I love when Law & Order: SVU tackles serious, real-life issues.
Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 4 took on a number of problems facing high school students, including overuse of social media, cyberbullying, old-fashioned bullying, and the way rape victims are treated.
It was a noble effort and a lot of it rang true, yet at the same time, I felt like SVU was all over the place with this story.
Most of "No Good Reason" revolved around Benson and Rollins' attempts to offer support to 15-year-old Mandy after she was sexually assaulted and other kids at school treated her poorly when she came forward.
I love it when Olivia plays social worker and changes rape survivors' lives for the better, and Rollins jumping in to make a connection with Mandy was an added bonus.
Rollins: It took me a long time, but I realized they didn't define me. I define me. [Rolls up sleeve.] And when I was old enough, I got this. It's my name. I got it to remind me that that's who I am, not all those things they said I was.
Mandy: Why are you telling me this? What did you come here for?
Benson: Because we want you to know that you're not alone. Your parents are here. We are here. And we are not going to let you go.
I thought that the scene where Benson and Rollins visited Mandy and convinced her not to try to sweep her rape under the rug was very powerful.
I loved the way Rollins used their shared first name as an opening point of connection and encouraged Mandy not to define herself by what the bullies have to say.
This was especially exciting for me because I'm a Rollins fan, and SVU has showcased her self-destructive side far more often than her empathetic side. So I loved seeing her being the one to take the lead on being an inspiration to a rape survivor in need.
I felt bad for the mother who was terrified at the way the cops showed up and insisted they needed to check on her daughter, though. I hope someone checked back with her and explained the situation!
The mother's fear was a small moment that added a ton of tension. I thought for a second that it was going to turn out that Andrew hadn't raped Mandy and that her father had been abusing her or something. I don't know quite why I went there, but the stress of that scene led me to expect a horrifying twist.
I was glad I was wrong about that and also glad that it didn't turn out that Mandy had hung herself in her room after making the video, which was the other gruesome possibility that crossed my mind.
Mandy: Everyone at school hates me. My locker was trashed -
Benson: I'm so sorry you're going through this.
Mandy: Everyone blames me for taking down Andrew and Daniel and Max. Me, not them. If you don't believe me, search for the hashtag #freeandrew.
Mandy's dad: Of course we believe you.
Mandy's mom: Honey, your true friends will know what's right.
Mandy: I don't have any friends. Stacey won't even call me back.
I liked that the bullying angle was included in this story. As great a job as SVU does with telling stories about sexual assault, it does sometimes give the vibe that telling what happened is always the best choice for every survivor, so showing someone suffering socially for their choice to press charges was a strong move.
I just wish that there'd been more of a focus on that. I felt like there were a lot of loose ends that didn't really get explained adequately because SVU was trying to cover so much ground in this story.
It wasn't clear to me whether Andrew was the stereotypical football captain who could do no wrong in the other kids' eyes or whether there was some other reason that everyone was bullying Mandy (and to a lesser extent Max) for turning on him.
Similarly, a big deal was made out of Mandy and Stacey having a fight and Mandy feeling all her friends had betrayed her, but unless I missed something, the issue never explained.
Stacey left the party early, and at the assembly, she apologized for not having the courage to support her friend. But all that happened after Mandy came forward about being raped. I was really confused about why they were on the outs at the point that Mandy ran away to Ethan's house.
Mandy: [on screen]: Hey, it's Mandy.
Benson: Oh my God, look at her.
Mandy: For all you haters out there...
Benson: Keep talking, honey, let's find you.
Ethan turning out to just be a nice guy who wanted to protect his friend from the boys who had messed with her at the party was a nice twist. We've seen stories of predators luring brokenhearted young women into dangerous situations through social media over and over, and it was refreshing for that to not be the case.
I'd have loved to have known the backstory and whether he was a secret boyfriend that Stacey didn't think Mandy should be visiting, but I guess that wasn't all that important to the story.
Benson: Can you help us understand what happened?
Mandy: I don't remember. I smoked a joint. I never do that.
Benson: That's okay. That has nothing to do with this.
I also wondered if the pot was laced with something else because Mandy's experience didn't sound like something that usually happens just from smoking a joint. That was another minor point that irked me but didn't matter in the scheme of things.
I was glad that Benson pointed out that Mandy smoking weed had nothing to do with whether what happened to her was wrong. I don't think she was capable of consent if she was that high, even if she hadn't remembered not wanting Andrew to kiss her or have sex with her.
Now let's talk about the elephant in the room: that PSA at the end of the hour.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. I felt like the assembly was a little bit too much on point. It was obvious that the writers wanted to send a message to viewers, and it kind of pulled me out of the story.
On the other hand, it was really powerful, especially when Olivia encouraged the students to support one another, and someone else came forward with their own story about being raped at a party.
The PSA comes just as the #MeToo social media campaign is generating traction, and I thought it was a real-time example of how powerful sharing these kinds of experiences can be. So even though it was a little hokey, it was more effective than not.
One thing we did not need was more Porter drama.
Of course, Noah's grandmother is going to sue for custody. And of course, she's going to claim Olivia is an unfit parent.
We just sat through two episodes of Olivia's fitness as a parent being questioned for no reason, so why not have someone else show up and try to make the same claim?
There are no words for how annoyed I am with this story at the moment. It's contrived, ridiculous drama and it would be nice if the writers could find something else for Olivia to struggle within her personal life besides constantly fighting for the right to parent her son.
What did you think of "No Good Reason?" Are you as tired as I am of the Noah custody drama? Did you like the sheer number of issues tackled in this story, or would you rather SVU have focused in on one or two?
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything