"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Friday, January 19, 2024

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit season 25 premiere: Better Than Ever

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, season 25, debuted on NBC last night.  Good old-fashioned broadcast television.  And the season 25 premiere of this superb series -- there is reason, actually, more than one reason, why the series has lasted so long -- was better than ever.

[And there are spoilers ahead ... ]

First of all, Mariska Hargitay, who has played Olivia Benson, who has moved from Detective to Captain since the series began on the doorstep of the 21st century in 1999, is an incredible actress, delivering a continuum of emotion ranging from tenderness and compassion to searing outrage with an ease and effectiveness that makes you think she actually is Olivia Benson.  Same for her supporting staff, which now consists of Ice-T as Sgt. "Fin" Tutuola, Peter Scanavino as ADA Sonny Carisi (who started as Det. Carisi), Kelli Giddish as a Professor at Fordham Law (yes! I'm looking forward to saying hello to her in a faculty meeting in an alternate reality; like Carisi, she started the series as a Detective, and the two are now happily married; she has much less screen time now as professor, though), and Octavio Pisano as Det. Joe Velasco, are all in fine form, too.  (But here's a minor complaint: how come Det. Terry Bruno, played Kevin Kane, isn't featured in that zoom-in photo in the beginning at the episode?  He's a major player on the squad.)

The basic plot of this premiere episode was outstanding, too.  A 15-year-old girl is kidnapped.  Benson soon after sees her in the kidnap vehicle as Benson is driving her son.  Her SVU instincts tell her she's seeing something wrong underway, but a blinding sun and understandably talking to her son get in the way of her immediately following through on her instincts.  This in itself is one of the best beginnings of any Law & Order: SVU, with Benson having even more motivation than she usually has, which is maximum, to find the kidnapped girl and bring her home safe and sound.

And this sets up a painful but realistic ending of this episode, with Benson and the SVU team unable to find and free the kidnapped victim, at least for now.  Hats off to the SVU writers and producers for going with realism rather than a happy ending.  (As my wife said, their skills didn't diminish at all during the time off for the strike).

Other parts of this show I really liked: the toast to Munch even before the kidnap; the introduction of Carisi's cousin as a possible but unlikely romantic interest for Benson; the introduction of the New Jersey SVU detective Mary McKenzie (well played by Cindy Lentol), whom I hope Benson brings into the Law & Order: SVU team, and the montage of scene shots, also before the kidnapping, of Benson's work for SVU over these 25 years.

So good to see the show back in business!

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