You know it's going to be an interesting night on SVU when someone finds a severed leg. Unfortunately, this episode doesn't quite deliver on the thrilling promise given by its subject matter - body modification.
"Strange Beauty" is supposedly about the strange subculture of body modification. But, like many SVU episodes, the world of piercings, tattoos, ear hangings, etc. that the detectives investigate when tracking down their suspect is only a distraction from the real suspect.
Red herrings are common on the series. Just two weeks ago, genetic sexual attraction was used as titillating, albeit disgusting, explanation for the crimes of a donor dad. This time, the detectives spent the better part of the evening investigating Nina Raedo's body modification tendencies and tracking down the person responsible for giving her elf ears.
It was an exciting buildup and the interesting underground world Rollins and Fin were able to infiltrate seemed like a great backdrop for the show. But, as usual, the perpetrator is just another creep with sexual perversions and some mommy issues as well.
In trying to blame the crime on his brother, Dr. Hal Brightman reveals the reason that he sexualizes the amputation of women's legs. His own mother's accident, which occurred when he was just entering puberty, warped his perception of beauty and sexuality. His patient, Jess, a girl who lost her leg as a teenager, reignites his passion for amputated legs when she displays so much confidence about her modified body.
Hal thinks he's helping women to achieve true beauty. In speaking to Rollins and Benson, he claims, "They're more complete now because of me. I transformed them." This seems like a similar sentiment for body modification enthusiasts, the joy of transforming and changing into their true selves. However, Hal's women are undergoing this procedure for his benefit, not their own. The five women he paid only did it for the compensation. Nina wasn't even a willing participant. Her path to finding her own identity through body modification was interrupted by Hal's attack.
So a story that opens with an interesting premise but turns out to be all about a man imposing his perception of beauty on other women, forcing them to conform to it. Kind of a disappointing turn, right?
The episode also gave us a brief glimpse into Rollins personal life, as her former captain came up to visit her. He made a move, and she was unprepared to deal with it, especially since he's still married. It seems Rollins is more focused on doing her job and avoiding gambling (she's doing so well she rewarded herself with a tasteful tattoo!). Will there be any romance in her future?