Friday, January 7, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Faces From Rollins' Past Return Once Terror Threats Target the City in 'Silent Night, Hateful Night'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 23.10 "Silent Night, Hateful Night"

The SVU is called in to help investigate a wave of hate crimes on Christmas Eve. Rollins catches up with an old flame.

"Silent Night, Hateful Night" was directed by Norberto Barba with story by Warren Leight and teleplay by Julie Martin, Kathy Dobie & Warren Leight

Back in 2018, NBC ordered a spinoff of SVU from showrunner Warren Leight centered on the Hate Crimes unit in New York City. The original plan was for that spinoff to be first introduced in a handful of SVU episodes before transitioning to its own story. Now, those plans never ultimately materialized. Instead, focus shifted to the Organized Crime spinoff with the return of Christopher Meloni's Elliot Stabler as well as the upcoming revival of the original Law & Order for its 21st season in February. And yet, this episode particularly feels like a backdoor pilot for that Hate Crimes-focused series. It may simply be nothing more than Leight writing what could have been. Or it could truly be a proof of concept for the network to confirm that this can still be a fertile storytelling ground for a new series. The narrative does populate the Hate Crimes Task Force with familiar faces to the SVU squad - two of whom have past romantic dynamics with Rollins. Of course, not a whole lot of time is spent mining the past given Rollins' newfound romance with Carisi. Sure, it's noteworthy that Declan Murphy has spent time reflecting on his actions and feels guilty for having sex with Rollins given the power dynamics involved. She chooses not to spend too much time worrying about that though. She believes it was all fairly treated and handled. He may have been her supervisor. But she wanted to be a mother and was comfortable doing all of the parenting with her daughter. He still resents having missed so much time with Jesse. Nothing suggests anything is going to change in the future though. This action isn't done to suggest that Murphy is suddenly going to be a part of their lives moving forward. He is still devoted to the job even though his mission has shifted. In his past appearances, he was all about undercover work. Even when he was briefly captain of SVU, he wasn't comfortable in that role. He could move back to the work he cared about because Benson was capable of leading the unit. She still excels in that role. She continues to lead with conviction. Sure, it's strange why SVU is brought in to investigate this string of hate crimes on Christmas Eve and Day. Reporters even ask that question when Benson and Murphy first bring them up to speed on the investigation. A satisfying answer isn't given. That's not really the point of this story though. Instead, it's all about highlighting how these vicious crimes can happen anywhere - including New York City. This place is seen as a bastion of liberalism. But so many communities can be targeted in close proximity to one another. In fact, when some young criminals confess to their attacks, Chief McGrath wants to blame them for everything that happened during the night. The solution isn't as easy as that. In fact, lazy police work like that has destroyed numerous communities over the years and put countless innocent people behind bars. Again, he only reinforces those heinous policies. The SVU squad has the tools to fight back. Benson has the conviction to do so as well. But all of this still leads to her shooting the mastermind in the head before he can detonate another bomb. These communities of hate are finding each other online. As such, lone wolf attackers are more organized than ever before. They celebrate the creation of a martyr to their case. That leaves more work for Murphy and the Hate Crimes unit to do. It's a mission for them. It's not something that will particularly impact the SVU moving forward on an ongoing basis. And so, this episode is a unique mix of offering something new that hints at more while also just reminiscing over the past without offering much new to those dynamics. It highlights that some of those dynamics can still be trusted after several years apart. Murphy has been busy in his undercover work before being forced out. He has landed on his feet. A conversation has been started with Rollins. That appears to be it for the moment. Meanwhile, the other detectives with the Hate Crimes unit just serve an investigative purpose. That serves a crucial role. Some have history with the SVU detectives though. That can be felt while never distracting from the core mission. Everyone makes sacrifices during the holiday. That is all felt. It's not over with yet due to the shooting. But it's a conclusive ending for the audience regardless.