Law & Order: Los Angeles Review: "Zuma Canyon / Silver Lake"

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Law & Order: Los Angeles opened in its new Monday night slot with a bang.

NBC had advertised heavily that this episode would bring about the demise of one of the shows detectives. News that Detective Rex Winters was the ill-fated cast member circled the internet far before air time.

This two-hour season premiere began with “Zuma Canyon,” which, like many Law & Order episodes, grounds itself in a national hot topic, the Mexican-American Border Drug Wars. Detectives Winters and Jaruszalski respond to the opening drama involves a crashed quinceañera with automatic gun fire pouring from four masked assailants.

Rex Goes Down

The party’s host, Mr. Alcazar, was the intended target of the shoot, and although his wife and child escape the massacre eight others are killed including three children. There is an early attempt to humanize Winters through his family as he checks upon his sleeping children.   

Now begins the familiar Law & Order pattern of building a case; one small piece of information leads to another eventually snowballing a path towards the bad guy, in this case Cesar Vargas.

The surviving family members provide the Law & Order team with two leads to follow: Mr. Alcazar’s occupation as a developer, and the make and models of the two getaway cars.

A convenient co-worker shows detectives cell phone pictures lead them to a property believed to be linked to the victim’s recent stress. Law & Order keeps abreast with the times as the detectives use GPS information imbedded in the pictures to find the location, this technological capability made national news in recent months.

Once on location oddly enough the smell of food cooking and the sight of a tent alert Winters and TJ that there is something going on in this canyon. However, the hundred acres of “pure California sinsemilla” for some reason takes noticeably longer to reach the officers’ olfactory senses.

At the campsite Winters and TJ find Mexican comic books and a box of .380 shells prompting a slightly cheesed coordinated drawing of their pistols.

Given the landscape they call for aide in their search of the marijuana field’s guard; believing him to be the next step in finding the gang shooters. Despite the number of officers present it is Winters that ends up staring down the barrel of a gun in the hands of an eleven year old Mexican farm boy, playing on the audiences knowledge of his eminent death. Yet this scene ends without incident.

The property itself provides the initial momentum as Fernando, the farm boy, is too scared to cooperate, foreshadowing his importance later in the episode.

Winters’ confrontation with Vargas at a barbeque culminates in his death. The shooting itself takes place during a family dinner where Winters heroically shields his daughter taking the bullet that would have surely killed her.

The ‘Law’ is over, enter the ‘Order’.

Assured Vargas is their man Deputy DA Morales hits a roadblock in the form of a corrupt consulate that is providing sanctuary for Vargas and planned transportation back to Mexico.

Morales becomes a crusader in his attempt to prosecute Vargas in America and this plot line differs from other Law & Order series as tensions arise between Morales and his boss District Attorney Hardin, as well as The State Department.

Morales takes The State Department to court in order to comfort Fernando to testify by settling his family in America.

Morales continually sets himself apart from the politics of his office for a pure quest of justice. His goals are only partially met by the close of the first show. 

In a blood boiling ending Vargas is set free because the prosecution’s only witness little Fernando is murdered moments before testifying and the courts are compelled to release Vargas. Morales grabs at prosecurial straws to bring his man to justice, but Hardin believes the attempts futile and has lost enough face over this case to call in any more favors.

Fed up with the politics the episode closes with Morales leaving the District Attorney’s office in order to return to the police force. 

Law & Order: LA Scene

Silver Lake” made up the second show of the season premiere and welcomes a few changes in the cast. Ricardo Morales replaces Rex Winters as TJ’s partner.

Also Connie Rubirosa from Law & Order becomes assistant to Deputy DA Dekker. And perhaps most notably TJ has forgone his masculine mustache for a completely hairless look.

Oddly enough this episode seems as though it belongs to the world of Law & Order SVU as the crimes of interest are rape and murder, although this episode lacks a misdirection so commonly found in SVU. 

The opening crime is a shocking home invasion that leaves an emasculated husband, Don Alvin, now a widower as his son and wife are murdered and the latter is raped as well. This episode could be called “The Morales Show” as Morales takes much of the initiative and insight in the investigation as he is proving himself as an equally reliable detective as he was a prosecutor. 

The intruder has a very distinct MO that involves home invasion, undergarments, photographs, and eventually rape.

When victims of similar incidents are found Morales is the one to notice a connection in stereo equipment that links the victims. Morales also connects the perpetrator’s skills in identity theft and general intelligence to Secret Service Agent Raymond Garson; he notices the identifying scar given by victims in a photograph of Agent Garson.

