Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 5 Review: Complicated

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If you watch TV crime dramas, you might think that there's a rash of lookalike con artists in New York City pretending to be recovered missing children, only for the cops to discover that the real child was murdered by her creepy older brother.

Both Blue Bloods Season 8 Episode 2 and Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 5 featured this plot. It was tough not to compare them (or to fantasize about a world where a crossover event was possible so that the two sets of cops could collaborate!).

But SVU managed to tell this story as only SVU can, so even though the plot was similar, the story was somewhat original.

Brooke Shields Guest Stars on SVU - Law & Order: SVU

I thought that the cops were too quick to tell Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence that their daughter had been recovered.

Sure, the age-progressed photo of Emma looked like the girl in police custody, and her story matched the details of the case. But you'd think that the police would do DNA testing before they got the parents' hopes way up!

The story was entertaining, so I'll give SVU a pass on this obvious plot hole. But they should have asked the Lawrences for a DNA sample to compare to the girl they'd recovered, not invited them in to identify a daughter they hadn't seen in 10 years.

Rollins: Barba, can you get us a warrant for her DNA?
Barba: I can, but I'd rather not. What if this girl isn't Emma Lawrence? That's not a call I want to get from the DA after we've closed the ledger on this one. If you want to unclose this, you're going to have to do it yourself.

That would have headed off a whole lot of problems at the pass.

So would checking the security footage to see if the girl's story was true before sending her off with her supposed parents, not after, and running a background check immediately to make sure there were no con artists matching the girl's description in the national crime database.

If Mr. Lawrence hadn't turned out to have known all these years that Emma was dead, I wouldn't have blamed him or his wife for being excited and holding a press conference immediately. After all, the cops were saying this girl was probably Emma, and the girl herself claimed to remember them.

Emma Lawrence may not be Emma Lawrence.


All of that was ridiculous, and it was obvious Emma was a fake because she was reunited with her family 20 minutes into the hour so clearly there was a lot more to the story.

In a way, it was a shame, because during the reunification scene I kept thinking about how similar this was to what Sheila Porter wanted Olivia to do for her and Noah, and that might have been interesting to explore.

Rollins: I'm Amanda, this is Sonny. We're police detectives. We want to talk to you.
Girl: No, no, don't touch me.
Sonny: We just want to ask you a few questions.

I ended up feeling bad for Britney. She was a con artist who had got Mrs. Lawrence's hopes up only for them to be dashed spectacularly, but at the bottom, she was just a lost, abused young woman who wanted desperately to be loved and ended up in a worse situation while trying to escape a horrific one.

I was curious as to how real her PTSD symptoms were. She had suffered heinous abuse, even if a pedophile hadn't raped her, and she might have been sexually assaulted at an adult shelter considering her insistence that she could not go back there.

Britney's terror at the beginning of "Complicated" was one of the most realistic depictions of PTSD I've seen recently, so I'd like to think it wasn't all phony. Sadly for her, I suspect it wasn't.

I wish you had never found her. Before I had hope...hope that my little girl was still alive. And now I have nothing.


I also felt sorry for Mrs. Lawrence. She was the only innocent victim in this whole mess. She believed her daughter was alive and would come home someday and she lost her whole family.

I wish she and Britney could have developed some sort of surrogate mother/daughter relationship, even though that's not at all realistic. Britney needed a real mother, and though it wouldn't be the same as having her daughter back, Mrs. Lawrence still had love to give.

You have to wonder what was wrong with the Lawrence men though.

By the age of 8 or 9 Glenn should have been aware that people can die if you stop them from breathing and if his anger at his sister getting in the way of the TV was so uncontrollable that he killed her, that's scary. Also, where were the adults while this was going on?

I can understand Mr. Lawrence not wanting to see his son go to jail or admit that his daughter was dead, but secretly burying the body and then making up an elaborate story and pretending to believe a con artist was his returned daughter is, for lack of a better word, disturbing.

Benson: I used to be so sure I knew what was best for Noah, but as he gets older, I find myself doubting myself at every turn.
Barba: From what I've heard about raising kids, it never gets any easier. But you can trust your instincts. You can.

I'm glad that Olivia and Sheila both decided to act like adults for the moment.

Sheila quickly flip-flopped from claiming Olivia was an unfit parent to deciding she only wants the right to visit her grandson and be part of his life. I was a little confused by that, but I'll take it if it means this storyline might finally be over and viewers won't be tortured with it all season long.

I didn't think it was unreasonable for Sheila to meet Noah and be part of his life. I thought the visits should be supervised until Olivia knows Sheila better and is sure she can trust her.

It wouldn't be unreasonable for Olivia to worry that Sheila could be a pedophile considering what she does for a living, and given that Sheila was gung-ho about taking Noah away from Olivia until five minutes into the hearing, it's also not unreasonable to think she could try to kidnap Noah.

In fact, I hope that's not the next plot twist in this ridiculous story and that it really and truly is over. 

But Olivia had a jealous look on her face and told Barba that her instinct was to keep Noah away from Sheila, and that could be a giant red flag that something is not quite right.

It also could just be that Olivia is overreacting because this is the nine millionth threat to her adoption of Noah, and I hope that's the case. But after suffering through all this other craziness, I'm really afraid this story might not be over.

What did you think of "Complicated?" How quickly did you figure out Emma was a fake? Are you hopeful that we might settle down into a story about Noah and Olivia getting to know Sheila instead of any more nonsense?

Weigh in below, and don't forget you can always watch Law & Order: SVU online to catch up on anything you missed.

Complicated Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 2.9 / 5.0 (17 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 5 Quotes

Rollins: I'm Amanda, this is Sonny. We're police detectives. We want to talk to you.
Girl: No, no, don't touch me.
Sonny: We just want to ask you a few questions.

Promise me I'm not going to lose my son.