Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 19 Review: The Book of Esther

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Amanda Rollins is my favorite character besides Benson herself.

So when I learned that  Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 19 was going to be a Rollins centered episode, I was thrilled.

I didn't expect "The Book of Esther" to be quite so intense. My heart broke for Amanda when Esther died and again when she learned that, in a cruel twist of fate, she had fired the fatal bullet.

Kudos to Kelli Giddish for a powerful Law & Order: SVU performance!

A Captive Girl - Law & Order: SVU

If there's one thing I wish we'd got out of this story and didn't, it's the reason why Amanda got so involved.

She's passionate and hard-headed and often goes too far in the pursuit of justice, but Fin wasn't the only one who noticed this seemed personal for her.

I was wracking my brains during the commercials trying to figure out what was driving Amanda's fury.

Was it just seeing how malnourished and unable to think for herself Esther seemed to be? Or was there something in her past I was forgetting? Or something yet to be revealed?

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I hope that as Law & Order: SVU Season 19 wraps up, we learn more about what was going on with Amanda.

SVU usually follows through on things like characters being placed on administrative leave during a shooting, so I'm sure we won't just jump ahead to Amanda's reinstatement without explanation.

I'm hoping that the investigation into the shooting will involve some more emotional scenes as Amanda's motives for getting so involved are questioned and scrutinized.

Rollins: Unless they had their heads in the sand, neighbors had to see something, right?
Fin: Taking this kind of personal, Amanda.
Rollins: If I don't, what am I doing here?

I'm not sure whether she followed protocol or not when entering the house.

Seeing a child chained up like that seems like it should be the type of emergency situation that allows cops to enter without a warrant, though I'm not a lawyer so I can't be sure about that. But shouldn't she have called for backup before entering, not after?

You killed my children. For what?


At any rate, I was confused about how this became a hostage situation. Labott chased Amanda away with his shotgun, and then all of a sudden there were a billion cops and a hostage crisis team on the way. I felt like I missed something.

I guess Labott having a bunch of guns around a bunch of children, one of whom was chained to a radiator, seemed like a dangerous situation, but we never heard him threaten anyone but Amanda, so it seemed odd that the cops responded that way.

Labott blamed Amanda for his children's death, and she literally killed Esther, but I couldn't help thinking that if he hadn't started shooting machine gun rounds at the police, there would be no reason for anyone to shoot into the house.

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I could understand his point of view, though, because I wasn't convinced all those cops were needed to handle the situation and he must have felt like his home was under siege when he was just minding his own business.

Chaining kids to radiators is illegal, and Labott was creepy as hell, but surely there was some other way to handle this whole thing that wouldn't have ended with a tragic shootout.

A Tense Standoff - Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 19

Rollins firing the shot that killed Esther was just too cruel. She poured her heart and soul into trying to rescue this young woman who was unaware she needed rescuing, only to end up killing her.

Kelli Giddish played it just right, showing Rollins' guilt and anguish when she discovered Esther's body and again when she learned she had killed her. I wanted to jump into the TV and hug Rollins! And I can't wait to see the fallout of this.

Benson: In cases where there is suspected abuse, we can't just turn over a child to her parents.
Mr. Labott: Esther is not a child. She is 27 years old.

William Labott was one of the creepiest characters I've ever seen on SVU.

Every time he spoke in that soft, unassuming tone, it sent shivers down my spine. The scariest thing about him was that he believed 100% in everything he was saying. He thought that he was saving his children from eternal damnation by abusing and torturing them.

I knew Esther was dead as soon as he surrendered, too, because it was obvious that the desire to protect his kids motivated all of his evil.

A Battered Woman - Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 19

His wife was only in a couple of scenes, but I found her explanation of why she didn't leave moving. 

Many people are as quick to blame the wife of an abusive husband and parent for staying as Carisi did.

I thought that SVU did its part to help undo the narrative that a woman who stays in a bad situation deserves what she got when she explained that she was scared of her husband and thought she could protect the children better if she stayed.

Rollins: I can tell she's smart from the way she throws those Bible verses at me, but the way she's been indoctrinated... it discourages analytical thinking.
Benson: Or something to turn to when she's lost or in pain.

Rollins' debate with Benson over whether Esther's religious beliefs constituted brainwashing, and later over whether Esther was competent to decide whether or not to stay with her father, brought up an interesting question.

Esther was 27 years old, but both mentally and physically appeared to be a young teenager. In the squad room, she apologized to her father over and over, and he lectured her about how scared her mother was.

It's hard to say how competent she really was, mentally. Psychological case studies show that children who are tormented in the ways the Labott children often ended up with the mentality of a young child regardless of their age when they are rescued from such a situation. 

Related: Law & Order: SVU Review: Big Questions, Too Many Cases

I would have loved to have seen Dr. Huang or Elizabeth Olivet evaluate Esther's competency, or at least try to, though I guess William Labott would never have allowed it anyway.

What did you think?

Any theories as to what was going on with Rollins?

What do you think will happen now that she's under investigation?

Did the cops go too far, or were they justified in treating the Labotts' situation as a hostage crisis?

Weigh in below, and don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything.

The Book of Esther Review

Editor Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (20 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 19 Quotes

Amanda: Who told you you would be punished if you rode the train?
Esther: Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but discipline them in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Rollins: How long has it been since you've eaten?
[Girl jumps at candy]
Rollins: Uh uh uh. Not so fast. How about we make an exchange? Some candy if you give me your name.
Girl: It's Esther.