Friday, February 9, 2024

REVIEW: 'Law & Order: Organized Crime' - Stabler Family Secrets Are Exposed During a Dinner for Bernie in 'The Last Supper'

NBC's Law & Order: Organized Crime - Episode 4.04 "The Last Supper"

Bell and the team must keep a witness and her family safe from Los Santos before she testifies. Carisi asks Stabler to back off the case to preserve the integrity of his undercover work. Stabler hosts a chaotic family dinner.

"The Last Supper" was written by John Shiban & Liz Sagal and directed by Stephen Surjik

It's difficult to escalate personal family drama and intense action at the same time while allowing the audience to remain invested in both. The structure of this episode does so marvelously. It's a natural extension of the delicate balance Stabler has with the various aspects of his life. He wants to be devoted to his family and the job. A lot of the time work comes at the expense of his family. Eli wants his father to be more present in his life. He has low expectations when he comes back to town for the big family dinner. Stabler finally gets to meet his son's girlfriend. He hears about what's happening in his life. It's not a promise to do better though. It's just a simple showcase of all that Stabler is missing. He's told he can't be part of the protective detail for Bryanna and her family. Her testimony has the potential to take down what remains of Los Santos. The task force busted the criminal organization's fentanyl operation. People were killed. That wasn't the end of their story or the threat they pose on the innocent citizens of New York. Despite that, Stabler believes he's missing out and must remain updated on everything that happens.

Stabler needs to be on top of every detail in order to be effective at his job. He allows Bell to deal with the bureaucracy. That frees him to trust his instincts. They were right when it came to listening to Officer Bashir. The newcomer is promoted to detective and joins the task force. That's a welcome development. It also proves how the unit is moving on. No one wants to forget Jamie. However, they can't linger on his memory for too long. Otherwise, they will no longer produce results. That's the only thing keeping this unit afloat. Bell has fought countless battles to preserve the integrity of what the task force does. It's still always under threat of being disbanded. It perpetually remains understaffed. Bell knows the level of manpower needed to keep this family safe. The unit only gets two additional officers as backup. When the house is targeted, Stabler makes it there from his home before the local precinct responds. That's not to suggest some concerted effort to prevent the task force from succeeding. It's just the reality of doing this job. The members of the task force can truly only count on each other for support.

It's devastating when Bell gets shot. Stabler explodes with rage. Throughout the evening, the son presented as easier to handler than the daughter. She was freaking out about having to leave her life completely behind. She outwardly hated the people who killed her father. She doesn't blame the criminal lifestyle he was a part of. She doesn't trust the cops who are trying to keep their community safe. Bryanna believes she is in danger. She is committed to testifying. It's the right thing to do. She asks for support in helping explain the situation to her children. They are targeted because of this betrayal. Assassins come to eliminate them. The task force has enough surveillance to respond accordingly. They prevail too. Bell's life is still in danger. A person's true feelings could only be concealed for so long. Once an opportunity presented itself, he took it. Of course, that means Bryanna and her daughter are now being protected by federal agents. That's probably what should have always been done. Instead, the task force was trusted because prosecutors were building a case with state crimes. They kept it local. The extent of the threat extends behind the city though. Everything that happened was extremely consequential. Stabler gets suspended for his response.

Randall warns Stabler not to behave like their father did when he got suspended. It comes out during dinner that Randall was kicked out of the house when he was a teenager because he reported his father for corruption. Randall and Bernie were abused by Joe. Stabler has been willfully blind to that for a long time. It's only being exposed now because Bernie can no longer leave things unsaid. Randall assembles this family dinner as a big send off to her before entering assisted living. She doesn't want to forget why she needed Randall to come either. Stabler's understanding of his family is uprooted yet again. He has had to grapple with a lot of revelations about his father in this line of work. He has aspired to do better. And yet, several members of this family push others away to deflect from dealing with their issues. Therapy has only done so much good for Randall. Meanwhile, Joe Jr. is lying about why he was discharged from the military and the wine business he is now involved in. Stabler and Randall know that. They find common ground on that. They each have to make an effort to be present in each other's lives. Randall hates New York. He is planning on extending his stay because that's what Stabler and Bernie need. This family may not come together like this ever again. Right now, it forces a lot of issues into the open for each of them to digest internally and hopefully do better in the future. The mistakes of the past can't be repeated again. That's always the risk given the parallels between Joe and Stabler as well as the introduction of Joe Jr.'s adulation of Stabler.