Congratulations Olivia, it's a boy!
Law & Order SVU “Spring Awakening” could have been the series finale, but lucky for fans – and the cast and crew - that the show was renewed for a 16th year. As a season finale, it worked to set the stage for more personal stories next season. Season 15 was heavy on personal drama and, at times, the quality of special victims cases has suffered. In “Spring Awakening,” the SVU case felt like an afterthought and was too contrived regarding Benson's custody of Baby Boy Doe.
Some fans may be happy that the episode ends with Benson having custody – for one year – of Baby Boy Doe/Noah. I have mixed feeling about it. Benson desperately wanted a child so I am happy for her that she has what she wants, at least for now. The custody issue could become a built-in arc for next year at this same time, and it could end well, or end with her losing custody, the latter not a happy ending for Benson. Either way, baby-centric stories don't do too much for me so I hope we won't have too much focus on the baby next season. (Updated note: We never actually hear Benson agree to take the baby, so who knows, maybe she was simply trying to decide at the end of the episode.)
While emotionally I am happy for Benson, my rational mind thinks the manner in which Benson got custody wasn’t realistic. Would a judge grant custody to a person that hasn’t been officially vetted, especially if she is aware of the recent turmoil Benson has suffered? I know of people who jumped through more hoops to adopt a rescue dog from a shelter. While the judge has been aware that Benson is very interested in the welfare of the baby, this does not mean that Benson is the right person to take charge of this child. Raising this child may help Benson in her healing process, but clearly Benson needs to keep her job, so it’s likely someone else will be taking care of Noah while Benson is working, with erratic, long hours at times. I suppose in the case of this baby, whose foster parent assignments have been inconsistent, Benson taking charge could only be an improvement...so we hope.
Had this been the series finale, I would have been underwhelmed, mostly because of the SVU case. The episode provided a well deserved happy ending for Benson, and it was great to see Richard Belzer return as Munch, the voice of wisdom, stability and reason. It was also nice to see Peter Hermann (Mariska’s husband) having a very visible role. (What fan doesn’t think that Benson and Langan should throw caution to the wind and get together?) It was disappointing not to see Raúl Esparza, who, despite appearing in the first billed credits, seems to be missing from episodes more than he is in them. It’s also a shame that we had to watch Donal Logue’s story arc end; he’s a fantastic actor and his presence added so much to the show. I wish him all the success in his new series. But the case was predictable and I felt little suspense. I watch so many crime shows that I admit I may be getting desensitized to them. There are only so many variations on special victims crimes and it could be a plus that the writers are throwing in some personal drama to bring new interest to the Special Victims Unit. All I ask for is drama that doesn’t feel recycled. With the amount of involvement IAB is having with SVU as of late, I suggest a spin off series “Law & Order IAB” and get them out of SVU’s face for a while. SVU has been going to the IAB well a little too much which may contribute to my feeling of repetition with some of the personal drama stories.
A more serious issue is that I question whether I like, or care about, the SVU characters any more. The exception: Benson. Despite Benson’s recent problems with beating William Lewis, lying about it, and then going off on her own to apprehend him, I still consider Olivia Benson one of the most interesting and respected characters on television today. But that’s about it for this show. Amaro has anger and control issues, which feel stale. I have no real interest in watching Amaro work through his problems because, frankly, I am not sure I like him. Too often, he acts like a controlling, know-it-all, spoiled brat. Rollins has a gambling problem, she has questionable judgment with sex partners, and in this episode, she lowers herself to blackmail. It’s hard for me to find anything redeeming in her, and strangely, I can’t even put her in the category of a character that I love to hate. She's a character out of a bad soap opera. Fin is just…there. Barba adds a spark - when he's there. Some of the lead characters are too heavily laden with angst and after a while, I feel like they are a lead weight around my neck. They never improve, they only get worse. They don't use their brains and don't learn from their mistakes. I’m not asking that they all suddenly find happiness and everything is unicorns and rainbows, I simply don’t want all their flaws thrown in my face with every episode while the victims are relegated to window dressing.
I struggled with this review. I've read it 5 times now and it sounds like it was written by a person who hated the episode and hates the series That is not my intent. It's because I DO care about the series that I am critical of where I believe it is going wrong, and praise it where it goes right. Law & Order SVU is a show with strong bones, strong leadership, strong writing, and solid acting, but it sometimes needs some tough love. I'm glad it has another year and hopefully we'll have new surprises in season 16.
Here is the recap:
Mariska Hargitay – Sergeant Olivia Benson
Ice-T – Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Danny Pino - Detective Nick Amaro
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Richard Belzer – John Munch, Special Investigator
Donal Logue - Lt. Declan Murphy
Emma Greenwell - Ellie Porter
Peter Hermann - Counselor Trevor Langan
Raza Jaffrey – Prosecutor
Jessica Phillips – ADA Pippa Cox
Michael Potts - Sgt. Cole Draper
Jason Cerbone - Counselor Desappio
Gavin-Keith Umeh - Little Tino
Kate Blumberg – Mrs. Wilkes
Jayne Houdyshell – Judge Linden
Michael Mastro – Judge Serani
Raushanah Simmons – Prosecutor
Edwin Lee Gibson – Tino’s Attorney
Joshua Malina - Simon Wilkes
Karl Miller – Hans Erhard
Sonia Manzano – Judge Gloria Pepitone
Sara Contreras – Alminia Aguilar
Karen Christie-Ward – Sister IAD
Thedra Porter – Chantal
Diomargu Nunez – Officer Sanchez
Geeta Pereira – Hooker #1
Shana Solomon – Hooker #2
Rob Morgan – Homeless Guy
Simon Wilkes is at a schoolyard taking photos of kids at play and Amaro approaches and says Simon has 5 seconds to put the camera down. Simon explains it is a public sidewalk, then tells Amaro to smile and he points the camera at Amaro. Amaro grabs Simon’s arms to pull the camera away. Simon hits Amaro in the head with the camera and tells him to leave him alone. Amaro slams the camera to the ground and begins to beat Simon as Simon begs for someone to call the police. Amaro continues to beat him as the police arrive.
Afterwards, EMT workers take Simon away on a stretcher and his wife leaves with a police officer. Amaro, cuffed, is placed in the back seat of a squad car.
Meanwhile, in family court, we find that Baby Boy Doe has no foster parents again The judge comments this is his fourth home in four months and asks if they can do better. ADA Pippa Cox believes they can get it right but for now the judge returns the baby to ACS.
At another precinct, Amaro is being booked. He whines he is entitled to a call and the officer replies when he is done being processed.
Back at family court, Benson asks Cox if she can visit the baby. Cox replies it is fine with her and then points her to Chantal from social services who asks what is her interest.
Back at the precinct, Amaro’s injuries are being documented and he is fingerprinted. The officer then gives Amaro his phone and tells him he can make that call now.
Later, Rollins speaks with Amaro who now is in a cell, and when he asks if IAB is here, she says she is sure they are on en route. She tries to counsel him and he says he knows he should not talk to anyone until his lawyer gets here. Benson and Murphy race up and Benson tells Amaro she is so sorry, but Murphy asks him what the hell was he thinking? Amaro tells him don’t worry about it, and, raising his voice, he says he was off duty and it is none of his concern. Murphy counters that everything is his concern, commenting that Amaro went after Simon Wilkes and wonders again what he was thinking. Murphy then tells Amaro not to answer that. Benson notices Amaro’s injury and asks if he is okay. Amaro replies it is just a cut. Murphy asks if Simon is alive, and Rollins explains that she called the hospital; Simon is sedated now and has a concussion and broken ribs. Murphy comments that is felonious assault and, turning to Amaro, adds it could be attempted murder if they really want him out. Benson asks Amaro if Simon came after him and if that is how he got that cut, and Murphy stops her, saying that is enough, none of this is privileged, no more questions. He tells Amaro that he knows he does not value his advice but even if he thinks he did the right thing, stand down and keep his mouth shut. Benson nods in agreement and Amaro is silent.
Later, Amaro is being questioned by Sergeant Draper of IAB, with his lawyer present, who argues Amaro was defending himself. Draper says that is not what the witnesses and the unis said. Draper outlines the trouble Amaro is in and that he was arrested and will be charged. He turns off the camera and says the duty captain wants assault 2 and there will be an independent DA who may increase that and Amaro better hope his vic pulls through.
At arraignment court on Saturday, May 3, Amaro’s attorney pleads that Amaro is not guilty of the charge of assault in the first degree. The prosecutor recommends remand as this is not the first time Amaro has been in that courtroom and considering the brutality of the beating and that the victim may not recover. Judge Serani sets bail at $500K. Amaro’s lawyer asks if he has collateral on the house, and Amaro says he can’t ask his wife again. His lawyer asks if there is anyone else as Amaro is taken away. Mrs. Wilkes walks up to Benson, Rollins, and Fin who were watching the proceeding and says, “You people, you just can’t stop.”
Back at SVU in Murphy’s office, Murphy gets off the phone and tells the detectives that One PP won’t budge and the DA won’t budge as it is not Amaro’s first time. Benson questions the bail amount, saying Amaro is not a flight risk and not dangerous. Murphy explains that Amaro acted like Dirty Harry; he beat a man bloody. Rollins argues it was a man who threatened to string up little boys and silt their throats. Murphy reminds them Wilkes was found not guilty and is not even on the registry. Fin says they all know what Wilkes is, and Amaro got cut and was defending himself. Murphy asks Fin if he was there. Rollins suggests they go out and talk to witnesses that support that story, and Murphy orders they will do no such thing and not to even think about investigating on their own. He asks if that is clear and Rollins quietly replies “Yes sir.” Murphy states they will go about their business as usual and asks where are they on that tourist. Fin explains he caught that call; Hans Erhard was a German who was robbed, beaten, and sodomized in his hotel room last night. Murphy asks if he got his statement, and Fin explains he is recovering from surgery; the perp raped him with a gun. Murphy tells them to go to the hospital and see what he remembers.