Sunday, January 29, 2023

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - Bell Learns Who Was Responsible for Her Former Partner's Death in 'Partners in Crime'

NBC's Law & Order: Organized Crime - Episode 3.12 "Partners in Crime"

After learning that an untouchable crime boss may have been behind her former partner's death, Bell enlists the task force to take him down. Stabler is recruited for a secret mission of his own.

"Partners in Crime" was directed by Tess Malone with story by Barry O'Brien & John A. McCormack and teleplay by Barry O'Brien

Bell feels determined to honor her former partner who was killed in the line of duty. For a decade, she believed his killer was behind bars. In reality, the true criminal has been allowed to roam freely and consolidate more power for himself. It's only after the events of the parole hearing that Bell starts to question the narrative given to her. She has never had any reason to doubt before. In fact, her former partner's family appreciates all that she has done. She carries this burden so they don't have to. That's not exactly healthy for her. But it's honestly refreshing to see the show present a case where Bell is the one with a personal stake in the outcome. So much of the series has been driven by Stabler. That's understandable considering his history with the franchise. However, Bell has long been presented as the co-lead of this ensemble. As such, she deserves to have many stories framed from her perspective. She should have as rich and dynamic a life as Stabler does. That balance is starting to come into focus here. It has always been a component of the show. Stabler and Bell's working relationship has always been fantastic. Sure, it was awkward just a few episodes ago when it seemed like Bell was shutting down the task force in order to advance her career. That drama was incredibly forced in order to create tension. It's simply better to see the personal motivation driving the story forward. This episode truly is nothing more than an introduction to this new conflict. However, it does so in a way that is informed by the characters and allows them to have a personal investment in the outcome. Moreover, it builds on the past. That makes everything seem like all that came before was leading to this moment. The task force could only take on Eamon Murphy because they have Teddy Silas' cooperation. They concoct this whole scheme to lure Murphy in so that he isn't immediately suspicious of what's going on. Everyone talks up the myth of just how powerful and untouchable Murphy is. It's much more important for the audience to see that right away. The show delivers through Murphy intimidating the wife of the man who took the fall for him all those years ago. He demands loyalty. He bullies her into providing that. He doesn't even care that Seamus comes in and starts talking business. It doesn't ultimately matter. He doesn't see this woman as a threat because he has successfully intimidated her. That's how he is accustomed to using his power and influence. That allows the audience to infer so much about him. That makes him one of the better antagonists right away for the task force even if it is inevitable that Stabler and Bell will create a scheme to successfully arrest him for his many crimes.

However, a man is stabbed in prison and the medical examiner rules it a suicide. It's all a convenient way to deny a basis for an investigation. No one has a legitimate complaint to pursue. That means Bell and Stabler embark on this pursuit of Murphy because of their convictions. They aren't doing so through legal means. Of course, they are still trusted as good and honest representatives of the police. That has been in doubt from time to time. This particular line of work requires them to tow the line of what's ethical. The lines are constantly blurred while undercover. They still have to be accountable for every action taken. The show hasn't really done a ton with the legal consequences from the various investigations. The end of each particular story is the arrest. That's typically not the end of the actual plot. It's where the show wants to leave things. It offers a clear and concise conclusion. It's often much more complicated than that. It would help if the show had an honest and consistent voice for the prosecution. And yet, every arc opens with some new prosecutor coming in and clashing with the detectives because of differences of opinion over the case. Again, that isn't atypical in this franchise. The justice system requires specific evidence to secure a conviction. The prosecutors often have to remind the detectives of that. In this case though, a prosecutor reaches out to Stabler proactively to show her vested interest in arresting Murphy despite the likelihood that he has help from within the police or her office. Of course, the audience should immediately suspect her motives. Any possible newcomer has to prove themselves before they can be trusted fully. Even then, the show has trained itself to always produce more drama that can compromise any character at any possible moment. That's evident with the introduction of Bobby's extended family and their connections to organized crime. It's clear he will have to repay this favor at some point. He's reluctant to do so even though he acknowledges there may be no other way to deliver a message to Murphy. It's ultimately Jet though who makes the most memorable impression right away. Seamus is immediately obsessed with her. That's a natural reaction to have to Jet's greatness. This suggests a much more pronounced story for her where she is pulled into the heat of the action. She's the one who interacts with Seamus and Murphy by the episode's conclusion. That will have to be exploited. It's just bound to create complications as well. All of this is solid setup. Now, the show has to build on this success in a way that is earned and continues to reveal genuine depths with its characters.