Saturday, November 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - The Detectives Navigate a Brutal, Unhinged Crime with a Precise Clean-Up in 'A Better Person'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 24.08 "A Better Person"

The SVU hunts for a violent suspect who killed a detective's child. Rollins ponders a potential opportunity.

"A Better Person" was directed by Michael Pressman with story by David Graziano and teleplay by Brianna Yellen & Margaret Rose Lester

Detective Mark McDaniels isn't secure enough in his masculinity to accept his child for who she is. When the absolute worst happens, he is more concerned about how he will be perceived by his colleagues than the murder of his child. All of his family relationships have been destroyed because of his narcissism. He is unable to connect with people as they truly are. He projected his views onto the world. He believed everyone should line up with his understanding of life. That's simply absurd. He doesn't have that power. As a result, Aida's killer is allowed to attack again. That's the burden that will forever weigh on the detective. He gathered all the evidence that could have led to Lucas' arrest. Instead, he was too ashamed of his child living as the proud trans woman she was. Aida was finally gaining the confidence to tell the people in her life. Her mother was her best friend. They talked every day. They were honest about how she was feeling. And then, Aida received rejection from a friend. He too was worried about how all of this would be perceived in their local bar they believe isn't welcoming to any outside perspective. Of course, that's not true at all. It's all what people project onto the situation. They need an excuse to blame their prejudices and bad behavior on. Nothing can turn back time and allow the interaction to happen again. Instead, Aida was targeted for being a trans woman. People are right to be afraid of what can happen to this community. They are targeted simply for being who they are. Their sheer presence is enough to enrage people simply because they can't understand the fluid dynamics of gender. In their bigoted minds, gender has always been a binary construct. It can't evolve. It doesn't have many different expressions. It's meant to only be one thing. Aida was confident enough to live her truth even though that didn't line up with the small-minded people of the world. She was aware that it could lead to more hardships. It's what she had to do. She was beaten to death because yet another man refused to accept what this attraction meant about his own sexuality and identity. It was much easier for him to embrace the violence. He was aroused by the damage he could inflict upon these bodies because he believed the people themselves didn't care about them. That's horribly dismissive and tragic. Bodies change over time. That's true of people who don't transition. The life people have before and after can be radically different. Just because someone was a wrestler in a former life doesn't mean they still carry themselves with that same mentality and skillset. That was one aspect of who they were. It's not the totality of their being. Their physicality has evolved to better display who they are. They want to be honest with the world too. It's simply depraved to realize how cruel so many people still are. They act on those impulses with such blatant disregard too.

Of course, Detective McDaniels eventually comes around and celebrates his daughter. He understands the importance of using her chosen name. He talks about her with the right pronouns. He couldn't do this in life. It's only in death that he has come to realize how limited his worldview has long been. It even opens the possibility of reuniting with his ex-wife. They share grief over the same child they love. That's enough of a connection to build on. However, the detective still confesses to a felony. He tampered with a crime scene. He hoped it would provide dignity in death. It was actually the opposite. He wanted to preserve his own dignity without caring about what it meant for his child and subsequent investigation. He didn't advocate for her. Olivia is tough but firm with what he needs to do. He needs to be honest about how he altered the crime scene. The squad knows two distinct events happened. They don't line up with each other. The murder is a violent rampage. It's messy and disturbing. And then, the cleanup is very precise and detailed. It took time and conviction to make everything present a certain way. Both stories played out on Aida's body. She had no control. That agency was taken from her. It's up to the squad to bring that honor back. They do so while mourning the loss of life. They pursue justice for her death. It doesn't heal all wounds for the loved ones left behind. They are at least able to grapple with the full life Aida lived. They accept that. Olivia and Rollins detail the many ways in which all of this is necessary too. However, it's all meant to prop up how well Rollins will transition to a career teaching. On the witness stand, she essentially gets to give another lecture about the complex nature of gender identity and the psychology of everyone involved in this case. It doesn't come completely out of the blue either. She has long operated as a detective with a deep understanding of criminology. She applies that to the job. And now, she'll have the opportunity to do so elsewhere. The storytelling could make it more clear that it's an active choice on her part though. Sure, it's all informed by her getting shot and recovering. She realizes the dangers of the job in a new way now that she has a family. However, Carisi is popping the champagne to celebrate when the job is simply offered. Meanwhile, Olivia and Fin refer to Rollins as professor simply because they know it's what she is going to do. It all showcases immediate support from the people who have been there for her for over a decade now. It didn't have to be so passive on her part. She should have an active role in her forthcoming departure from the squad. This update makes it seem inevitable. It's going to happen. That drains some of the intrigue and excitement out of it.