It is Morales who comes up with the simple, yet successful plan to get Ray, rather Raymond into an interrogation room and leads the interrogation with Raymond waiving his right to counsel, initially. 

Yet, everything does not turn up roses for detective Morales as his scheme to have Raymond reveal the burial site of a female victim crosses a line of legality and causes the strongest piece of evidence to be thrown out along with the additional murder charge.

Another victim is deterred from testifying due to the defense’s possession of sexually explicit photographs taken with her ex-husband.

The success of the case is now heavily reliant upon the testimony of Don Alvin and the prowess of Dekker.

Mr. Alvin has brings the quality of his character into question as he lies in his testimony about fighting against his family’s assailant in an attempt to defend his family.

This fabrication is pounced upon by the defense counsel along with a proposal of a different theory of the crime that Mr. Alvin is in fact the murderer in light that his wife was having a consensual affair with Raymond.

Dekker implores Don why he lied about fighting back to which Don replies that he has been receiving emails calling him less than a man, a coward. 

One of the messages catches Dekker’s attention. Unfortunately the strategy employed by Dekker is reminiscent of the ‘Hondo Field’ episode from the first season.

The taunting emails were sent from a smart phone of the defendant revealing details of the crime only the perpetrator would be cognizant of.

This is similar to the text messages that secure Dekker’s victory in ‘Hondo Field’ and he even uses the same projector to show the messages. 

This episode lacked some of the excitement and novelty of the first episode and Connie Rubirosa is hardly even heard from in this episode having only one small scene to herself. I feel that the show could have ended on a higher note rather than trailing off. 

But the question is what do you think of the new season of Law & Order: Los Angeles and the new roles? Discuss below.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (13 Votes)
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Law & Order has always had stories based on headlines. I too am sorry to see the Winters character go but change is inevitable sometimes. The writing on the the 2 episodes last night was so much better. The characters are all soooo serious whereas the original and even the spin-off shows had some levity in their character interactions. Love the new music. I'm a L&O junkie and this one will take getting used to but I'm willing to go in for the long haul.

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I agree with CNJ Colonel Williams was only sentences a few months ago. It's still a big shock to the people from Trenton, Ottawa, Ontario and Canada. I don't mind the use of real life stories, but to do it this soon? It shocked me. The were a few differences, but the general plot, is bang on. Even the interview process was like watching the origional interview with Colonel Williams.

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Common on why kill off a great actor. Hated that Det. Rex Winters/Skeet Ulrich's character will no longer be in the show!!!!Seriously don't think I will continue to watch this show!!

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what really steamed me was not only was Skeet fired and his character murdered, but there was no justice for Det. Rex Winters with his killer getting off. So now what? We just wait a few years til they come back to this story line to wrap it up? Or it never gets wrapped up? What a crock!

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In watching "Silver Lake" last night, I kept feeling I had seen the episode before. Turns out, I had - in a way. I know "borrowing" from headlines is part of Law & Order's history, but this one may have gone too far. The question is, can you plagiarize your own network? In February of this year, NBC Dateline ran the story of Colonel Russell Williams, a Canadian Air Force pilot who was discovered to be a sexual predator and killer. The "coincidences" lifted from this episode and used in Silver Lake are simply unbelievable: During his interrogation, Colonel Williams has been called "Russell", and at a critical moment he corrects his interrogator and says "call me Russ". In Silver Lake, Secret Service agent "Ray", at the same critical moment, says "call me Raymond". The real life Colonel Williams is credited with piloting planes "carrying the Canadian prime ministers and the queen of England"; fictitious agent Garson is credited with protecting the life of "Presidents and Prime Ministers". The sordid details of the criminal stealing, as well as photographing himself wearing, the underwear are virtually identical in both stories, as is his story of saying the sex was consensual. There are other small similarities throughout the episode, but for the closing it appears there was no attempt whatsoever to slightly alter the facts from the original case. Silver Lake ends with the plea deal being announced to the victim's widower: two life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years - the exact sentence given to the real life Colonel Williams. My concern for Law & Order LA is that they took a 3 months hiatus to retool the show, and in that time it appears all they did was barely remake one of NBC's own Dateline episodes.

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Yes, it was 1,000 times better than the first eight episodes. Maybe not as good as the original Law & Order, but still leauges ahead of the first eight.

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