LAW & ORDER: SVU “Pursuit” Review

LAW & ORDER: SVU Pursuit Season 12 Episode 17

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT “Pursuit” Season 12 Episode 17 – It just seems like the wheels really are coming off. Law & Order: SVU used to be a good show. I swear it. Ten years ago. Five even. What’s happening?

In “Pursuit,” we get Debra Messing playing stone-faced Alicia Harding, host of the To Catch A Predator-inspired show “Neighborhood Predator.” I like Debra Messing, generally speaking, and the fact that she hasn’t changed her hair in over ten years is sort of like comfort food. I also like the fact that she’s letting her face show a little age (how wonderfully Annette Bening of her), though there were times during the show I wish she’d allowed that face to reveal her character’s emotions. Other than a few trips into “outright pissed” territory, I wasn’t getting much. Just a little, here and there, and then back to stony anger.

Which is more than I can say for Mariska Hargitay (Detective Olivia Benson). Far be it for me to suggest anyone may or may not have undergone facial treatments, but it’s either that or her makeup has been applied so thickly as to resemble a rubber mask that is incapable of anything nearing emotion. Even when she forces tears down her shiny cheeks it looks unnatural.

Now look, I know this probably sounds like one of those rancid little Hollywood gossip shows that try to disguise their bottom-feeding muck raking by slapping “entertainment” somewhere near the title, but I could honestly give a flying crud about who did what with a Botox needle. Seriously, those gossip shows are garbage.*

What I focus on is realism. I hound this all the time, I know, but if the show purports itself as a serious drama, I need to be able to feel like the people around me are real. Detroit 1-8-7 does it. Hell, The Chicago Code does it, and they even have to make us believe it while parading a legitimate hottie like Jennifer Beals in front of us.

So am I buying the fact that Olivia Benson’s unmoving features are simply due to the hardening of her heart rather than her face? You want to say that? Does it get you through her scenes? Fine. But for me, if I can’t find the emotion in the character, it’s a mark against the show.

At least she doesn’t look bored, which is more than I can say for Chris Meloni (Detective Elliot Stabler), who just looks like he’s said every single one of his lines a thousand times before. Luckily for us he wasn’t in much of the episode. Stabler’s “concern” over a “distraught” Benson, following the murder of ADA Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti, seemingly close to tears in every single scene she was in) was like a film school example of two lead characters that have no chemistry whatsoever. Dude wanted to be anywhere but there.

Speaking of “not there,” someone needs to kick the editor. Unless Benson suddenly developed the power of teleportation, explain to me how she was sitting down and interviewing a suspect one moment and was then seen entering the interview room the very next frame. I mean, maybe she had to use the powder room or something, but that sort of speed is remarkable. This isn’t … freaking … No Ordinary Family. I hope.

The episode wasn’t a complete waste. I’m not giving it an “F,” though it’s nicely tucked within the “D” range. A strong example of exemplary emoting was given by that first suspect, Scott Lasky, played by a visceral and quietly enraged Scott Parkinson. A pity his role was obviously a one-shot event. Another thing I liked was the premise; having the detectives working with a predator-catching reality show could open more than a few good story hooks. It’s too bad Messing’s Alicia had her story come to such a quick conclusion, catching the sociopath who’d murdered Alicia’s sister so many years ago – the very event that set her on this nouveau-vigilante path.

… Which was another issue I had: the ending. There’s a reason I stopped reading most comic books years ago: many of the villains had a habit of waxing poetic in a Dr. Evil sort of manner once caught, twiddling their evil thumbs beneath their evil chins and mocking everyone, as though this misplaced bravado might somehow save them from their grim future of being sodomized by “Tiny” in cell block G. Christian Hoff played that very same caricature of a villain, Adam Grafton, a smug psycho who we basically learned nothing about. He went on his staple madman ramble (“I killed one for every year of my life”) and —

And basically it ended there. I think Alicia got in some version of a minimized “You’ll burn in hell” soliloquy at the very end, but that was it. Cut to credits. We don’t even get to know about Grafton’s connection to Alicia or her sister.

I’m curious what they’re waiting for. The episode wasn’t To Be Continued. The next episode isn’t even about this case. Are they waiting for Messing to find some free time to come back and do the trial? Or are they basically saying, “Grafton was a psychopath, there was no connection. The end.” I’m not sure.

I’d like to use the rest of my allotted space to throw a question out to the hardcore longtime Law & Order: SVU fans out there:

How would you improve the show? Do you agree that it needs a good fixing? Hell, I think it needs a spanking. And a shakeup. Wipe the team, start from scratch.

Or am I just completely off base here?

* All except for TMZ, which makes absolutely no apology for what it is. Plus Harvey Levin is a hoot. And a lawyer.

Unlike Harvey Levin I am not a lawyer, but you can follow me on Twitter anyway! That’s @Axechucker, you sad pieces of meat.