Monday, August 18, 2008

Criminal Intent “Last Rites” Gets My Blessing

Finally, Mike Logan’s fire returns to the Law & Order franchise with Law & Order Criminal Intent episode, “Last Rites.” Too bad it was his last episode with the series.

This episode begins with a priest, Father Shea (Law & Order repeat offender Denis O’Hare) hearing someone’s deathbed confession that he murdered three people 16 years ago in the South Bronx. It leads the priest to Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth), where, due to his inability to spill the details of the confession, the priest unloads only a tiny part of the story, just enough to get Logan to ask questions. The priest was a friend of Lennie Briscoe, Logan’s partner when Logan was working at the 27th precinct. Wheeler finds that there’s only one murder that fits the information the priest gave, and it was of Peter Bottner, his wife, and their unborn child. The big problem is that someone is already in jail for these murders.

Logan decides to take on re-opening the case, which is good for Randy Nichols (Chris McKinney), who is in prison, already serving 16 years of his sentence, and who has been claiming his innocence all along. But it seems that the young prosecutor, ADA Terri Driver (Leslie Hope) who led the case against Nichols, who is now a the Queens DA, “made her bones” on this case, and she’s not willing to let the detectives imply that she made a mistake, especially now that she’s running for the position of Attorney General. But Logan had a run in with her previously (in the episode that aired last week, “Neighborhood Watch”), and she thinks Logan has a vendetta against her.

Detective Wheeler (Julianne Nicholson), on the other hand, is willing to help out Logan, despite the fact that Captain Ross (Eric Bogosian) seems to be in quite a snit about the political ramifications of taking on the case. While working the case, we are also given the impression that Wheeler is also getting ensnared in the politics of the case. It seems that someone had Wheeler tailed and photographed at a benefit by Credit Belgique that she attended with her fiancé, Colin (Jonathan Cake, Nicholson’s real-life husband), who is the general counsel for the firm. Later on in the episode, Wheeler seems to think that it’s backlash from Driver from her involvement with Logan on the murder case. I am not sure this is the case, though, since the benefit and photographs occurred before Logan had taken on the closed murder case. The photographs are given, anonymously, to Captain Ross, who shows Wheeler that someone seems to be making a connection that Colin, in his job with the Credit Belgique financial institutions, has mob connections.

The triple murder case itself seems rather simple and one that anyone working hard enough on it originally could have figured out. Driver seemed to have used questionable witnesses to make her case, using a prostitute who was locked up for soliciting at that time to say that she saw Nichols drag one of the murder victims from her car. She admits it was raining at the time of the murder, so she really didn’t see, but that the ADA exchanged helping her with her solicitation charge if she testified on the ADA’s case. The father of the murder victim also seems torn about the matter, saying that if they get Nichols to confess to the crime, he won’t appose parole. But when Logan and Wheeler try to get Nichols to confess, he says he doesn’t want to admit to a crime he didn’t do and doesn’t want to get out on a lie. He said he was breaking in to a car at the time.

Complicating matters, Father Shea was stabbed multiple times while he was in the prison chapel, and Logan implies that Driver had Father Shea stabbed to keep him quiet. Wheeler thinks Logan is being paranoid. Logan feels that she’s the only one that could have known that the priest had information.

In talking with members of the Bottner family, they speak to murder victim Natalie Bottner’s sister, Maryann, and find that her husband, Dylan Farlis, was good friends with Peter Bottner and worked with him at Bottner’s father’s company. They later uncover that Farlis was a man of many identities, one actually belonging to a woman named Dylan Farlis, who “lent” her identity to him years ago so she could cover up money she was making from selling “pot to Yalies”. Farlis also got the CFO job after Peter’s death, and it seems he was embezzling a lot of money from the firm. Farlis had also used another identity of a person named Jared Bellon, who died in a car crash in 1987.

They go back to Alan Bottner (James Murtaugh) to give him the latest news, who tells them that he had already repaid all the money embezzled by Farlis and didn’t press charges. He then fully realized that Farlis was a con man, and that his son Peter may have been on to it and was murdered to cover up that fact. But at the time of the murder he wasn’t aware of it, and assumed that the news his son wanted to tell his father was about Natalie’s pregnancy. After their murder, Dylan Farlis dropped off the face of the earth, so Allan Bottner could never confront him of the embezzlement. But, with a piece of fake memorabilia in Alan Bottner’s office given to him by Farlis from a new company Farlis had, they find Farlis' real name is Marty Swenders. Swenders was in prison for robbing a dealer at a New York trade show, and died of cancer and TB at Bellevue, the day Father Shea came to see Logan.

Going back to Maryann, Farlis’ wife, they discover that Farlis left his car in the street the night of the murders and the car – a red Audi - was broken into. She didn’t report it with all that happened with the murders. They check further and find that this validates Randy Nichols alibi. Logan and Wheeler go back to Driver to give her the news, but she’s not buying into it at all. Logan forcefully states his case, and makes the accusation that the ADA took the easy way out with the case, just to make a name for herself. She threatens to take away Logan’s shield if he proceeds, and he is incredulous that she thinks HIS job would be on the line, seeing is that she’s the one who had witness lie on the stand, and withheld evidence. She calmly comes back with, “You’re not too bright are you Logan? I gave you fair warning.”

But Logan is undeterred, and takes matters into his own hand and talks to the New York Ledger about the case and about his accusation that Driver covered things up, intent on protecting her bid for AG. Ross has a fit over it, and Wheeler is stunned when Logan admits what he did. When Logan says “War is hell” and tells Ross that he knows that Driver put a hit on a priest, and they all looked the other way, Ross asks “Are you trying to get yourself fired?” Logan says he wants her to come after him.

