it really wouldn't be a character that we would want to root for but his introduction did feel natural and realistic. I did enjoy his scene with Olivia after the IAB interview. So he could be entertaining in the future episodes in his arc.
        It is very difficult for a show that has been on for fourteen years to create an episode that is as revolutionary and thrilling as this show has done. It was also a wonderful farce for many of the characters as each had to deal with their own demons coming to light. Cragen hiring escorts, Olivia and Haden's relationship become a part of the politics of the case, Amaro and his wife separating, and Olivia and Cassidy's romance briefly resurfacing. So many intricate details and twists that weaved throughout everything that the show built last season with all the characters. This show definitely has become more of a serialized piece of storytelling since Chris Meloni and has thusly improved creatively. Yes, there will still and always be the case of the week that shapes each individual episode but now it feels like every single case that happens effects the psyches of each detective more and more with each passing week. This season has been shaped as a fun and curvy roller coaster in terms of personal stories that I can't wait to see what will happen next.

So what did everyone think of the premiere? Was it the show's best opener in years? Did you like the introduction of Brewster and Baldwin's characters? Share your thoughts in the comments.