Thursday, May 1, 2008

Law & Order “Bogeyman” Is Nothing to Fear

You can always tell when the episode begins with a disclaimer it’s fictional that the episode intends to take a clear swipe at someone or something. Despite the disclaimer, the inference is the target is Scientology.

The episode opens with a “Criminal Intent” feel (which I didn't really care for), showing Bradley (Daniel London) and Sofia Cameron at an art show for Bradley. Soon afterwards, we find Sofia dead in her car from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Suddenly, we see detectives Lupo and Bernard o the scene – with no explanation as to why Bernard is there. In my opinion, by having Bernard show up with no explanation as to why he is there was major misstep for the show and a bit of an insult to the fans. All it would have needed was one or two lines between Lupo and Bernard to at least set up something, but we got nothing. Later we do get that sentence from Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson), but even that was lacking.

At first glance, Bernard thinks this may not be a suicide because the victim has fresh cupcakes in her car. So, they investigate and find that Sofia, who is a writer, left no suicide note and also was suffering from some sort of writer’s block on her new book. In talking with the publisher, they discover the Cameron couple's involvement in a group/cult called “Systemotics,” and that they were both paranoid that Systemotics was out to destroy them. Further in the investigating, they question a close friend of Sofia, Kate Westwood (Nicki Aycox), who tells them that her baby had died, Sofia blamed Systemotics and a system of detoxing the baby, and that Sofia was planning to expose them.

Lupo and Bernard track down the baby’s doctor, Dr. Landry (Kristin Griffith), and don’t get far. Anita, looking at Systemotics books by Ellison Conway, begins to discuss Systemotics. Lupo’s sister in law, still working at the 27 as an administrator, shows up with a message from Bradley Cameron, who is asking for an update. Bernard advises Lupo and Anita that they were checking out Cameron’s alibis: the neighbors across the street, the people in the building, the fire department (who were in the area at the time). The gun is untraceable and they found gun shot residue on Sofia’s glove.

Lupo thinks that maybe they should check out the prenatal “audits” and Bernard suggests getting a UC (undercover cop) to help. Lupo cringes at the “weeks’ worth of paperwork,” and decides to go it alone, well, with his sister in law posing as his spouse. They are quickly identified at Systemotics as being suspicious and basically given the boot. Anita, of course, hears about this and chastises Lupo for his bad judgment, questioning whether Bernard was in on it with him, saying, “I brought Bernard over here because he was smart. I can’t imagine he went along with this.” I suppose this was the only explanation we would get on why Bernard is now at the 27, and I was very disappointed that this is all we got. Lupo, of course, denies Bernard’s involvement and seems to think that Bernard is the one who snitched on him:

Bernard: Don’t look at me like that; I’m not the one who snitched on you. I’m not the one who snitched on you.

Lupo: Yeah someone beat you to it, right?

Bernard: OK, look, I can’t shake the stench of the rat squad. My bad to expect you to be any different than anybody else. (Lupo’s sister in law walks by. Bernard says, referencing her,) That’s the problem with using amateurs. They don’t know when to keep their mouth shut

Getting a call, Lupo and Bernard race to Hudson General Hospital to find Bradley Cameron injured from a fall from a hotel balcony, claiming he was pushed. The find the hotel room ransacked and realize that Cameron got the room so he could crash a Systemotics meeting in the same hotel. They question Ellison Conway (Bill Irwin) and ask for fingerprints of his security people and for the video tape of the meeting. They also hear a 911 recording from two witnesses and realize that Cameron set up his fall to frame Systemotics. When confronting him, he admits it, but also tells the detectives that his wife was allergic to wool and would not have been wearing wool gloves when she killed herself. Lupo and Bernard continue to look at evidence, and while no fingerprints match Systemotics security people, in looking at the meeting video they discover Dr. Landry in the audience. Kate Westwood also admitted that she had told Dr. Landry that Sofia was planning on exposing Systemotic's involvement with the death of her baby. They immediately hone in on her, finding her doing a detox of a baby. She is arrested and the baby taken away.

The first half of the show seemed decent, but the second half falls flat. The case seems to focus more on the evils of Systemotics, which is seemingly the primary defense for Cameron. The whole case seems to revolve around the defense attorney Pace (Michael Stuhlbarg) trying to prove that Systemotics intimidates people, spies on them, maybe even eliminates them if they are perceived as a threat. Personally, I found this entire segment boring, because not only was it predictable, but also the prosecution failed to really concentrate on the murder of Sofia Cameron. For example, Kate Westwood, seemingly intimidated by Systemotics people in the courtroom, refuses to answer a question on the stand so her entire testimony is stricken. Mc Coy (Sam Waterston) tells Cutter (Linus Roache) and Rubirosa (Alana De La Garza) to get Westwood back on the stand, saying, “ When your car is skidding out of control, steer into the skid.” Cutter goes through the effort to get her to return to the stand and to stand up to Systemotics, and the only question he asks her is “ Did you love your friend Sofia?” That’s’ it??? He had to get her back on the stand to ask her that? If it was for the purpose of getting her previous testimony added back in, even that didn’t seem to offer much for the prosecution.

