Friday, May 6, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - A Family Must Reckon With a Friend Grooming Them for Years in 'Did You Believe in Miracles?'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 23.20 "Did You Believe in Miracles?"

When a student's school reports a girl missing, the squad must track down a trusted family friend for answers. Benson gets a Mother's Day surprise.

"Did You Believe in Miracles?" was directed by Pratibha Parmar with story by Micharne Cloughley & Candice Sanchez McFarlane and teleplay by Micharne Cloughley & Victoria Pollack

A family friend has been grooming a young girl for years. He got close so that no one questioned it when he decided to take her away for a long time. Paul and Claire Lee aren't concerned at all when the police arrive asking about their daughter's whereabouts. They genuinely believe she is with a church group upstate helping build houses. It was an incredible opportunity presented to her thanks to Luke's steadfast devotion to their faith. They trusted him with Beth. They had no reason to suspect he was capable of abusing her. And yet, he manipulated this entire family to ensure nothing could disrupt his desire to be with this young girl. He led this life under an alias. Moreover, he seduced the parents to ensure they could never credibly challenge him. He presented himself as knowing what was best for Beth. She had to be with him. It was a holy message delivered by God. This bond transcends all else. Meanwhile, her parents were sinners who succumbed to desires of the flash. Due to those betrayals, they couldn't reasonably be expected to be seen as good parents. This is an unhealthy environment. Beth is being saved by being kidnapped. It's so absolutely twisted. So many people want to believe in the good nature of those they've entrusted. Claire doesn't want to accept that Nick Pearce took advantage of their family for years. She had an affair with him. She kept that a secret. It would only bring shame to her if it was revealed. It's how Nick worked his way into this family. He also presented a reason for why he needed to be around. Beth's younger brother was the person who noticed her absence and how permanent it probably was. That alerted the school to a problem. Objective observers are tasked with seeing what isn't normal. All of this could have been nothing but a misunderstanding. It still deserves attention from the SVU squad. They know how sinister all of this could become. The family lied to the school and the police. That only enhances how strong they are lying to themselves as well. They want to live in the delusion. They believe nothing bad can happen to them so long as they are steadfast in their faith. That is never challenged. They continue to rely on support from the church. And yet, that relationship is forever shaped by Nick's manipulations. That connection was exploited in order to get to Beth. And so, nothing within that structure can be trusted again. The church can't provide more meaningful support than therapy. Paul and Claire want to maintain some sense of normalcy. It may be elusive simply because of how widespread this harm actually was for their family.

Olivia and the squad have the experience to see all these patterns. They know when to tread carefully and when to forcefully push an issue. They require the truth from the people who need help. They can't take whatever they want though. They have to follow the law too. It wouldn't benefit anyone to break from procedures to ensure an easier or quicker outcome. Beth is mature enough to have autonomy over her own body. She still needs parental consent in many situations. She is still a reckless teenager after all. Performing a pregnancy test or rape kit is a personal invasion that has to be decided by her. Her parents can't force her to do so. It's simply a complicated situation because of how much Beth believes Nick. She truly thinks they are the couple that will lead to prosperity on Earth once more. The baby she carries is a sacred confirmation of that truth. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. They are in love. Her parents should just approve it. Claire offers the illusion of support in order to obtain the evidence the police need. She too manipulates her daughter in order to produce a positive pregnancy test. That may only scar Beth moving forward. She may never be able to trust people in her life again. Everyone may always be trying to take advantage of her. When Nick does it, it's an obvious crime. One that can be prosecuted without Beth needing to testify against him. When Claire does it, it's a mother trying to protect her daughter. That nuance and distinction is present. It will be hard for Beth to cope with it all though. Instead, her parents accept this as the right decision. They do what it takes to ensure this outcome. It will be a long road to recover. Plus, they may only continue the lies of their family. Paul and Claire plan on raising Beth's baby as their own. They are willing to carry that burden. However, it too may only be playing into the fantasy of what looks like a happy family on the outside. Within this dynamic, it's a life full of shame where people feel the constant pull to hide themselves from those who are suppose to love them the most. The squad can only do so much to alleviate this pain and ensure a brighter future. They provide justice. Nick is going to jail. However, Olivia has to accept moving on to the next case and spending time with Noah. That's the beautiful bond she has to rely on in order to accept how gracious the world can be. Her personal life remains amazing and her son reminds her of that every single day - but especially on Mother's Day.