Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Law & Order SVU “Cold” Left Me That Way

The season finale of Law & Order SVU – “Cold” – was somewhat predictable. With the news of Diane Neal’s and Adam Beach’s departure from the series, plus after seeing the previews for the episode, viewers had to know that something would be happening to both that would cause them to leave, or be taken from, their jobs. At least in the case of Chester Lake (Adam Beach), his problems were made obvious in the preview. (By the way, the synopsis of this episode previously released by NBC wasn’t entirely accurate.) This episode lost many points with me for being so close to the story line with Ed Green's (Jesse L. Martin) departure on Law & Order, where Ed was also involved in a shooting. Can't the writers be a little more creative?

The episode opens in Philadelphia, PA, where Chester appears to be participating in some sort of meeting about an open case. He is also accompanied by Penelope Fielding (Deirdre Lovejoy), who was also had involvement in the case. In a separate scene, we see Casey Novak (Diane Neal) at some sort of cocktail party, seemingly being offered another job outside of the Special Victims realm.

Detectives Benson (Markisa Hargitay) and Stabler (Chris Meloni) are called to a crime scene by Cpt. Don Cragen (Dann Florek). When they are confused as to why they are there at the scene of a shooting of Detective Edward Kralik and the injury of another person, they are shocked to find that the injured shooter is none other than Detective Chester Lake.

In the hospital, Chester invokes his right to not make a statement for 48 hours. Stabler continues to pressure Lake but he stands firm. The SVU squad is perplexed, and Stabler gets on Fin’s (Ice-T) case about how well he really knew his partner, since it appears Chester had been disappearing once a month to Philadelphia for quite a while. Fin pushes back to Stabler, but also decides to visit Chester in the hospital, and still gets nothing.

In further research, ME Warner (Tamara Tunie) informs Benson and Stabler that three of the gunshot wounds to the detective were non-fatal, and appears to have come from behind. Stabler assumes that Lake shot Kralik in the back, and then moved in closer for the kill shots. It is amazing to me how quickly Stabler turns against his fellow detective.

To make a long story short, they find that Chester was working with Fielding on a murder of a young girl, Elisa Hernandez, and have been chasing down the murderer for 10 years. Fielding is part of something called the “Vidocq Society". It is believed that Kralik was Hernandez's killer, but is also seems that Celina Cruz (Victoria Cartagena), an illegal, may have also been present. She is refusing to help because she too may have been raped by Kralik or an accomplice. Munch goes back to get the original DNA evidence.

In the meantime, Benson and Stabler go back to the hospital for Lake, and find he has skipped. Stabler assumes that Fin tipped off Lake, but rather than ask Fin directly, he has Fin’s phone records dumped. Fin is livid, saying that while he did talk to Chester about them coming, he did not expect him or encourage him to skip out. Again, Stabler shows that he doesn’t trust his own co-workers, despite working with someone like Fin for quite some time.

The detectives work to track down Cruz, who they find is absent from work after leaving with who they believe to be Lake. Stabler again jumps the gun and assumes Lake has her hostage. It appears that Stabler’s brain has permanently left the show. Cragen, though, says it’s “hard to believe that he’d (Lake) be so reckless.”

Upon further review, there is evidence that a second shooter was at the scene where Lake shot the detective, and Lake may have been shooting into that void. Benson and Stabler got to the home of Kralik’s wife, who is there with three officers from some sort of fugitive apprehension team. The cops are riled when they are questioned about their knowledge of Lake from the days he works the case.

Later, it is reported that Lake is pinned in an abandoned building with the “hostage” and Fin goes barreling in to try to talk sense into Lake. He succeeds, and Lake tells Fin that someone by the name of Bill Jensen, lured him into the area with Kralik probably with the intent to kill him since he was getting close to cracking the old case. All the while Benson and Stabler discover that a shooter is lurking on a nearby rooftop, waiting to take out Lake. It is Thomas Crane (Jack Gwaltney), one of the members of the fugitive apprehension team. He quickly becomes a suspect in the original crime and possibly the person who lured Lake and was shooting at Lake when Lake shot Kralik.

We fast forward to Crane’s trial, where Celina Cruz is testifying that Kralik and Crane broke up a fight between her and her friend Elisa and got them into their car, where they raped the girls, and where Kralik killed Elisa. Cruz indicated that she was able to escape. The defense attorney Donna Emmett (Viola Davis) makes Cruz’s testimony questionable when Cruz’s status as an illegal is highlighted.

