Thursday, May 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Olivia Is Challenged to Look at Her Relationships in a New Way in 'A Final Call at Forlini's Bar'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 23.22 "A Final Call at Forlini's Bar"

The SVU provides help and protection for a longtime domestic violence victim, but when she winds up at the defendant's table in court, Rollins surprises Carisi with a formidable opponent at trial.

"A Final Call at Forlini's Bar" was written by Warren Leight & Julie Martin and directed by Juan J. Campanella

When Olivia first entered therapy, she feared happiness was never going to happen for her. She no longer recognizes the person who made that statement. She can see the trajectory of her life. It's not as if she changed. Instead, it's merely an evolution that has allowed her to become the more fulfilled version of herself. She still questions why she isn't happier. She is content with the life she has. She is happy with Noah and her job. She still clearly yearns for more. It could just be a reaction to the happiness she sees in her colleagues. Their personal relationships are going well. Meanwhile, things remain stagnant for Olivia. That may be a total reaction to Stabler entering her life again. In his presence, she always has to be the emotionally stable one. She has to provide so much support as he goes through grueling and traumatic times. She knows they work as partners. They trust each other completely. They have always been in sync on the job. That could be all-consuming to their lives though. They both fall into the pattern of being so focused on work that they can't prioritize anything else. It was in his absence that Olivia was willing to take a long, hard look at herself and what she wanted. And now, she aspires for what she deserves. That may still point her back to Stabler at some point. In fact, she is even told she will remain unresolved until she and Stabler explore all the possibilities of their relationship. She may have that clarity. That doesn't mean Stabler is immediately ready to accept it. He may not be willing and able to provide her with what she needs. She has welcomed him into her new life. She demanded he care about what matters to her. Their relationship had to be more than her helping him navigate through the tragedy of his wife's murder. She still loves and cares so much. That relationship is placed with more importance than other friendships. Olivia and Barba had such a phenomenal bond. That was all thrown away when Barba decided to represent Richard Wheatley. He did so in order to protect Olivia. He was looking out for his friend knowing how complicated all of this would become. She only saw the betrayal. She asked him not to do this case. He did anyway because he decided what she could handle in the courtroom. That wasn't his decision to make. He can see that now. And yet, this friendship may never return to what it was. The bar they frequently visited to commiserate over cases is shutting down. Whatever comes next will be different entirely. He understands the love she feels towards Stabler. That too may hint at a further complication. But it's also the two lamenting over the fact that this friendship only existed for a period of time. It may not be destined to continue which is heartbreaking on all sides.

Of course, the SVU still relies on Barba when they require a skilled defense attorney to help fight for cases they believe in. They have such solid working relationships with Carisi and Maxwell. In fact, the creative team should immediately move to lock down Betty Buckley as a series regular moving forward. Maxwell's perspective on the law and these cases was always personal while never compromising. That was necessary in so many instances especially when Carisi is still learning the ins and outs of being a prosecutor. He has achieved many victories. And yet, his personal scorecard may always be determined by how he does against Barba. They have history as well. In the past, Carisi was the cop who aspired for a change in career and idolized what Barba was doing in the courtroom. And now, they face off. It's a case of the mentor and the mentee having different opinions. They fight for what they believe is right. The squad wants to help Barba in this case. A longtime domestic violence victim killed her abuser. Olivia and Rollins were already working with her when this tragedy occurred. They saw a woman past her breaking point and lashing out in order to escape the volatile situation. They offer that perspective because of the humanity they always radiate. An average cop on the street doesn't offer that perspective. Instead, it's all about the physical threat Delia represents. She's attacking a cop car. Everything escalates quickly when all Rollins needs to do is talk. That calms down the situation completely. Words are so powerful. So much destruction still occurs. Olivia and Rollins have so much history with cases exactly like this. They know just how difficult they can be. This is no exception. Plus, it's not the first time they've encountered a victim who kills their abuser. They have sympathy for the situation when the system just wants to punish the person who committed murder. A deal can be made. Of course, everyone has to reckon with the true complexity of what that punishment means. For the overwhelmed public defender, it's the little legal expertise she can offer while knowing this case can't go to trial. For Barba, he sees a tale that deserves adequate representation. He ultimately produces the medical information necessary to provide greater context for Delia's life. She can heal from her injuries even though so many of them don't present with obvious physical wounds. For Carisi and Maxwell, it's a loss they simply have to accept. They can't be embarrassed because they've lost the battle to convince a jury to their side of the argument. It's all performative. But again, the fate of people's lives hangs in the balance. As such, the public must trust those who determine the outcomes of these cases. It's full of so much personal discretion. Olivia has always been a champion for victims. That doesn't mean she is always fulfilled with her own personal endeavors. That remains uncertain which still creates so much tantalizing drama after 23 seasons.