Friday, November 11, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - An Old Colleague Ignites Something New Within Stabler in 'All That Glitters'

NBC's Law & Order: Organized Crime - Episode 3.07 "All That Glitters"

The task force goes undercover to bust a jewelry operation they come to realize isn't just smuggling gold. An unexpected guest from Stabler's past arrives to help take the operation down and confront some unresolved feelings.

"All That Glitters" was written by Josh Fagin & Candice Sanchez McFarlane and directed by Simón Brand

The previous episode concluded with Stabler receiving a call from Pearl. She told him she had information she was willing to share. That suggested the narrative was directing its attention back to the Silas family. It just went through two episodes away from that storyline. Enough resolution was offered that made it reasonable for the task force to focus on other cases. That's what makes it startling when this episode doesn't immediately offer a follow-up to that tease. It does eventually. However, Stabler is far removed from it. He is no longer the driving force behind that interaction. Instead, it can simply be handed off to Jamie. He's the one who ultimately sits down with Pearl. He then has to provide a reason to trust him as well. Sure, this season has focused on Stabler as a mentor. It's necessary for the detectives of this unit to trust each other and carry out these various tasks. But it also contrasts with the direct relationship Stabler was building. Pearl is risking everything. She was willing to work with Stabler. And now, he behaves as if this information would be provided to the task force no matter what. Pearl already made the difficult decision to cooperate. Her actual actions carry so much weight though. That has to be carefully managed. She is already talking about running away and never looking back. That's the future she wants. This life is hardly what she signed up for when she married Teddy. It's what she is stuck in. He doesn't understand her whatsoever. In fact, he's dismissive of her feelings entirely. It's all about the fame and making his father proud. He doesn't want to consider anything else. These are very tangential concerns though. The Silas family isn't at the center of this episode. Instead, it's still random whenever they appear. It's not done with the intention of building up their connection either. Their story is inherently important mostly because it has been touched upon in several episodes. Not everything is neatly wrapped up in one. That's the case with the actual investigation here. The task force receives a tip about an international smuggler being in the city. That forces Stabler to reflect on his years working in Italy. That part of his past hasn't really been explored. The show just offered that up as the explanation for what he was doing after he left SVU. His life entered a new chapter when he returned stateside and Kathy was killed. He's presented as more stable and emotionally healthy this season. His personal life hasn't driven conflict. In fact, this is the first episode that offers an explanation as to where Bernie and Eli have gone. She's visiting grandchildren while he's off at college. That leaves Stabler's life more empty than ever before. That's futile storytelling ground for a man who has always had a chaotic family life. But it's all done through the lens of romantic possibility. Nothing is inherently wrong with that. It's simply wrapped up in ways involving his policing work the audience doesn't have an immediately connection with.

It's surprising when Stabler and Tia run into each other again while working this case. She presents as someone just as driven and stubborn as he is. She has become fixated on this case because she carries the burden of every terrible thing that's happened since she lost this criminal several years ago. She had an opportunity to take him down. It didn't work. She won't let anything stop her this time. She's essentially gone rogue from her official government position to pursue this case. Stabler understands that impulse. He vouches for her as a good cop. Nothing happens to challenge that notion either. It's simply stated that she is the one who provided him with meaning on the job. Apparently, Stabler always needs a female partner to keep him in check and grounded. It's worthwhile seeing him without that crutch from time to time. It's always done with romantic undertones too. It's actually a relief that Stabler's dynamic with Bell isn't defined that way. That allows them to be colleagues with the utmost respect for each other despite the different perspectives they have of the job. Of course, all of this could come across as Tia being a lame stand-in for Olivia. That's the relationship fans are most eager to see develop. However, Olivia also had the benefit of having time away from Stabler to define who she was and what she wanted. That happened onscreen. The trouble with Stabler is all this development happened elsewhere and it now needs to be explained to the audience. It's less meaningful because there just hasn't been the appropriate time to explore it. Of course, it's fascinating to see Stabler open himself up to the possibility of moving on following Kathy's death. He still longs for her. That relationship meant so much to him. It defined a lot for this show as well. And now, the narrative is at the tipping point where it can no longer be the sole thing that provides conflict for Stabler. As such, he has to explore other dimensions. Tia is a first step in that direction. Her presence doesn't take anything away from the investigation that must happen. It's frankly astonishing to see a story only play out across one episode. This show prides itself on looking at the long-term ramifications of the actions these characters take. These investigations don't always happen in a neat and concise way. Sometimes, criminals haunt investigators for years. That's apparent in this story. It's also all about pulling Stabler and Tia closer to each other. The cliffhanger even leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not Stabler invited her in. That represents a timid approach though. It's the show not knowing if people will accept this direction. Instead of committing to it, it mostly leaves a frustrating sense of not knowing why anyone should care either way. That's not deserving after all that has happened with Stabler across decades. It's the unfortunate consequence of this episode though.