"Blood Brothers" could have been a retread of previous SVU episodes, but I was pleasantly surprised when the show moved beyond the tragic rape of the young Ella and explored a new angle. The installment really showed that the storylines can still seem fresh after so many seasons, and that the detectives can really coalesce into a working team.
With Amaro and Rollins already on the job, the hour avoided spending too much time on developing the characters and more on showcasing the squad's police work. For the most part, Benson ended up with Amaro and Finn with Rollins (leaving poor Munch on his own again!). While Benson may have seemed initially resistant to working with Amaro, especially when Novak assumed he was her new partner, she didn't let her issues slow down the investigation.
Ella's manipulation by the equally young Tripp was a disturbing case mostly because of the age of both the victim and the perpetrator. When Ella finally opened up about the rape, her story sounded very familiar. The spiked drink, the fuzzy headed feeling, and the emotional manipulation itself was a pretty common and troubling description... for college-aged girls. I remember hearing these same victim reports in earlier SVU episodes and the victims were always much older than Ella.
It was terrible to hear about her manipulation at the hands of someone who seems like just a boy to most people. But, unfortunately, it seems the show is trying to keep up with the times.
I'll admit that when the detectives discovered that the baby's father was from a wealthy and powerful family, I was worried that it would follow the same plot line from previous episodes. I expected a lot of tip-toeing around influential people, trying to overcome high-powered lawyers and dealing with people who think they can buy their way out of trouble. In fact, that was pretty much the theme of the first episode.
Instead, we explored the destructive effects of money and influence here. Arturo didn't want any cash from his dad, just some kind of acknowledgment. When he was continually treated as somehow less important and below the Raines family, especially by his biological brother, he felt desperate to show the Raines's that they can't just buy people off. He wants to prove that he matters and reacts violently to Tripp's outright dismissal.
I thought the show really focused its attention on the victims of this dysfunctional family system - Arturo, Tripp, and Mrs. Raines - but forgot to wrap up the problem of Ella, now alone with a child she can't possibly raise alone. It would have been nice to see a little more discussion of her situation.
Also, it was good to see Novak back this season, although her exchanges with Benson were so tense that I wonder how she'll ever work peaceably with SVU again. But the rest of the group seems to be doing well together.
Does this group finally have it together?