Law & Order SVU’s “Signature” had so many possibilities. The underlying story was interesting. But major flaws in its execution made this episode almost painful to watch.
The story centered on Benson’s (Mariska Hargitay) and FBI Agent Cooper’s (Erika Christensen) investigation of a murder at the hands of a known serial killer, and then for the murder of the serial killer himself. It was somewhat disturbing – a word I rarely use to describe an SVU episode – to see the serial killer’s place of operation, and to see the TV playing what appeared to be a recording of a victim’s graphic torture and screams. It really displayed that SVU investigates heinous crimes, a word used in their introduction but a trait that seems absent from SVU for a while.
The flaws in the show are many. First and foremost was the guest star, Erika Christensen. With the exception of the final scene in which she appeared, she was absolutely horrible. In some of her initial scenes, her voice seemed as if it had to be dubbed over. Her delivery was flat and lifeless. As far as the character she played, most questionable was her grabbing a scalpel-like object to cut open the tape over a victim’s mouth. What was she thinking by holding an object over the victim that was likely used to torture the victim? If her wooden acting was supposed to convey a detached FBI agent, it really didn’t work. I found her character to be highly annoying.
We also could have done without super detective (sarcasm intended) Chester Lake (Adam Beach). His method of putting himself in Agent Cooper’s mind while searching her apartment was laughable. SVU seems intent on making Chester out to be some kind of magical Sherlock Holmes style detective or profiler who can get in a suspect’s head or who always has the most obscure piece of knowledge to help solve a case. It’s not working. I’m getting tired of Chester and he needs to go.
Another annoyance is that when one of the show’s major players is missing, the story never seems to explain it. Did I miss an explanation for Stabler’s (Chris Meloni) absence? And where is Munch and Fin? SVU has repeatedly messed with the chemistry of this show and it is really dragging it down.
Getting back to the ever-wise Chester, how come it apparently never seemed to cross his mind – or Benson’s for that matter – that Agent Cooper had another gun in her possession? It seemed to obvious to me that once they walked into Cooper’s apartment and saw her sitting at a table with her gun and badge on it, that a suicide was coming. Just because they pulled the gun off the table and she said that her mentor’s gun was taken apart and disposed of doesn’t mean that she was truthful about that gun. Poor work on the part of the writers here; they seemed to make the detectives put down their guard once the gun was off the table. Benson’s reaction was gripping, though, although it did seem to telegraph “ for Emmy consideration.”
Benson’s defense of this FBI agent was also misplaced, considering that she just met this woman and really didn’t know much about her. Yes, I know she told Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) something like “You don’t know her” but Cragen reminded Olivia that she didn’t really know her either. Olivia’s “spider senses” seem way off this season.
And count me still confused as to why an EADA pulled the case against the agent. I thought they had enough evidence to proceed with the case.
My suggestion to the writers and producers at Law & Order SVU is to go back and look at the episodes from the first two seasons. There was grittiness to the stories, and a chemistry with the cast, that is absent lately. “Special Victims” seems less than special.
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