Sunday, January 29, 2023

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Olivia Is Determined to Convict Oscar Papa for as Many Crimes as She Can in 'Blood Out'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 24.12 "Blood Out"

As Benson and Carisi put a vengeful crime boss on trial, Fin tries to help a woman who was drugged and left for dead. Velasco takes drastic action to get information from a witness.

"Blood Out" was written by David Graziano & Julie Martin and directed by Patricia Riggen

Olivia and Duarte have different objectives within the NYPD. That was immediately apparent during their first interaction. Olivia was determined to investigate a rape case while Duarte was hoping to use those charges as leverage to flip two criminals into testifying against their boss. Duarte was solely focused on taking down BX9. That was the gang growing more powerful in the Bronx. Olivia didn't have the same lived experience of knowing what this organization was doing to the neighborhood. She was far removed. She was leading her precinct in Manhattan. She was still targeted. Her actions were noticed by Oscar Papa. He needed to send a message. He targeted Olivia and Noah. That made this incredibly personal. Olivia found a way to transfer to the Bronx for a little bit in order to investigate fully. She was suddenly just as invested in taking down Oscar Papa as Duarte was. She finally understood where he was coming from. And yet, Olivia wasn't wrong for advocating for victims of sexual assault previously. The storytelling makes her seem like she made this massive mistake. It certainly provoked personal trauma onto her family. That leaves her too distraught and vulnerable to think about a possible relationship with Stabler. That too comes across as the show just teasing the audience. It's something that could happen. It's just not going to happen right now. It's simply more important for Olivia to be at peace with her family. She looks at a picture of Noah with his newly discovered half-brother and is amazed at how normal it seems. Her life is chaotic. One moment she is having a drink with Duarte. And then, he is brutally murdered. That's how Oscar Papa operates. He needs to kill whomever jeopardizes his operation. That makes it curious why all of this builds to Oscar Papa essentially making Olivia and Carisi's case for them. He orders a hit on Duarte from the prison phone. He knows the call is being recorded. He ultimately wants to be in prison. He can still operate his business from a place of authority and respect. His imprisonment doesn't change that. Of course, that runs the risk of making all of this incredibly pointless. It no longer matters how many witnesses die or are threatened. Olivia worked hard to reunite a family and help them escape BX9. They are terrified to testify against Oscar Papa. And then, none of that matters whatsoever. It's so odd. It's meant to bring the focus back to Olivia. She ultimately has to be comfortable with the deal made. She absolutely should have that power as she was the victim who started this entire investigation. However, she is hardly the only one whose life was forever changed because of what Oscar Papa ordered.

It's simply meant to be a good enough resolution that Oscar Papa will spend the rest of his life in prison. That's the sentence he delivers for himself. It's not exactly comforting to hear Carisi talk about how long the criminal will remain behind bars. It's more important for Olivia to get confirmation that her son will no longer be in danger. Oscar Papa essentially does all of this because he believes Olivia would actually do anything to protect her family. He accepts this deal as his new reality because it allows him to continue to prosper. It eliminates this threat. He acknowledges just how dangerous it is to have Olivia as the cop with the vendetta against him. He still flexes his muscles and shows just how much power he has. Duarte's death determines that. And now, Olivia has to take him at his word. It's all meant to close this story arc out completely. Even then, the show wants there to be lingering consequences from all of this. Olivia went to the Bronx to fix the broken SVU unit under federal investigation. She barely did any work in that regard. Fin was the one often paired with Detective Bruno closing cases. The one they stumble upon here is mostly an afterthought. It's horrifying when they discover an unconscious woman in a garbage truck. But the story has nothing more than that ominous visual. The show is basically trying to do too much. At the same time, it doesn't have enough time to navigate the nuances of each particular situation. That means moments happen that should be a big deal. They ultimately come across as convenient storytelling devices to keep everyone busy. It certainly leaves Fin impressed with Bruno's conviction to the work. He wants to discuss possibly bringing him to SVU in Manhattan to essentially replace Rollins. Olivia can't hear that right now. She has too much going on. Amanda may not be the only detective who needs to be replaced either. Detective Churlish records Velasco giving drugs to a reluctant witness in jail. That's bound to have major repercussions. When that moment is actually happening though, it never feels like a serious offer. It's not something that's natural or in line with who the character is. It's simply a dramatic twist meant to cause further trauma for the detectives. Olivia can't have a moment of peace because her detectives are always getting into trouble. That leaves even less time for the work of providing a voice to those who have been abused by the world. It's all complicated without offering much substance. That's a severe disappointment from a show that always manages to be thought-provoking with its ideas. This arc was just a massive flop overall without really bringing the characters forward in an interesting way.