Fall finales are supposed to be exciting.
We won't be able to tune in for a month or so, so the cliffhanger had better be good.
Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 8 spent a good chunk of time on Sonny and Rollins not having sex and a young woman causing a rape by impersonating a celebrity.
Then in the last few minutes, Noah was kidnapped -- by someone other than Sheila, who I was sure was going to do that sooner or later.
The cliffhanger was exciting, though it was random, and Noah's been in danger or presumed to have been in danger before.
And the case itself was interesting and brought up some questions that were never really answered.
However, "Intent" was one of the weaker installments of SVU recently, and since this was the fall finale, that's disappointing.
The beginning of the hour was stronger than the rest. SVU kept viewers guessing about what happened. We saw The Monster rape Katy, yet she was insisting she hadn't been raped and he had a text demanding money in exchange for silence.
That made it hard to figure out what the truth was and kept my interest.
If you walk out this door, you're saying nothing happened. And you're also going to have to live for the rest of your life knowing there was something you could have done to make this right.Benson
Then, when it was revealed someone had impersonated both Katy and her rapist, it seemed like there were some tough questions to answer.
Clearly, The Monster raped Katy -- but was his sincere belief that she wanted him to do what he did a legitimate defense?
And on top of that, it seemed like his conscience was used against him, and he was coerced into pleading guilty to a crime he didn't believe he had committed because it was the only way to get justice for Katy.
I wasn't sure Benson had any right to tell him that if he walked away without taking a plea, then he was refusing to stand up for Katy.
I would have liked to have seen that defense attorney that seemed to be glued to his hip go to court to get the plea vacated because it was not given voluntarily.
Instead, the story seemed to lose direction.
The fake texts were quickly traced to West Virginia, and a whole lot of time was wasted there.
Heather was quickly identified and arrested, and then for some inexplicable reason, the local cop who helped make the arrest got super drunk while sitting at a local bar with Rollins and Carisi.
I thought maybe the bartender that knew Heather had poisoned him or something, but no such luck. The purpose of the guy getting drunk seemed to be so that Rollins could flirt and so that she and Sonny could get into a bar fight with zero consequences for their unprofessional behavior.
You know I'm human, right? And human people have sex, sometimes with people they love, and sometimes with people they don't even know.Rollins
This scene engaged in a ton of ridiculous stereotyping of Southerners, and I couldn't help wondering if Rollins had switched from gambling addiction to alcoholism since she was drinking like a fish and nobody even mentioned being concerned.
Then, Rollins and Sonny shared a drunk almost-kiss, only for Rollins to turn around and have a one night stand with the bartender.
Or at least, I hope that's what it was, and not him taking advantage of a too-drunk-to-consent Rollins.
In any case, this whole side story was a waste of time that could have been used to advance the story of The Monster fighting to save his reputation and career or trying to make amends to Katy.
He genuinely liked Katy and could never be around thanks to Heather's manipulations and his presumption that Katy consented to what he did to her.
I also would have liked some explanation of why Katy backtracked on her rape claims until after she got arrested for trying to blackmail The Monster, and this would have been a good place to put it.
Instead, we got cheap, unnecessary melodrama about Rollins not wanting to sleep with her partner after engaging in a barroom brawl.
Rollins' interactions with Heather weren't much better. Heather seemed to be celebrity obsessed and sad because she had to take care of her mother, which I didn't care about.
She was supposed to be under arrest but seemed just to be taking a road trip with Rollins and Carisi, who were busy not talking to each other over the one night stand.
Benson: She instigated a rape.
Barba: She never meant to hurt Katy. The girl doesn't have a malicious bone in her body. This was the most exciting thing in her life.
Benson: Oh my God...
Barba: No motive means no story for the jury. If I were on it, I'd vote to acquit out of sheer pity.
Once everyone returned to New York, the pace picked up a little bit. Heather's lawyer was quickly replaced by the high-profile lawyer she had impersonated as part of her scheme, but there was never a real explanation given for why he chose to take her case -- and for free, too.
Since there was no real reason for this plot point, it seemed kind of contrived, but at least it made for some interesting courtroom drama.
I disagreed with Barba, though. Even before Carisi's 11th hour save, I wouldn't have acquitted Heather.
I didn't think she needed to be malicious to be guilty. It's not hard to foresee that if you impersonate a celebrity and tell another celebrity that you want to be held down and forced to have sex, it's likely something bad is going to happen.
Even if she hadn't intended for Katy to get raped, it was an obvious consequence of the prank she played, so she bore some culpability. Period.
Last I checked, lying on the Internet'll put you in office, not put you behind bars.Barba
I'm also not sure why Barba thought Heather's impersonation of two celebrities wasn't a real crime. It went far beyond lying on the Internet. It involved impersonating two public figures, with consequences for Katy's safety!
Even if Heather hadn't meant any harm, that still should be a crime. By Barba's argument, a pedophile who uses a fake online identity to lure teenage victims to a secluded location isn't guilty of a crime because all he did was lie on the Internet.
I also felt that the 11th hour save was contrived and unnecessary. I hate when Barba seems to be losing his case, and then one of the detectives magically finds the perfect piece of evidence that nobody was aware of until that very moment.
It always seems to be Sonny who finds it, too.
There was no foreshadowing of this, and I'd sooner the jury have found Heather guilty because two seconds of forethought would have prevented her from pulling a prank that resulted in someone getting raped.
Plus, it was evident from the get-go that Heather's motive was to meet The Monster in person and that there was some weird mental health stuff going on. For her to suddenly actually be so jealous of Katy that she purposely plotted for her to be raped didn't make a lot of sense.
Noah's family -- your family -- is complicated. He is five years old, Sheila. When he is old enough, he will hear the truth. Until then, you have to leave these things to me.Benson
As for the Noah storyline, all I can say is that I'm glad I was wrong about where it was going.
I had assumed that Sheila was going to kidnap Noah, and her insistence on taking him to the store and then out for pizza seemed to be foreshadowing this. I figured she'd hop a plane to somewhere else with him and there'd be a manhunt for her that lasted half a season.
That doesn't seem to be the case unless Sheila orchestrated the kidnapping.
However, I'm sure that Benson will blame her for taking her eyes off Noah even though she's done the same thing before and once lost him in the park that way. And that argument will probably distract her from actually searching for or finding Noah.
What did you think of "Intent?"
Did you think Barba was right about needing to prove malice for Heather to be found guilty?
Did anyone enjoy the road trip to West Virginia?
How irritating are these latest threats to Noah's safety and well-being?
Weigh in below, and don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.