Thursday, February 24, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - Wheatley's Threats Grow Bigger and More Extreme in 'As Hubris Is to Oedipus'

NBC's Law & Order: Organized Crime - Episode 2.13 "As Hubris Is to Oedipus"

The task force must race to save lives when Wheatley and McClane's digital takeover shifts to a series of real-life bomb threats.

"As Hubris Is to Oedipus" was written by Emmy Higgins & Zachary Reiter and directed by Stephen Surjik

Every threat from Richard Wheatley has to be bigger and badder than the previous one. It's a case of his actions always having to top what he has already done. It's gotten to an exhausting point where it seems like he is capable of doing anything. That removes the mystique and intrigue from the character. What's left behind is grandiosity that makes him seem indestructible. Sure, that makes him a formidable opponent. But what's currently happening is so far removed from the murder of Kathy Stabler, which set off the conflict between Wheatley and Stabler in the first place. That's the show losing its own sense of importance and meaning. Losing his wife motivates everything for Stabler. It's why Bell is concerned about his willingness to disappear into undercover work. He needs to be there for his family. They have endured a tragedy as well. They need stability from him. He's always running into danger. He puts his life on the line to save countless others. But again, the scale of the threats he is trying to prevent has gotten out of control. The task force is chasing down the threat of five bombs being planted throughout the city. That's all just a distraction in the grand scheme of things too. The true threat is more bigger and even more dire. Wheatley coopts the altruistic-seeming motives of McClane's followers for his own dastardly plans. He coerces McClane into making that deal as well. He isn't a free operator throughout any of this. He only agrees because he believes Angela's life is in danger. Yes, that has been true in some instances. Here though, she is completely in on Wheatley's plan. McClane should have known that Wheatley would never kill the love of his life. Having that clarity removes any serious concern for her during the game of Russian Roulette. That puts this plot into motion though. As such, the stakes read as false. It's the show going for thrills in the moment instead of ensuring that everything remains cohesive. It's a tricky balance. It's distracting and all-consuming for the NYPD too. They are stretched thin and focused entirely on the threats Wheatley has made. They can't respond to any other calls. Things are only going to get worse once the power is cut throughout the city. The task force may have several wins that prevent the worst possible outcomes. Wheatley still remains an extreme threat.

All of that is to be expected at this specific point in the story arc. But again, that's the show following the same pattern as before. It leaves the audience to fear the worse because the stakes of the narrative are escalating to an extreme degree. Stabler and Bell have been at this point with Wheatley before. All hope seemed lost. They prevailed even if it was only a victory that could be sustained for a limited time. They hope to implement lessons learned along the way. It's hard for anyone to have any time to reflect because the action quickly moves to the next threat. It's overwhelming. That's the point of the story. It just leaves the audience without feeling a close connection to all the twists and turns. Plus, it places the stakes of this show in a complete different realm than what's happening on the other shows in the franchise. Now, that's just an issue for a particular set of viewers. However, the creative team enjoys exploring the connection between the Organized Crime and SVU units. They help each other from time to time. It's simply hard to make the argument that the city has been taken hostage by Wheatley while SVU is producing an episode completely in line with its own formula. That places an undeserved sense of importance onto this show. This is the corner of the universe that tells big and elaborate stories. These plots rise up to include the Governor of New York and feature the entire city falling into the dark without power. That narrative scope is massive. It's meant to illustrate Wheatley as this insurmountable villain who always has another layer behind his plans. That allows him to always escape any kind of justice. It's not an unfamiliar narrative scope for NBC dramas. The network just launched The Endgame this week which basically features the same premise and problem. It's just different seeing it in this universe. Ambition can be good and exciting at times. That doesn't always have to be equated with going bigger and more extreme. The personal stakes should be just as thrilling and rewarding. Here, it's a bunch of danger and angst continually directed to the characters for the sole role of causing drama to fill an hour each week. That's the current state of the show, which may leave everyone waiting for the next story arc to begin already.