May 18, 2006

Finale Report: Law & Order: SVU - "Influence"

I started late, but over the years I have sampled all of the Law & Order flavors, including the ill-conceived Trial by Jury. The only one I still watch is Special Victims Unit. That may end up getting cut from my viewing lists come next season. As much as I have enjoyed the shows, they tend to get a little repetitive. But that is neither here nor there.

This episode features sex, violence, drugs, and rock n' roll. Everything you need for a first rate episode of SVU. We open with a janitor walking in on an impromptu threesome in the men's room of a high school. Two boys flee from the stall leaving behind a young girl, crumpled and crying on the floor. She looks up at the janitor and says she was raped.

Detective Benson is the first on the scene, and is able to get the girl to name her attackers. Stabler picks them up and takes them back to the station for questioning, while Benson talks to the girl. The boys claim that she propositioned them, telling them the time and place, and that is was most definitely not a rape. The girl, on the other hand, says she was forced into the bathroom and held to the floor during the attack. Who's telling the truth?

The boys are about to be arrested when Benson gets Jamie, the young girl, to recant her story. It turns out that she had wanted to date this guy, but he had a rule about not dating virgins, so she sought to, how to say, rectify that situation. So, the boys are freed, as is Jamie. But the relief does not last long as their is a car accident outside, Jamie attempted suicide by running her car off the road, through a group of pedestrians and into a wall. The accident injures 6 and kills one, leaving Jamie a ranting mess.

The whole situation takes a turn when it is revealed that Jamie is bi-polar, and that she had stopped taking her medication. It is this fact that led to her erratic behavior and false accusations. When questioned about why she stopped, she did it on the advice of her idol, rock star Derek Lord (played by one of the Boondock Saints, Norman Reedus).

Lord is clearly inspired by the recent drug insanity of Tom Cruise. Lord is shown in news clips railing against psychology and the use of psychotropic drugs. Being a huge rock star and author, he is an inspiration to many youths who take his word as gospel and stop taking their potentially life saving drugs, Jamie being one of them.

When Jamie is arrested for manslaughter, Lord shows up to pay for her defense. This development makes that much harder to get a fair trial, but the trial goes on. The turning point comes when Derek Lord is put on the stand, and it is revealed that he had undergone forced psychiatric treatment, including electro shock treatment, to cure him of a mental disorder. This throws his arguments out the window and allows the jury to find the defendant guilty of manslaughter.

The episode was heavily Benson based, with only a few scenes with Stabler. There is also a rather humorous scene with Munch and his theories on psychiatry. I do take issue with Benson's mode of dress, I know Mariska Hargitay is (was?) pregnant, and there is a need to disguise it, as her character isn't, but was it necessary to have her wearing that big bulky coat the whole episode? I found it distracting. Outside of that, the performances were good, and the story was also. I enjoyed Reedus' guest spot. I am surprised I haven't seen him in more things.

As I mentioned earlier, these series tend to be a little repetitive. I have noticed that there isn't a heck of a lot of character development, everything is self contained, and there is nothing in the way of story arcs. I guess that is what makes these shows ideal for syndication. It also makes it wasy to jump into any given episode, no backstory is needed. But I tend to like shows that have a bit more of an arc and development.

In any case, this was a good finale, and still the best of the Law & Order franchise.

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