Saturday, April 30, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - A Heist Creates Complications That May Implicate Stabler in 'Dead Presidents'

NBC's Law & Order: Organized Crime - Episode 2.19 "Dead Presidents"

When millions are stolen from one of Webb's employees, he enlists Stabler and Donnelly to retrieve the cash and punish the thief. The task force takes an opportunity to nail down both Webb and the Brotherhood, but run into a dangerous obstacle. Bell must face the toil her job is taking on her marriage.

"Dead Presidents" was written by Zachary Reiter and directed by Rob J. Greenlea

Preston Webb turns to the Brotherhood whenever someone robs from his criminal organization. Or at least that's what the relationship appears to be. The Marcy Organization had a disruption in its supply chain. A crate of guns weren't delivered. The Brotherhood was asked to investigate. And now, money is stolen from the organization. Webb turns to Stabler to see if he can trust him with this task. It's all part of Stabler working his way into this world. He sees the epic payoff should this all work out. It's still incredibly risky. Plus, it's the show basically following the same beat. Of course, this new story doesn't reach a clear conclusion. With the guns, the task force could never allow them to hit the streets. That meant Stabler had to be creative in order to stop Webb from just killing him for failing to deliver. The mobster may truly just be testing the Brotherhood. He wants to see if they are still reliable. He provides Stabler with so much information. He knows he was hit. He knows the money ended up with an infamous launderer. The Brotherhood has to move quick before the money is cleaned. And so, Stabler invites Donnelly and the rest of the gang along to pull off the heist. It too is supervised by the task force. Bell and Jet sit in a surveillance vehicle just outside. They rely on technical support from Malachi once more. He's still a valuable reason they go to for help. Again, it's very reminiscent of plots that have already occurred. That's not too surprising coming from this franchise. It's long been built on episodic storytelling. The audience knows what to expect. It simply aspires to be a well-executed version of that police formula. This show has done things differently with its multi-episode arcs. Everything has quickly gotten more complicated with the Marcy Organization and the Brotherhood. Complications don't mean complexity though. Stabler and Donnelly are stunned to find the safe practically empty. Someone collected the prize before they got there. They did so using a method Malachi couldn't figure out. That's impressive. Stabler is being set up to take the fall for the crime as well. Again, it's the show quickly escalating the tension. Donnelly's advice is to avoid Webb for as long as possible. That doesn't last long. It mostly creates a ticking clock for the various cops to figure out what exactly happened. It's all in service of being in the good graces of this one man who runs organized crime in the city. Of course, the task force already has a trusted individual inside the organization. All of this is only more superfluous.

Furthermore, Stabler continues to dig into the past and the story of what happened with his father's service medal. He was honored for being injured in the line of duty. Stabler has been told various versions of events. He went to Cragen as someone he could trust completely. Only now does he think to go to his father's former partner who was actually there when it happened. Of course, he gets incredibly defensive about the situation. He's enraged when Donnelly starts telling a tale. It may be him accepting the lie after telling it for so long. He no longer recognizes what the actual truth was. But it's mostly just Stabler refusing to let this go. Bernie told him to do exactly that. He can't continue letting himself be burdened by the past. That too has been the go-to personal struggle he has endured on this show. So much is happening in the present that creates fascinating character stakes. It doesn't have to be so dependent on how he has viewed the past on the job. The personal stakes just don't resonate the same way they used to. That may be nothing more than an overabundance. More time should be spent with the other characters. Bell, Jet and Nova have little moments that hint at their own struggles. Denise takes the job at Congressman Kilbride's former firm despite Bell's objections. Bell finally confesses about why she opposes the decision. It simply doesn't come soon enough. Trust has been broken. Bell can't earn it back because she fails to honor her promises. That's the struggle she endures. Meanwhile, Nova fears what her brother will do now that he knows Webb was responsible for their father's death. She recognizes that rage. She doesn't want him to act recklessly. He goes back-and-forth on acquiring a gun. He gets it and doesn't hand it over to his sister. That too is a moment waiting to explode at some point. He won't be as subtle as Nova has had to be in her work. And finally, Jet is involved in her first shooting. She is trained how to use her weapon. It's a good shoot. Malachi is there to support her. She is yet to be hit fully with the emotions. She understands that. She is grateful to have someone to lean on. That builds a meaningful connection. All of this does play as character drama meant to leave things as chaotic as possible. That's not always fun. That's especially true when everything is so blatantly obvious as it is here. It could all work with some tightening up. But everything is padded out to accommodate the season's structure. And so, the audience is simply asked to endure it all without receiving satisfaction from each episode.