Thursday, May 10, 2018

Law & Order SVU “Guardian” Recap & Review

First and foremost: News came out while this episode aired that Law & Order SVU has been renewed for season 20. Congratulations! This is an amazing achievement for everyone involved in the show and the fans greatly appreciate all the effort that goes into producing interesting, vibrant stories each week. Thanks to the fans as well for keeping this show alive.

What impressed me about “Guardian” wasn’t the case as much as it was the high quality of writing which gave us characters with depth. This was especially noticeable for Fin; the writers captured the essence of the Fin that fans love so much. They also gave Ice-T some much needed and meaningful screen time. Fin has been relegated to the background for too many episodes over the last few years. In this case, we had many chances to hear Fin’s unvarnished comments, insights, and words of wisdom. A few examples:

With Malik: “Sure you had a choice. You take a bullet, you don’t leave your little sister alone.”

To Bodega manager, shouting: “Get your ass up and go get me that footage. Stop playing with me.”

As they arrest Ray who asks if Fin saw one of his “baby mamas” hit him: “I ain’t seen nothin’."

To Dorothy Hall, when Carisi introduces himself and Fin and she asks why they are “special”: “Because of our good looks.”

When three young boys attempt to run away from Fin and Carisi: “Pro tip: Next time run in different directions.”

When lawyer Ron Carter complains about the NYPD coffee: “Lucky for you we’re having French Roast today.”

When Benson asks if they really got this lucky getting detailed evidence from Bobby Jackson: “Luck favors the prepared.” And then soon after, talking about Malik: “He’s the worst kind of predator. He betrays his own. I mean his sister really loves him and he’s throwing her away.”

There were even more gems as the story progressed. The ending of the episode - where Fin connects with his grandson in a FaceTime call - made me feel that Fin is the one person in the Special Victims Unit who has some sense of balance in his personal life. (Does he really have a parakeet?)  In a discussion with Benson in her office, he also shows a realistic view of the victims and the perps that they deal with on a regular basis, and the choices people make. It would be wonderful if someone could write a book that includes all of Fin’s life lessons. The whole squad can learn from him, including Benson.

The case itself was a bit predictable but still interesting. The victim didn’t even realize she was a victim, thinking that she was participating in her brother prostituting her in order to survive. When Benson seems sympathetic, it was Fin who reminds her that we all make choices. It is sad that there are so many people who live their lives in poverty - or close to it - who feel forced to do certain things in order to stay afloat. In Malik’s case, however, they went out of their way to say he gets $352 a month in SNAP benefits, the monthly rent is $200, and he still has a phone, cable, and a big screen TV, other expenses and clothing. (I don’t recall hearing that he was employed.) Yes, Malik had a hard life, but the fact remains that he benefited from pimping out his sister. No one should have to live in poverty, but there is no excuse for what Malik did.

Here is the recap:

SVU gets involved in what appears to be a rape case. Something seems off right from the start when Malik, brother of Tiana, the 16-year-old victim, seems to prompt his sister to say that she is a victim of rape. She begins to shout that she was raped and is taken to the hospital to be examined.

But all is not what it seems.

As the detectives investigate, they first suspect Tiana was raped by 3 young boys. The boys’ stories are they paid for sex, and that Tiana’s pimp is none other than her brother, Malik. As the story unfolds, we find that Tiana is torn between her brother, who is her guardian while their mother serves time in prison, and the SVU, who sees her as a victim. Tiana and Malik can’t make ends meet using only what they receive through the SNAP program, and prostitution seemed to be the only way to make the money they need. Tiana also uses drugs and/or alcohol in order to get through these ordeals. As Tiana is not at an age where she can consent, Benson and the SVU detectives know this is rape. Things take a turn for the worse when Tiana is reluctant to turn on her brother, eventually saying this was all her idea.

Peter Stone is reluctant to go any further: “No victim, no case.” He and Benson go back and forth on the issue.  Attorney Ron Carter pays them a visit and gives them to 5PM to decide or he will call the press. Luckily, Fin brings in Bobby Jackson, busted for narcotics, who is Malik's and Tiana’s driver. He gives them the information they need to help prove Malik is Tiana’s pimp. This is enough for Stone to get Malik arraigned on April 26 for endangering a minor and sex trafficking. Tiana comes into the arraignment and makes a scene and Benson is forced to take her out of the courtroom. Fin joins them and tells Tiana they could arrest her for filing a false report and take her to “juvie.” Benson gives her the choice of going back to Child Services or they can arrest her. Tiana calls Benson out for her “nice lady, being my friend” B.S., and tells them to take her back. She says Benson is lying when she says she cares about her, and her brother loves her.