Driver, of course, tried to mitigate the problem by holding a press conference to announce he is having the Bottner murder case re-opened and Randy Nichols released. Ross notifies Logan that the commissioner is calling about the case, and Logan refuses to be intimidated. When Ross asks Logan where Wheeler is, he says she’s “driving James Bond to JFK.” As Wheeler is dropping off her fiancé, they seems to have been having a discussion about the case and that the Driver may be coming after Colin. She asks him if he knows Vito Guardino, the mob guy, and right at that time, they find themselves surrounded by the Feds, and Colin finds himself under arrest for money laundering, racketeering, and fraud in the first degree. Wheeler, sitting at the wheel of her car, looks devastated.

Logan, meanwhile, pays a visit to Father Shea, and questions him about the “deathbed confession” and Logan seems to think that the way Shea handled it was a cop-out, hiding behind his oath, Logan demands an apology, because he thinks Father Shea was just using vows and oaths as a cover.

Logan: If it wasn’t for your vows, and your oaths and your protocol, my partner’s life wouldn’t be in a shambles. I wouldn’t be hanging on to my job by a thread.

Father Shea: And I wouldn’t be HERE. I did everything I possibly could

Logan: That’s not good enough!

When the priest asks Mike if he has any family, he answers no, and when Shea asks himself if Logan’s ever asked himself why, Logan says no. Father Shea seems to think Logan is not connected to anything, which is why his life is in the state it’s in. His advice to Mike is to “get out.” He’s done his duty, served, and protected, and there is another world out there that Mike has just not been able to see. Mike thanks him “for that thought” and apologizes if he seemed disrespectful, he’s just not good at doing what people think he should e doing, even when a priest tells him what to do.

Father Shea: Take care of yourself, detective, and may God watch over you.

Logan: That ought to keep Him busy.

With that, we see Mike Logan leave, with no definitive closure on what he plans to do next, or what happens to him. Personally, I am OK with this, because I think this leave the door wide open for a later return for his character and for Chris Noth. They also let him go out doing what he always did best, buck the system, make waves, and solve crimes.

This episode probably had some of the best writing all season for the Logan/Wheeler pairing, and actually made them seem like real people. I smiled when Wheeler came in to One PP all dressed for the night out with Colin, and Logan says, “Wow, Wheeler, you clean up good,” which sounded like typical Logan. Also, they gave Eric Bogosian some lines that had some actual meat in them. For example, when he is annoyed with Logan pressing so hard on the case, Ross exclaims, “What’s the matter, you miss Staten Island?” They also gave Ross a more forceful encounter with Logan toward the end, when Ross appears to be at his wits end with Logan not seemingly caring about the trouble he’d gotten himself into. Finally, Bogosian has been given some scenes and some lines that allow him to show more range, unlike the wooden delivery we’d seen earlier this season.

I also like the fact that while Wheeler and Logan may think that Wheeler’s fiancé is in trouble because of DA Driver, that I’m not sure this is the case. After all, Wheeler was being tailed and photographed before Logan re-opened Driver’s murder case. Of course, it could be backlash from the previous episode, so anything is possible. I found myself really caring for Wheeler and what happens next with her story. That look on her face when Colin was being arrested seemed very real. And, while I don’t really care for recurring characters in the Law & Order universe – such as Goren’s tormentor, Nicole Wallace - I can see the character of DA Driver coming back in various ways to create problems for the Ross and his staff. It's hard to tell if she's just got a few character flaws, or if she's completely over on the "dark side."

The bottom line is that I think this was a nice exit for Logan and for Chris Noth. He was finally given a story that allowed him to emote more like the Logan that we saw in his initial years with the original Law & Order series. But, it also had the added benefit of giving us a Mike Logan who also had experience and his “exile” to Staten Island under his belt, which actually made him better at learning how to get his point across, even if it meant taking another career risk.

While I’m sorry to see Chris leave the show just when they seem to have made him more interesting, I have the best wishes for him and any of his future endeavors. And here’s one fan that will always keep the door to the Law & Order Universe open for Mike Logan and Chris Noth.

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Music Wench said...

Agreed on all counts. My initial reaction to the end was kind of surprised. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. Not sure I like it still but you have a good point about leaving things open ended.

I think it was an excellent episode overall.

Now I'm going to be stewing all week about the final Goren/Eames.

samfan said...

I really enjoyed the episode, at least more then the previous Logan/Wheeler episodes. I thought the story was good, it wasn't too complex but it was interesting. I will miss this side of Logan, the old Logan, I just wish they would have had more episodes like this one! Great review! I totally 100% agree on all points. I am looking forward to see how they bring in Goldblum ( I hope I spelled his name right)

dragonfang196 said...

Why don't they end it with a real ending like the DA going to jail for her actions? many LOCI episodes end like this, unfinished (for me anyway) so i end up unhappy and wanting more to conclude it. i did real like this ep but i wanted the SOB da put in her place.

DarrenKeith said...

this was an intense episode. I did not know hwo this was going to twist. I kinda like Nicole Wallace(she was a cutie pie) but over all I hope this gives Vincent some peace of mind because he had so much to deal with these past years.

On your blog, I am going to put your link on my blog because just when you think you are a L&O fan you meet someone who blows you out of the water. Thank you for your coverage of these shows and I will spread the word about your site.

Very good job...very good. ^_^

Paula Long said...

Last Rites was great ep. Will miss Logan whom I loved. Goren and Eames were always my fave but loving the others too. Goldblum great also. I hate to see any of the detectives leave, but by Logan leaving he was freed up to play Mr Big on S A T C. My fave couple Carrie and Mr Big since Scarlett and Rhett Butler.