Friday, November 11, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Olivia Targets a Famous Soccer Player Despite Pushback From McGrath in 'Dead Ball'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 24.07 "Dead Ball"

When the case against a popular sports star falls through, Benson digs into the suspect's past to uncover additional victims. Velasco is disappointed when he meets one of his heroes.

"Dead Ball" was written by Brendan Feeney, Kathy Dobie & Gabriel Vallejo and directed by Michael Smith

All it takes is a look from Paolo for his managers to know they have to spring into action to cover up his latest misdeed. The soccer star has a pattern. The agents know exactly what to do afterwards. No criminal complaint has ever been made against him. Instead, it's all happened in civil suits. That leaves them with the impression that this is all about the money. It doesn't matter that he repeatedly abuses women sexually and belongs in jail. His victims wanted sex because he's famous and charming. They had no control though. Nellie went into the interview knowing she had a complicated relationship with Paolo. She never wanted him to know that he was the father of her son. The best thing that ever happened to her was conceived during a brief moment several years ago. Paolo's stardom has only grown since then. Nellie's has as well. She is given this opportunity to ask hard questions and challenge what Paolo believes is acceptable. He earns thunderous praise on the field for his athletic skills. Elsewhere though, he doesn't care about anyone else. The rest of the team stood united when a player's mother died. Paolo couldn't be bothered. He has an entire system propping him up. He doesn't have to answer for his behavior. In fact, his managers are more than comfortable leaving him alone in a room with a woman. They worry about how he'll answer these tough questions. They don't push back at all when he makes his motives known. They know what will happen. They expect Nellie to behave like all the other women Paolo has hurt before. She doesn't. She reports the assault to the police. She recorded the interaction. That shockingly isn't enough. She withdraws her complaint because she doesn't want to destroy the life she built elsewhere. She doesn't want Paolo to have that kind of control over her. His team knows exactly how to intimidate people into compliance. It's more than just the pattern of civil suits the detectives find as well. Paolo's team has a direct line to the leaders of the police department. It's not long before McGrath is in Olivia's office questioning what she's doing. She continues to investigate even though she has no complaining witness. The case should be dropped. Instead, she appears to be running a rogue unit that continues to interview people. Paolo's team even makes a complaint about the women being harassed by the detectives. That's absolutely insane. And yet, that's the power they wield. None of these women want to deal with this all over again. Moreover, they believe they are prevented from talking due to the NDAs they signed. They are still weaponized to suggest the police can't look into any conduct Paolo has done. That's chilling while highlighting the privilege these people operate under despite the humble beginnings they came from.

All of this pivots around the SVU detectives turning Paolo's trusted team against him. They received his financial records and noticed a pattern. The same was true of Ana's social media. They immediately infer that something happened. That takes on a whole new severity. Paolo preyed on a teenage girl. The sex was a crime. Ana wasn't mature enough to offer consent in the eyes of the law. She doesn't understand that. Nor does she accept why Paolo is being punished now. Olivia offers insight because she went through the exact same thing. She too had this fantasy about how loving a relationship with an older man was. It's only in reflecting on that time as an adult that she saw herself as being preyed on by someone who had a proven track record of doing so. That came from the benefit of time. Ana can't see that clearly right now. She may arrive there at some point in the future. Olivia offers compassion. Of course, it's hardly reassuring to know Paolo won't have to spend any time in jail. He's punished with ten years probation. That may still be a harsh punishment for him given his refusal to see how he did anything wrong. Antonio was furious enough to want to kill his friend. That's probably the most awkward part of the episode. Antonio cooperates with the police. He wears a wire in order to get Paolo's confession on tape. That's damning enough that a trial isn't necessary to resolve this case. He's guilty. There is no way to deny that or offer a different explanation for what was said. And then, Antonio goes to the closet and holds Paolo at gunpoint. He actually fires a couple of shots too. That's what gets the detectives to storm into the room and arrest both men. It's an effective way to go into the commercial break. However, no real consequences come from that action. It's meant to highlight the rage Antonio feels over his best friend abusing his daughter without him knowing. But it's also false tension as it's meant to keep everyone in suspense for no discernible reason. It's odd. Similarly, it's not all that exciting when Velasco and Mundy argue over what's real football. It's a pretty lazy discussion that doesn't really offer much perspective into who they are. Yes, it's thrilling that Molly Burnett is now listed as a series regular. She's in the opening credits alongside the rest of the team. Her addition has been appreciated this season. However, the show is still just getting its footing with these junior detectives. The stories are still primarily framed around Olivia and how she leads this unit. Her perspective is the most crucial because the audience has spent so much time with her across two decades. However, shallow interactions between Muncy and Velasco aren't going to cut it when it comes to developing the ensemble further as the unit expands and evolves. It was fun seeing Muncy in her brief moment undercover to get Ana to offer details about her relationship with Paolo though.