Friday, January 19, 2024

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: SVU' - Olivia Takes the Disappearance of a Teenage Girl Personally in 'Tunnel Blind'

NBC's Law & Order: SVU - Episode 25.01 "Tunnel Blind"

As the squad celebrates the birth of Rollins and Carisi's child, another child goes missing in broad daylight.

"Tunnel Blind" was written by David Graziano & Julie Martin and directed by Norberto Barba

After 25 years at SVU, Captain Olivia Benson thought she had seen it all. She still maintains hope, compassion and joy after all these years witnessing the most depraved aspects of humanity. And yet, the job still surprises her. That's a quality that has allowed the series to have a lasting legacy. It can sometimes be heavy-handed with its themes. However, it always has its pulse on the numerous ways in which advances in technology are being used to commit these heinous crimes. The entire squad is frustrated by the lack of legal consequences for the manufacturers of sex dolls that resemble teenage girls. Maddie's image was stolen online and used to produce this product used by people to live out their sexual perversions. The squad had to believe Maddie was targeted in some way. Someone lurked around her life that caused concern for her family. However, they are all completely innocent. They moved to New York City recently for a better life. Instead, they were greeted by this tragedy. No conclusion is reached either. SVU saves a missing girl. It isn't Maddie. She is still lost.

Olivia beats herself up for not doing more when she suspected a young girl was in distress. She rarely doubts her instincts. In this situation, she wasn't sure what she saw. She thought it was unusual for a teenage girl to be sitting in the front seat of a delivery truck. It distracted her from her conversation with Noah. She was capable of providing just enough details for the subsequent investigation to pursue. However, she was made to believe she was crazy. She projected her job onto the world around her. She thought she saw the worst and didn't react. In reality, something terrible was happening. Maddie didn't look like she was in distress. The squad believes that meant she went willingly with her abductor. He was probably someone she knew and trusted. She didn't have anyone in her life who fit that description. Moreover, the abductor knew how to avoid all the surveillance. In fact, it was a lucky break that Olivia saw what she did. She provides a meaningful lead to pursue. However, she still carries it personally that she hasn't reunited Maddie with her family yet.

Maddie's likeness was replicated even down to the bracelet she always wears. Maddie knew that personal item could help identify her. Olivia champions her bravery and intelligence. But that's the only clue that comes from the stolen van. Maddie was only in it for a short amount of time. Yet it carried a vast history of numerous employees who used it simply to conduct their job. The abductor didn't work at the company. He stole it and discarded it when he was done. He knew where to abandon it so that too would provide no surveillance. He knows how to disappear into the shadows. He just does so by also taking girls with him. He makes them compliant by giving them drugs. He only has room for one passenger on this journey across the country. That's seemingly the only reason why Maddie is still alive. He throws away his former victim by attempting to kill her. Olivia gets there in time to save her life. That victory is celebrated by McGrath. He wants a press conference right away to ensure the public remains confident in the SVU's ability to do the job. That doesn't provide any comfort to Maddie's family. They are still broken and traumatized.

Olivia won't take off Maddie's bracelet until she is found. That's the second meaningful piece of jewelry she's now wearing. She wears the compass she received from Stabler around her neck. It provides meaning for her. It points her in the direction that matters most in that particular moment. The job has always been important to her. She still believes she could have done more. She needs others to help put things into perspective. Maddie's abduction wasn't her fault. She couldn't have stopped it. She had no reason to be suspicious. She believes she knew better after everything she has experienced over the years. One moment, she's happily celebrating the baptism of Rollins and Carisi's child. And then, she struggles to find Maddie. A name is given to the criminal. He's George from Canada. He enjoys riding on Amtrak. Those clues are important. They hardly narrow down the search. That means Olivia has to be comfortable living in the unknown. Maddie is still out there. Olivia will never stop looking for her. However, the job is more than one case This one carries personal significance for Olivia. It shakes up her world. Now, she'll have to balance the search with every other responsibility she has to the job, her friends and her family. That's a huge emotional burden. One that signals a season full of turmoil for the lead character even after all these years at the center of this story.