ME Warner, meanwhile, warns Casey that the DNA evidence is degraded and she cannot make a definitive match with Crane. Casey pressures Warner to stretch things a bit, but Warner wisely stands firm. Later, when Warner testifies about the evidence, she speaks the truth, and the defense surprisingly asks no questions of Warner. Lake takes the stand, and gives his account about being lured by Bill Jensen, who he now believes was Crane, the scenario ending with Lake shooting at Kralik to defend himself. When Lake is questioned about the same DNA evidence that Casey and Warner had discussed, Lake says he could not recall that the he was told the DNA evidence was degraded. The defense attorney calls for an immediate mistrial, saying there is a cover up and conspiracy going on and Lake perjured himself, and the prosecution violated “Brady.” Casey argues back, saying that no one did any such thing.

The defense attorney argues the point in chambers, and Casey says that the DNA testing wasn’t complete – something we all know is a lie. The defense attorney also says that Lake lied because the evidence intake officer told him the DNA was too degraded. Casey’s argues that this intake officer was no expert. The judge gives Casey until the close of business that day to present the DNA evidence. The defense attorney also says she is issuing a subpoena for the appearance of Penelope Fielding to testify for the defense.

Fielding testifies, after prodding, that in her expert opinion, the partial DNA profile was based on the equivalent than less than a single human cell, and that she could not say with certainty it belonged to Crane.

The jury is deadlocked, and a mistrial is declared. The jury is polled. We then see Cruz being taken away, presumably because she is illegal. Lake tells Elisa’s father Hector not to do anything stupid. Casey promises Lake she will re-file.

Fin later tells Olivia he is going to check on Lake because Lake is not answering his phone. Fin approaches Stabler, and Stabler tells him he’s sorry about how he handled things. But Fin is clearly annoyed and tells Stabler that he is too quick to judge, and he’s a good cop, but a lousy human being. He also tells Stabler he knows what this cost him, and when Stabler tells him he appreciates that, Fin comes back with, “The problem is, you will still be the same rat bastard tomorrow, and nothing you say will ever change that.” After Fin leaves, Munch (Richard Belzer) shoves something into Stabler’s hands – which is Fin’s transfer request.

We are then taken to the office of Judge Donnelly (Judith Light) who informs Casey that Casey is being called before the bar, at Donnelly’s insistence. When Casey asks why, she says it’s because she lost perspective, and also because of a Brady violation. Donnelly knows that the lab reports were dated and stamped, and Casey is lying about them not being finished. “No one is falling on their sword for you.” When Donnelly asks why, Casey says, “Because the bad guys can’t always win. He deserved to pay.’ Donnelly quickly comes back with, "And so do you. " When Casey asks how much trouble she is in, Donnelly tells her censure, possible suspension for one year, maybe more. When Casey asks the question, “What should I do?”, Donnelly responds, tersely, “Something else. “

Clearly upset, Casey gets a page, calling her to another crime scene. She, along with the rest of the SVU squad, see Thomas Crane dead, along with Chester Lake being led away.

OK, there were a lot of things happening in this episode. Maybe too many things. I understand that they had to try to wrap up two characters’ fates here, but it seemed a bit too incredible. For example, I am not quite clear on why Chester first refused to talk to his fellow detectives. Was it a matter of trust? If so, what did they do that would cause such mistrust? And Chester gets on Fin for Fin not trying hard enough to get to know him. It seemed out of place. Since when did partners have to be best buddies? Considering that Lake was the new guy on the block, shouldn't HE have tried harder to understand Fin? It would seem to me that Chester would want his fellow co-workers to help him, seeing that he’s watched them work as a team. If anything, I would have thought he would have trusted Cragen, the one guy who could have been in his corner.

It also seemed a little too incredible that Stabler, although quite the hothead, would so completely turn on his fellow detectives at the blink of an eye. Who is Stabler at this point? Do they want us to think that he is still struggling with some sort of inner demons? Sadly, Fin nailed it when he said Stabler would continue to be a “rat bastard”, and it seems clear to the viewers that the writers are continuing to dumb down the character of Stabler until he becomes a mass of rage and anger. Such a waste that they can’t seem to get Stabler to grow as a character.

Casey, who started in the show as going by the book and rarely taking any risks with her cases, has seemingly gone off the deep end and is willing to lie to put someone behind bars. I don’t think that we’ve really seen anything happen to Casey that would drive her to such an extreme so her behavior seemed to materialize out of nowhere with no trigger, Maybe that cocktail party and job offer was just too much for her to handle, because she sure seemingly went over to the dark side right afterwards. It seemed very out of character for her, although we do know that when Casey started with Special Victims she did ask to be relieved of the job almost right away. It could be that her need to break the rules was just simmering under the surface.

