Thursday, May 11, 2023

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Reunions Abound as Benson Uncovers a Vast Rape-for-Hire Network in 'Bad Things'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 24.21 "Bad Things"

Benson and Carisi are baffled when a series of assaults have the same M.O. but different DNA at each crime scene. Muncy believes Elias Olsen has struck again and is determined to prove it.

"Bad Things" was directed by Juan J. Campanella with story by David Graziano and teleplay by Julie Martin & Nicholas Evangelista

Benson and Stabler have investigated many cases together. They relied on each other as partners for a long time. That connection still remains strong. They currently have the capacity to reach out for help. That was missing for a decade. However, they found that trust again. Of course, it was made awkward by their close call of a romantic pursuit. It wasn't the right thing as their emotions were simply too heightened. They were afraid for their personal safety. Benson and Stabler will always protect each other. That's true on the job and in life. They haven't really spoken since that moment. Instead, they've focused on work. That was always their prior excuse preventing anything from happening between them. They could never risk the bond they had on the job. That was a priority for a long time. Space allowed them to have better clarity on what this partnership was. They still have fond memories together. They also have the potential of something more happening at some point. Right now though, the job brings them together once more. It's only a brief tease at the conclusion of this episode. It sets up a crossover event between the shows that will continue to play out on Organized Crime. The power of seeing Benson and Stabler together is still mighty. Benson and Carisi put the pieces together about a massive rape-for-hire operation. However, they don't have the evidence to prove it in a courtroom. They soon realize part of the scheme connects to what Stabler and the task force have been working on lately. Benson is amazed at how depraved and twisted this scheme is. It's unlike anything she has ever investigated before. As such, it's reassuring to have Stabler by her side for what comes next. Of course, it was refreshing for Carisi to ride with Benson for awhile. He too was part of the police investigations before making the transition to the D.A.'s office. He understands how this unit works. Moreover, he knows Staten Island. Every borough in New York City has been struck. The M.O. is similar in many of the cases. And yet, the evidence left behind doesn't point to a singular criminal. It's so much larger than Benson could have imagined when she simply responded to the latest crime scene early in the morning. She leads with the same compassion she always does. The tale is more than a tourist being raped in her hotel room. She's not the only victim. It's only an hour before the second crime is reported. That requires Fin and Velasco to also interview victims in the hopes any clues can point to a larger pattern. That's unearthed. Benson brings in reinforcements. This is just the start of something new. It's terrifying and daunting. However, Benson and Stabler are towering figures in law enforcement capable of exposing everyone response for these heinous crimes.

While the main story is just setting up the larger narrative of the crossover, Muncy and Churlish are relegated to a story offering a concise conclusion. Every time Muncy's obsession with Elias Olsen has come up this season it has felt like a tangential concern. It was a way to keep her busy while also padding out the episode when it would otherwise be filled by a thin story. And yet, it's fascinating to see the evolution the character has gone on in the span of a year. Benson knew she would have to mold Muncy into a different detective because behavior from her former assignment isn't acceptable at SVU. And yet, Muncy always carried herself with the right instincts to connect with victims. Similarly, Churlish has proven herself as a detective capable of putting in the hard work even though she has her eyes on a promotion to the top of the police ranks. These two have formed a bond despite clashing early on. Sure, Churlish comparing them to Cagney and Lacey is a little forced. It's a relatively dated reference. The show aspires to tell something refreshing and new after all. The case they investigate simply carries eery parallels to a sinister crime Muncy handled early in her SVU tenure. This case has served as the example for what not to do. Muncy made mistakes that allowed Elias to be acquitted. He wasn't held accountable for his heinous crimes. That gave him the freedom to do it all over again. More families are destroyed because of his actions. Benson cautions Muncy not to get ahead of herself. Muncy sees the similarities long before others are willing to accept it as true. She sees precisely what's going on. Her instincts are ultimately affirmed. Elias did abduct a man and hold him in a makeshift cage in the woods. He fed him with candy for a month. The victim was rescued but died from dehydration at the hospital. That denied Muncy immediate certainty of knowing Elias was culpable. That was never in doubt for her though. She knew to bring the evidence together proving that the pattern was the same. The victim was different. This time it was a father who suffered the wrath of Elias. It was painful and depraved. Muncy's fine police work provides clarity and closure to the family. They didn't save the victim in time. He died after being missing for a month. Muncy wish she knew this happened earlier. That's not when she was given this case to investigate. Instead, Muncy and Churlish follow the clues. That leads them to Elias. He remains an intimidating figure. He threatens the detectives so easily. The focus remains firmly on Muncy as she decides how to conduct herself. She may disregard the severeity of the danger she was in. She still leads with sympathy. She feels the pain of Elias' childhood while acknowledging that shouldn't spare him from imprisonment for the rest of his life. She is grateful for the tools Benson and Fin have provided her with on this job. That has made her a better detective. She still has to put in the work every day. However, everyone can safely acknowledge that progress and genuinely be happy with her response.