The defense also called Ellison Conway to the stand, clearly trying to bring out Systemotics methods and providing an alternative theory of the murder. He also questions him about compiling information on people, and indicates Systemotics could even have pulled information on the jury. In essence, her purposely wanted the jury to feel fear. Ellison’s testimony is rejected for that reason, but unfortunately they could not un-ring the bell.

After disqualifying one juror, more come forward later and Judge Laramie (Peter Francis James) is forced to declare a mistrial. But, Cutter still wants some time before that happens, and the judge gives him one hour. Cutter to use this time to cut a deal with Cameron, and, in the presence of Cameron’s lawyer, Cutter plays on Cameron’s paranoia and fear and tries to make Cameron think that he, Connie, and just about anybody else involved in the case is involved in Systemotics. Of course, he could have just been explaining how the criminal justice system works against criminals, but it was a clear move to scare Cameron. Of course. Cameron folds like it’s laundry day, and Cutter seems to leave Connie wondering if he really does have a connection with Systemotics.

Personally, I felt that despite all the evidence that Lupo and Bernard found that clearly implicated Cameron in setting up the murder of his wife to look like Systemotics did it, this seemed to have little bearing on prosecuting the crime. I get very weary of Law & Order episodes where it seems like the actual crime takes a back seat to sensationalizing some other topic. While I think the concepts and methods of Scientology are highly questionable, the show could have done a much better job at bringing an expose to the forefront by possible actually implicating Systemotics in the murder. I am sure the producers wouldn’t want a lawsuit, so they took this half-hearted swipe at them, and left it at that. I also found myself wondering, since Linus Roache is personally involved in a real life organization that also has been reported as being cult-like (see link here), that maybe they didn’t want to draw any attention to that group as well out of respect for Linus? Still, they could have done much, much better with this storyline and I think the weak second half of the episode ruined the whole show.

Anthony Anderson made a good first showing, despite seemingly being dropped in from the sky into the 27 with virtually no explanation as to why Anita wanted him over anyone else. OK, so she thinks he’s smart, but does this mean that there were no other detectives out there that are smart too? I would have preferred a more elaborate explanation, something like “He’s smart, and I was really impressed with his work and decided that he’d be a great fit.” I think they dropped the ball big time here.

There was no big story here, no drama, no thrill. Even the actors seemed to be going through the motions in the second half. ‘Bogeyman”, in my opinion, was just a big tease.

Bogeyman - 2 minute replay

Bogeyman - Excerpt

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Anonymous said...

The writers really need to give the actors something to do, in order for them to do it. This entire season, they've been generating a push and pull between Cutter and Connie, and then with this episode, they abandoned it all together. I don't know if it was the writing, the directing, or a combination of both, but it was horrible.

samfan said...

I was happy with the first half of the show, maybe only because I was surprised it worked out well with the chemistry of the characters and it wasn't in shambles. I was disappointed with Cutter again this week, I think maybe it was them stearing away from the cult view of his group/religion. I was happy with Waterston's parts, he got more screen time. I really would almost say that they could have taken Cutter out of the episode compltely and it would have worked out better. I am really surprised how they didn't explain how Bernard got Jesse's spot. Besides that, the detectives did alot better than I expected. I guess that, if one part of the show was going to be bad this week, I thought it would have been the first half not the second. Did anybody see the previews for next week? My cable station/NBC went black at the end, after the credits so I didn't get to see the previews. Great post as always

All Things Law & Order said...

Samfan, my channel also cut the preview very short, so I only got a few seconds of it. I have been looking for something I can post, but NBC is very slow AND stingy when it comes to making video available (unlike other networks).

hiedi said...

If you watched the previous episode, Burn Card, Kevin Bernard's appearance would make sense. Ed Green leaves the show during that episode, after being tried for murder for a bad shoot. Bernard was part of the rat squad, but ends up working with Lupo to exonerate Green. Bernard also comments to Van Buren that he had been thinking of working homicide when he was done with internal affairs. Make more sense now?

maxruehl said...

I was just wondering--do you happen to know what the music is that's playing at the gallery in the opening scene of this episode? Thanks.