Thursday, May 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - Stabler Reckons With What It Means to Be Honored for His Work in 'Friend or Foe'

NBC's Law & Order: Organized Crime - Episode 2.22 "Friend or Foe"

As Stabler confronts the truth about his father, he unknowingly affects his situation with the Brotherhood. The task force works to track down Webb, who's gone off the grid. Donnelly will stop at nothing to ensure he isn't caught.

"Friend or Foe" was written by Rick Marin & Barry O'Brien and directed by Ken Girotti

Until Stabler reckons with the past, he is incapable of moving on. He has endured so many tragedies. Plenty of them have dictated the narrative of this show. His wife was murdered. Her killer was let go and allowed to terrorize even more people. And now, he questions the service his father did on the job. He can lead with absolute clarity now. He knows the bullet that injured his father came from his partner's gun. He can use that information to apologize to the family of the man framed for the crime. That's all he can really do to make the situation right. It also makes it more complicated when Stabler is honored with the Combat Cross as well. People want to celebrate his actions. He knows how corrupt this entire process can be. Every person who receives this medal has a story that ultimately weighs them down. He can now see the burden and cost that comes from it. It's a way to be honored for all that he has done. It also showcases how little has changed in the years since his father was on the job. So much of the public atmosphere is about holding corrupt police officers accountable. Internal affairs investigators are always treated with absolute vial by other officers. People on the job see attacks coming from everywhere. No one is defending them when they have to endure the extreme pressure of this job. It's a legacy for so many families. People have to stand up and defend what brought honor and purpose to the generations that came before them. Stabler was inspired to join the force by his father. The same was true of Donnelly. Their paths diverged completely. Stabler was kept out of this corrupt world. He was sheltered from it. Meanwhile, it was a celebration in the Donnelly household. People are out there with access to the truth. Stabler works to uncover that. That has the potential to compromise his current investigation. It doesn't though. It creates a few tense moments. But it was always unlikely Stabler would die because he got too close to Donnelly. That is suggested as an outcome going into one commercial break. However, Stabler was smart enough to wear a bulletproof vest. He wasn't targeted by one of the weapons that could pierce through this armor as was previously alluded. In fact, Webb accounts for so little of the actual fallout in this finale. It's strange really. So much of the narrative ultimately pivots around Stabler. Yes, Bell and Nova have consequential moments following the conclusion of their investigations. It's personal for them too. However, the majority of this finale is devoted to Stabler hunting down Donnelly and the choices they make as this comes to an end.

Donnelly and the Brotherhood are distraught over the revelation that Stabler has been working undercover. They thought they could trust him. So much of that confidence came from Donnelly. He welcomed Stabler into his life fully. It's then easy to blame Stabler for it all imploding now too. He is a convenient villain. Donnelly is the one who betrayed his oath. He was no longer a good cop. Of course, Stabler came to believe that Donnelly was a decent man once. He simply embraced the corruption. He could never return to who he once was. This is the man he was meant to be. It was too late for him to be redeemed. He was simply corrupt in every aspect of life. He couldn't give his colleagues on the force the support they needed. Nor could he give his family the stability and safety they deserved. Instead, it was all about whatever personally benefitted Donnelly. He can certainly craft a convincing story. He is still running away no matter what happens to the people he cares about. Instead, he rails against Stabler being disloyal and deceitful. He doesn't understand how he could be betrayed by someone he trusted. So much of it was built by the illusion of what the Brotherhood was and the history between the two families. That meant so much to Donnelly. It didn't for Stabler because he lacked the context. He simply had to prove himself as worthy during the various jobs. Even then, Donnelly proved himself capable of distorting any plan so he could receive even more glory. He wants to dictate the terms of how his story ends. He won't allow Stabler to have the satisfaction of victory. So instead, Donnelly walks in front of a train. It's the latest example of the show ending its stories with very clear and concise conclusions. It doesn't leave anything open to further explore down the line. Sure, some drama could potentially happen around the prosecutions of Cassandra Webb and Congressman Kilbride. And yet, their priority within this overall story became less pronounced because of how everything ultimately pivoted around Stabler and Donnelly. That gives the show the freedom to even suggest Nova killed Webb instead of arresting him. That's odd considering all the work she did to ensure the case against him was solid. It simply lets her escape with her brother. That's the ending she deserves even though it provides no clarity over what she wants in her future. She was a cop for this specific moment. She doesn't have to continue walking that path. She can make that choice. It was all personal to her. She has the wisdom to walk away. It doesn't come at the expense of those she cares about. She already endured that tragedy though. She will forever be informed by this time. The same is true of Bell as her family implodes because her wife was working at the firm Kilbride was at when he was arrested. These secrets carry so much weight. They leave behind uncertainty. Stabler can offer compassion and relief to his loved ones after they've been isolated from him. Others walk that path too. It doesn't have to be all about Stabler. Yet that increasingly became the entire purpose of the show as it concludes its second season.