Thursday, February 24, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order' - Police and Prosecutors Complain About the Other While Working on the Same Side in 'The Right Thing'

NBC's Law & Order - Episode 21.01 "The Right Thing"

Newly acquainted partners, Bernard and Cosgrove, investigate the murder of a notorious entertainer. A dispute over throwing out a confession creates a rift in the DA's office.

"The Right Thing" was written by Dick Wolf & Rick Eid and directed by Jean de Segonzac

Over a decade ago, Law & Order was abruptly cancelled after twenty seasons. At the time, it tied the record held by Gunsmoke for the longest-running, live-action drama airing on broadcast network primetime. Since then, spinoff Law & Order: SVU has broken that record itself. It's been continuously on the air ever since its 1999 debut. And now, the original series that started it all is back. It's a miraculous turn of events. It comes after renewed resurgence in Dick Wolf's prowess creating franchises. Three Law & Order series now dominate NBC for Thursdays. That's in addition to the Chicago and FBI franchises he has too. He produces so much content each year. And yet, they all still maintain a distinct style. This show returns with the same premise as before. The first half details the police investigation of a heinous crime while the second half features the prosecution of those arrested. The storytelling rips from the headlines to offer twists on the stories that dominate our culture. That's how this franchise has always stayed relevant. The story in this premiere certainly draws influence from the Bill Cosby scandal. An influential figure has been accused of sexual assault by 40 women and was convicted for the crime. That conviction was later overturned on appeal due to a technicality. Of course, the story quickly pivots away to center on his murder. It's simple instead of ambitious. But it's all meant to highlight the characters investigating the crime. Some familiar faces are seen. Kevin Bernard is still working out of the same precinct as a detective. Jack McCoy is still the District Attorney overseeing these sensitive cases. Those characters will remain for the entire season. Meanwhile, Jamie Ross returns as the prosecutor of the former case who becomes deeply connected to the new investigation. The show provides these callbacks so the viewer knows it's the same show as always. It features newcomers to the franchise as well. This is their grand introduction. They are all bluntly introduced here. Some have more opportunities to shine than others. But it's an ensemble meant to allow the format of the show to be the star. Sure, the franchise overall has had to embrace more serialization in recent years. That may be inevitable here as well. This premiere employs a simple structure to start.

Bernard hasn't had a consistent partner for years. He and Frank Cosgrove have only recently been paired. They are still getting a feel for how the other conducts business. Cosgrove is the one driving the story as his actions cause reactions elsewhere. He's a representative of the police who hates the widespread availability of cameras. They prevent him from doing the work and being trusted to protect the people of the city. Bernard notes that technology holds them accountable. They have to do things the right way. It's important because the system has too often let down people who needed it the most. It has come at the expense of so many as well. Of course, the prosecution don't later use the confession Cosgrove gets. It's more than just one lie being told. It's perfectly legal for the cops to lie to suspects during interrogations. That's why you should always have a lawyer present when talking with the police. That's not always an option though. Cosgrove presents as an ally. His tactics can be seen as coercive. The world may not want to punish this woman for killing her rapist. They want to believe her outlandish explanation of self-defense. It's up to ADAs Nolan Price and Sam Maroun to get the jury to convict. They decide what has validity in this case. They know what's necessary to prove their argument. It's tricky because of the emotions involved. Yes, it's easy to blame the dysfunction between the police and the lawyers. They view the other side as being responsible for messing up their inherently good and noble work. That expression is inherently felt. They have to work together. They have to find that balance that allows the system to challenge itself while providing justice for those who need it. It's still an aspirational goal. Nolan and Sam get their conviction. All it takes is some emotional manipulation of their own. Of course, that seems like the only time Sam speaks during the trial. That's way too blatant in terms of an emotional appeal. It still works. And in the end, they hope that the sentence isn't too long despite the conviction being fair. They apply the law as it's intended. They did their jobs. The jury affirmed their position. That's the right thing. That's what Nolan needs to believe in order to continue. It's a simple conclusion. Again, it's not the end of the story. It's where the show leaves things though. It wants to be concise. That's nice in some situations. Hopefully, the show aspires for more complexity with these characters and the stories they deal with in the future.