Thursday, January 31, 2008

Law & Order “Political Animal”: Big Red Herring, Yet Still Hooks This Viewer

It’s going to sound like I didn't like this episode, but I really did. Just bear with me.

The NBC promo people – and the Law & Order writers – have gone all out this time, by highlighting a scene or possible suspect that really had nothing to do with the case. The whole “Larry Craig inspired” scenario was played up big on the previews for the show, yet really the whole gay cruising angle really had no bearing on the case. I can’t stand it when they waste so much time on a red herring. Was that a veiled political statement when Anita (S. Epatha Merkerson) just threw the whole arrest report for “The MVP” in the trash and Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) says, “So basically, we just played "smear the queer" with an innocent man?” This show was full of political statements that were a little too obvious.

Of course, we got to see a few political candidates parodied in this episode. You know they are going to have very obvious imitations of real life people in an episode when it begins with the whole disclaimer that the story is “fictional” and doesn’t represent any real person or event. They really took the biggest shot at Hillary Clinton, with the completely low blow of referencing that people think that she had Vince Foster killed over Whitewater. I get so tired of shows dredging up things like this that really don’t add anything to the story except to take a shot at a real person, especially when that person is running for political office.

Of course, Jayne Atkinson (as Melanie Carver) pulled off the Hillary character very well. Law & Order fans will know Jayne as a “repeat offender” in the Law & Order Universe, appearing on two previous Law & Orders as two other characters, plus a stint on SVU as another character.

This episode delivered some witty lines. Van Buren starts off with the detectives, when she says, "Unless you wanna slip into something sexy and buy the guy a drink, you need to start arguing over who goes on stall duty." I was amused when Lupo – AKA “Lupes” – wins the toss. Of course, Green (Jesse Martin) gets the comeback later, saying "Hey! Gilles' [John Doman] friend confirms his alibi, and he wants to know when he can meet Lupes in the bathroom." Were they also making a statement by calling the department store where there was “cruising” going on in the bathroom “Hellman’s” as if that’s where all those men would be going? Very strange, I thought.

McCoy (Sam Waterston) had a few gems. I found it very ponderous when he said “They call it free speech, but apparently it’s very expensive.” Later on, Jack is in a restaurant with Melanie Carver (Atkinson). To me, it was a questionable meeting for Jack to undertake. Has McCoy suddenly been struck dumb and not think that this meeting could later be used against him – or her, especially while she seems to have some involvement in an on-going case? I found this to be out of character for Jack. During this meeting, they have a discussion where she asks Jack, “Have you ever heard of New Yorkers for Good Government?…They want you to run for a full term in the next election…They admire you because you're not a politician." Jack responds, "So they want me to become one. Ironic, isn't it?"

Cutter (Linus Roache) and Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) had a very even and balanced performances. Both seem very natural and believable in their roles, and Cutter is finally seeming much more confidant.

A scene that seemed hard to believe was when Vargas (John Ortiz) was in the DA’s building bathroom, and Carver steps out of the stall. (A lot of things going on in the bathrooms in the Law & Order Universe.) I mean really, this man was supposed to be so crafty yet he wouldn’t have smelled a set up and that Carver was wired? Anyone with half a brain would have run in the other direction. When Carver was discussing the subsequent recording with Jack at the end of the show, and left him hanging about whether there was more to the tape, it left me wondering. Is someone who is wired able to just stop the tape? Why wasn’t she wired with a transmitter so someone else could capture the recording? I found that odd.

Even though I picked apart this episode, I did like it. Why? Because the characters really seemed to work together well. Everybody seemed comfortable in their roles. It made me feel like I was watching an older episode where I was a fly on the wall watching real cases, not watching actors reading lines. So for that, I give this extra points. And that is no red herring.

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Anita Daher said...

I'm fairly new to your blog (reading for a few weeks now), but wanted to let you know I really enjoy your thoughts. I can't get enough of Law and Order (fresh episodes, or repeats), and your blog helps me fill the space in between :-)

All Things Law & Order said...

Thanks Anita - I'm glad you're here!

gahks said...

Hi Chris! Just watched this ep... really good! I miss the mothership :(

Chris Zimmer said...

Yes, I really miss it too!