If anything, the episode showed that there is some sort of undercurrent within the SVU group of mistrust and possibly hatred for each other. It could be that they are setting things up for fireworks within the team next season.

"Cold" NBC Two Minute Replay

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Deleilan said...

I'm almost glad I missed this one... except that I didn't get to say "Goodbye Chester!" in an ironic voice and call Stabler an ass.

By the way, the correct spelling is "Vidocq". The Society takes its name from Eugène François Vidocq, a brilliant 18th century crook-turned-crooked-cop.

All Things Law & Order said...

Thanks for the correct spelling, deleilan!

Hilary said...

Thanks for the recap. I was confused throughout the entire episode. What a disappointing season finale!

Debbie said...

I came across your blog while trying to find info. on the SVU episode "Cold"-thank you for giving us L&O fans such a good synopsis!

Toni said...

Agree with you on almost everything here; I found the way they wrote ADA Novak off to be lazy writing, the writers never really gave viewers a chance to bond with Lake, so his departure felt like an "eh," to me, and I've long been unhappy with Stabler's character. I actually cheered when Fin laid into him. Nice recap; really enjoy your blogs.

Anonymous said...

Great synopsis, thanks! Viola Davis (not Kimberly Elise) played Donna Emmett, per the IMDB's listing of the cast. -Victoria

All Things Law & Order said...

Thanks Victoria! I fixed the synopsis to reflect her name.

Rob said...

I think the "reasoning" behind Lake's silence is that he knew some rogue cops were after him and Celina. If he told his colleagues what was going on, it would become common knowledge and the bad guys would track him down.

John K. said...

Good eye on the comparison to "Burn Card." This somewhat worked better as there was better dramatic irony: we didn't really know Lake's character, as such. Conversely, "Burn Card" failed because Green's actions were rookie-lite, not by someone who has been around for years and years, and should know better as a cop. That, and McCoy's non-role, plus all the padding. Getting back to here, it was established that Lake was a cop for 10 years, so his excuse may be tenuous, like "Burn Card"'s.

As for Novak's departure, I collected my thoughts on that here.

Essentially, she pulled what McCoy did in "Under the Influence," only more noble, but still shafted.

The real character problem is, the ending has no clear direction for either two characters and their motivations. Frankly, both fates deserve additional episodes (Lake's trail and Novak's censure), but that isn't going to happen. So, does it all matter? It's like Borgia to the fans: the writers want us to forget, but we won't. And chances are, we'll be forced to pretend Novak and Lake didn't exist forever onward.

Meanwhile, Stabler abruptly decides to go by the book, even though, he's getting to be incredibly incompetent (see this and the prior two episodes). Liv's becoming the same way. Fin's now the Jerkass (like he'll transfer out, right?), Don's useless and Munch suffers silently.

I can't wait for Season 10! Heh.

That said, I just ran across your two L&O blogs tonight, and I like the cut of your jibe, as the kids say. Particularly, as it's nice to have a fan who is enthusiastic, but not above calling on the franchise's flaws. And it's gettting worse. By comparison, the 05-06 stories were far more brilliant.

All Things Law & Order said...

John K. - thanks for your insight and for your blog link.

Despite some of the show's recent missteps, I also can't wait for next season!

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with this synopsis. When ADA Cabot left we got to say goodbye to her, it was sad yes, but the way that we were expected to say bye to Casey is just plain wrong. Couldn't they have done something more exciting, and what about Lake?
Anyway, here in Australia we wre only up to season 9 (agasin) after watching a re-run of season 9 earlier in the year. Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni have to be mentioned in these episodes. I wold have to say that without them I don't think the series would survive somehow as they have really good chemistry between them. Anyway can't wait to see season 10.

daniel said...

Hey, i know im very late but i was wondereing if anyone here could post a link/links for to watch this episode, as i have not seen it?

But from what ATLAO has wriiten this episode sounds bad, especially how casey was written out,but thanks for the review/recap.

AH3RD said...

There is no joy in SUV-ville -- mighty Casey has struck out. <:^(

Scott Barker said...

Chester Lake was a top cop and a terrific human being, shame his character had to leave this way although I feel nothing but admiration for what he did by killing that dirty cop hence preventing future victims since tht scumbag would have continued to do unspeakable things