As the trial unfolds, Tiana is not cooperative and she tells a sad story about not being able to make rent and how it badly affected her. The defense comes up with a surprise witness – Malik’s mother, Lashonda Williams. Stone has only the lunch recess time to come up with a way to counter this. Lashonda’s testimony under Stone’s cross examination put the nail in Malik’s coffin when Fin brings in Luke Snell into the gallery. Lashonda admits she assaulted him in an argument with her pimp – Malik. It seems Malik has been pimping out both his mother and his sister. Tiana is stunned.

Later, in Benson’s office, Fin says Malik and Lashonda are both blaming this on Tiana. When Benson says that family had it rough, Fin says:

Fin: Same as everyone that grows up in the projects. Some will make it out, some won’t. But we all make our own choices.
Benson: You don’t talk about your childhood much.
Fin: Back at you, Liv.

Benson gets a phone call; Tiana has od’d on heroin. Later, Benson speaks to Tiana at the hospital who says she got a bad dose.  Benson tries to talk some sense into Tiana, using all the positive comments she heard from Tiana’s teachers.  Benson adds that even though Malik is family, he doesn’t want what is best for her.

Fin, meanwhile, catches up with Jerome who, at SVU, admits that Malik told him to give Tiana a “hot shot” so she couldn’t testify against him. Tiana, observing this with Benson and Rollins, hears all this. Benson knows how strong Tiana is and knows she will be okay.

In a meeting with Stone, Rollins, and Regina, Tiana states that their father raped their mother and beat Malik, and Malik protected them. After their father left it was okay for a while but later the drugs helped and they needed more drugs and more money which had to come from somewhere. She doesn’t hate Malik, she doesn’t want to testify but she will if she has to. Stone uses this to cut a deal.

Back at SVU, Benson tells Fin that Malik took a deal for 15 years. She tells Fin it is no excuse for what he did to Tiana but he was brutalized too. Fin replies, “And we both know that it doesn’t matter what happens to you in life, it’s how you deal with it.” Benson suggests he “get out of here”, and Fin laughs, saying, “What, and go home and feed my parakeet?” and Benson replies, “Something like that.” Fin decided to make a FaceTime call to his son Ken and sees baby Jaden, and his mood lifts immediately. He tells Jaden to tell his dads he is coming over and is bringing pizza. As he continues to chat with Jaden, he leaves his desk and we fade to black.

Mariska Hargitay - Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T - Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.
Philip Winchester – ADA Peter Stone

Guest stars:
Rachel Naomi Hilson - Tiana Williams
Amanda Warren - Regina Carter
George Wallace - Ron Carter
Ami Brabson – Judge Karyn Blake
Big Daddy Kane - Ray Wallis “Four Stroke”
Alejandro Hernandez – Bobby Jackson
Laiona Michelle – Lashonda Williams
Rotimi – Malik Williams
Maul Donte Davis – Jerome Freeman
Kymbali Craig - Dorothy Hall
Nile Bullock - Leonard Haynes
Almeria Campbell – Dr. Diana Davis
Erica Camarano – Rachel Ortiz
Sarah Ellen Stephens - Officer Gaines
Craig Geraghty - Officer Harper
Brittany Jeffery – Leah Simon
Alan Ariano – Judge Lee Wong
Kason Sol – Bodega Owner
Anthony Ventola – Lee Green
Kane Brown – Lena Carerra
Lauren Noble – Carmen
Julyan Horne – Jatden
Larry Nunez – Diego

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magix74 said...

An enjoyable episode all round really. Was definitely nice to see Fin get some air time.

Laurie Fanat said...

This was a great episode for Ice-T. The writers finally get Fin. I agree that Fin shows his life has balance. He has a support system with his family and embraces it. He is sensitive to the victims, tough on the perps, and lets the job roll off him. The scene at the end was wonderful, Fin's face was pure joy.

The case didn't grab me, probably because Tiana was so clueless. She said she loved her brother but in my opinion she stuck with him out of necessity. She didn't want to get stuck in the child services system. That fear blinded her to what her brother was doing to her. I suppose that she felt she had no choice, but as Fin said, we all make our own choices. Child services would have been better for her but she couldn't see it.

I'm glad SVU was renewed for another season. Last season at this time I wasn't sure I wanted the show t continue. It felt like they were running out of gas. As this season went along, I was more and more comfortable with the overall story telling. It got so much better. I'm happy that they'll get that chance to tie L&O's record!

WestVirginiaRebel said...

Why do I get the uneasy feeling that Ice T might be leaving the show soon? But it was fun seeing Fin getting the spotlight.

Mending Wall said...

Victims of years of abuse tend to behave this way. Yes she is clueless. I dont think it had anything to do with child services. She appeared to love her brother but didnt accept the truth . I work for childrens services and people love their family no matter what . Sometimes similar things happen in foster care. Its better than what shes going through but no guarantee of safety.