Friday, March 11, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - A Campus Assault Has the Squad Pondering a Legal Enhancement in 'Promising Young Gentlemen'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 23.15 "Promising Young Gentlemen"

Carisi's niece helps a friend report a sexual assault. Benson investigates a college's secret society that preys on female students.

"Promising Young Gentlemen" was directed by David Grossman with story by Julie Martin & Warren Leight and teleplay by Kathy Dobie, Candice Sanchez McFarlane & Brianna Yellen

The SVU squad has been called to the campus of Hudson University countless times over the years. It never comes across as the institution for higher education anyone should aspire to attend. It remains open. More sexual assaults occur. That history shapes Benson's interactions with the head of the university. Of course, that position has also changed over the years. Many people have fulfilled that role hoping they could change the campus culture. It's hard for Benson to believe anyone can succeed in doing that. Actions have been taken. And yet, historic patterns continue. It's sickening and seemingly indestructible. This always occurs despite the noble intentions of so many people. Carisi's niece remains enrolled at Hudson to serve as an advocate for young woman when they need it the most. Yes, she equates it with being a babysitter for people being reckless without their parents' supervision for the first time. She wants the people in her dorm to always be smart and careful. She doesn't judge them when the worst happens. She offers support. She has a key ally in Carisi. He is always there to offer Mia whatever she needs. Of course, this campus storyline overshadows the first meeting between Carisi's mother and Rollins. This is the first time Carisi's mother has been seen as well. Beverly D'Angelo plays the figure Carisi has talked so much about. It's a huge step for him to bring Rollins home to meet his family. It happens quickly though. The story soon gets distracted by this case that does have a connection to Carisi but isn't prominently driven by him. It's strange and mostly just implies this central relationship continues to go well. Rollins and Carisi are good together even after they have gotten together as a couple. They could have flamed out after years of sexual tension. Instead, they are both committed to this relationship. It challenges them. That also promises strong character growth. That's on display in how they conduct themselves. But again, that's only one portion of each episode. That's the trade off in episodic storytelling. These reviews have covered that on more than one occasion. It leaves only a little bit of glimpses into the personal lives of these characters. Only in a few episodes do their stories become the dominant focus. That works though. Plus, episodes like this one inspire thought-provoking questions that should force the audience to examine these issues from a new perspective.

Why is rape never charged as a hate crime? That's what Detective Parlato-Goldstein asks when he is brought in to assist in this case. It's the perspective he offers because he works for the Hate Crimes unit. Carisi only says it's not something the D.A.'s office ever does. It has no precedent. That doesn't mean everyone should ignore the question altogether. In this case, a group of men target a woman and rape her solely because of their hatred towards all women. They created a unique set of circumstances to lure women in and get them drunk enough so they would be compliant with their sexual demands. It's a necessary culture everyone must buy into in order to be a member of this secret society. Parlato-Goldstein's past in this society can't be overlooked either. He insists it was much more wholesome and productive when he went to school. It probably wasn't. That behavior being tolerated has only created the next generation of heinous individuals who believe they can blur the lines even further. They sing about getting women so drunk their agency no longer matters. That's the most damning piece of evidence against the entire group. That's what propels Benson to push for conspiracy charges for all of them. It seems outrageous to the school president and McGrath. They think it's a blatant political statement meant to make an example of anyone who was in the vicinity of a sexual assault. It's a way to shame and victimize young men who would otherwise have bright futures ahead of them. That's the way the narrative spins around this case. It's also concocted without knowing any of the actual details. When the facts are known, every single charge seems appropriate. Of course, the story still ultimately pivots around one young man turning against his friends in order to get a better deal. Carisi doesn't actually have to conduct the trial to prove the conspiracy and the hate crime charges are warranted. He got approval from the judge though. That's all it takes to set everything else in motion. It's a novel argument. One that doesn't ultimately rise to become new precedent for the hate crimes law. This show can't go that far. It can't make new laws. It has to apply the ones that currently exist while telling exciting new versions of the same stories. Patterns repeat. The world is grateful to have Benson and her squad doing the hard work. That's a comfort even in a despicable world where they still have to fight to be heard and respected because of the sensitivity of these cases.