Thursday, December 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Rollins Says Goodbye to the SVU Squad After a Decade of Work in 'And a Trauma in a Pear Tree'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 24.09 "And a Trauma in a Pear Tree"

Carisi and Rollins work together on an important arraignment. Benson tries to make Noah's Christmas wish come true when a case falls in her lap.

"And a Trauma in a Pear Tree" was written by David Graziano & Julie Martin and directed by Norberto Barba

For a brief moment, the show tries to equate Stabler and Rollins' exits from the SVU squad. Olivia expresses how happy she is about Rollins and Carisi's marriage. It's something they both deserve. It serves as a remarkable evolution based on who they were when they first joined the team. Olivia remarks on that growth. She relies on their support in everything she does at work. Rollins sees her captain as deserving that happiness and joy as well. Stabler presents like a solid opportunity to pursue. Olivia still has plenty of complicated feelings towards her former partner. She still feels the sting of betrayal from how he left. His return to her life was just as traumatic. She now feels paralyzed because Kathy is no longer around. It's up to Olivia and Stabler to decide what kind of relationship they want moving forward. They don't want to risk doing more damage. That hasn't amounted to anything significant either. Olivia shares these feelings. And then, Rollins reveals she has decided to take the teaching job. That only brings up these emotions of betrayal again. The situations aren't the same though. That's why Olivia can move past it with Rollins and onto enlightenment shortly thereafter. They have a conversation about it which is something Stabler has never really wanted to do. It still creates an awkward moment where the two fight just as Rollins is preparing to say goodbye. This hour has to do right by Rollins. Kelli Giddish has been on the show for over a decade now. The decision to leave may not have been completely her own. However, this episode needed to be a celebration for all that Rollins accomplished. It's more important to celebrate the happiness of Rollins and Carisi getting married. It doesn't matter what is actually said in that scene or how the show builds up to that surprising moment. Of course, the viewer can't quite discount just how horrendous and cliche the dialogue actually is in that scene. It's truly awful. It's something about marriage being just like a crime. It's the show trying to be philosophical with its developments instead of just letting them play out as the earned moments they are. This is precisely what the audience wanted for this couple. The tension comes from how Rollins is going to tell Olivia about her decision to leave. It too falls into the cliche of not going well only for things to quickly improve. The final scene of the two in the squadroom is excellent. They continue to inspire each other. Sure, it's cruel that they profess a willingness to maintain their friendship even though they won't be seeing each other every day. The audience won't receive that grace. It's still remarkable considering the journey they have been on. Rollins is the one who has arrived at this place of happiness. She's willing to embark on a new challenge. Meanwhile, Olivia is stuck in limbo repeating patterns. She can't cut herself off from the same emotions. She has to be trusting of the people she lets in despite the horrors she faces daily on the job.

So much of this story takes place outside of the SVU's natural jurisdiction. Noah has found a half-brother he is eager to meet. Olivia is skeptical the entire time. This isn't the first time the show has featured complicated genetic relationships pertaining to Noah. Olivia stepped up and gave him a loving home. And then, the show kept throwing twists at her to potentially compromise that happiness. They have survived every threat so far. However, that likely led to the audience being afraid of what could happen with this latest twist. The show has naturally groomed the audience to always expect the worst. It instead offers a happy celebration here because it's happening around the holidays. Nothing bad or serious can occur at this time of the year. Olivia still finds a crime worth investigating. That mostly presents as a silly contrivance to explain why her fears are valid while also overcoming those urges to provide Noah with the happiness he needs. She doesn't want to deprive him of joy simply because she's afraid of what could happen. She doesn't want to cut him off from a family dynamic that could be really healthy. Of course, she's the one burdened with the truth about what Noah's biological father did. He was a heinous criminal who abused multiple women. The family has now expanded. Olivia has to go along with a lot. She can't fully let herself in. However, she provides that dignity and grace to her son. That showcases how wonderful and strong she is as a parent. Everyone comments on how great Noah is. She is raising him right. She doesn't need that acknowledgement. She doesn't need special treatment either. The local police are willing to erase the footage of her recorded in the motel room. Olivia and Rollins team up to arrest the criminals responsible. It doesn't quite have the same appeal as the typical investigation that plays out on the show. Neither does the trial that keeps the rest of the squad busy. That results in the judge declaring a mistrial. That overwhelmingly offers the sense that none of this ultimately mattered. That's not true when it comes to those decisions in real life. For the purposes of dramatic storytelling though, it acts as a reminder of past cases and the legal attempts to hold everyone accountable being more tricky than what was initially presented. The squad does a lot of good work. The narrative calling out bad behavior by the detectives isn't always consistent. Should everything Olivia and Rollins do be seen as legal? It's definitely the simplistic way to address their situation. Meanwhile, Muncy is justifiably put in the hot seat because she was so certain she was right. That arrogance costs the unit so much. And yet, Olivia isn't even aware of that. That's not really an encouraging sign either. None of this ultimately takes away from the celebration of Rollins. It's simply a bunch of baffling creative decisions stitched together without offering much reflection on the true complexities of this work. The impulses are understandable. The way the show connects the pieces is missing something that is usually so present when dealing with these heinous crimes.