Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3 Review: Down Low in Hell's Kitchen

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Law & Order: SVU took on an LGBTQ-centered case just in time for National Coming Out day.

Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3 was true to the show's reputation for ripping stories from the headlines.

For the second time, SVU based a story partially on the Jussie Smollett case. This time it delivered an engaging story that focused mostly on the difficulties survivors have coming forward after a rape.

(TALL) A Serial Predator - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

The one thing that SVU did NOT do during the hour, however, was go into depth about any of the issues facing the LGBTQ community that contributed to the situation the team was investigating.

Related: 13 Times Law & Order: SVU Supported LGBTQ Rights

Moran was stalking and assaulting gay men of color who were married to women but secretly frequented gay bars.

Fin correctly pointed out that these men made excellent victims because they were unlikely to report their crimes for fear of being outed to their families.

But little or no time was devoted to Moran's actual victims.

Viewers met one of those victims and learned he was one of Ken's clients.

He frequented the bar on Tuesdays while living with his wife the rest of the week. He had a consensual encounter with the rapist before the attack, but nothing beyond that.

Ken Randall Returns - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

Towards the end of the hour, he reappeared, upset that no one would believe his story because of Mathis' lies, but that was it.

Ken: I shouldn't even be telling you this much, but these men have wives.
Fin: They're on the down low. That's why he's targeting them. He knows they won't want to talk. Tell them we'll try to keep their case as confidential as possible.
Ken: I'm their advocate, not yours.

This victim could have been anybody.

If he had a name, I missed it, and other than two seconds of anger at what Mathis did before he told Fin his entire truth, there was no conflict in his story whatsoever.

It would have helped to have had a scene where Ken counseled him or for somebody to push him to testify so that he could push back on that idea.

In the Hospital - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

Instead, most of the focus wasn't on him, but on Mathis -- the guy who made the false accusation.

As soon as Mathis came out to his Instagram fans, I predicted that he wanted to come out publicly.

Related: Get True Crime Files by ID via Prime Video Channels for Over 1,000 Real-life Mystery & Suspense Shows!

When it turned out he was the only one who had not been attacked on a Tuesday, the only one to have seen his assailant, and the only one the assailant spoke to, that sealed the deal.

Apparently, he did it because he wanted to out himself before TMZ did it for him.

That motive could have been used to make a strong statement about how shame and stigma caused Mathis to feel that pretending to have been sodomized was preferable to making a simple, direct statement about his sexual orientation.

But it wasn't explored deeply enough for that. Instead, the focus shifted to how Mathis had messed up the case for the real victims.

False reporting is extremely rare. We keep this in the news and survivors will be afraid they won't be believed.


In a way, that was understandable. Law & Order: SVU advocates for real-life survivors of sexual assault through its stories, and in the current climate it's important to emphasize that survivors deserve to be believed.

So the focus on Matthis' crime was meant to underscore the point that false reports make it harder to believe survivors. 

Hadid and Carisi - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

That's an important message. No doubt about it. And SVU excelled as always at promoting its message.

The problem is that the LGBTQ characters were underdeveloped because of the focus on Mathis' behavior, and that wasn't okay.

Related: How Law & Order: SVU Has Evolved Over the Years

The strongest part of the hour was Benson's conflict with ADA Hadid.

Hadid is not a likeable character to begin with. We already learned on Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 1 that she is corrupt, and that can't come out soon enough!

Benson Talks to Hadid - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

This time, she demonstrated that she cares more about her case closure rate than about helping victims.

She didn't care one bit WHY people don't report sexual assault -- in her unempathetic mind, the victims were problems because they didn't help her win her case.

Hadid: If your other victims had been willing to testify, none of this wouldn't have happened.
Benson: Ms. Hadid, you're new to Special Victims, but we don't blame victims here.

And she was not interested in Benson's guidance on this matter, either.

She had the right to say the DA's office couldn't wait forever, but her refusal to understand what the problem was with her attitude made her unfit to work in the Special Victims Division.

Deputy Chief Garland - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

The new Deputy Chief, on the other hand, is a great addition to the cast!

Garland made it clear from the get-go that he didn't care about stats as much as he did about the public trusting the cops to help if they were assaulted. 

He was willing to go undercover himself and even took it in stride that the cops almost didn't get there in time to prevent him being tazed.

And even when he disagreed with Benson, he did it in a respectful, authoritative way!

I hope we see more of him.

Benson Talks to Noah - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 3

Elsewhere, Noah's decision to quit baseball was an interesting sideline that I hope Law & Order: SVU explores more thoroughly later.

The timing was strange. He had been eager to join his friends on the team until Benson made him wait for her to finish her phone call. 

But on the other hand, he and Peter Stone bonded over baseball and Peter left abruptly, so that could be a big factor in his decision.

And while liking to dance has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity, given that this was a somewhat LGBTQ-centered story, I wondered if that final scene was supposed to indicate that Benson would accept Noah no matter what he turned out to be.

As a trans guy, I'd love to see Benson discover that Noah is transgender, though I doubt that's where this is going. I'm curious to find out where it IS going, though, whether it's in an LGBTQ-related direction or not.

What did you think, SVU fanatics?

Who else loved the new Deputy Chief? 

Did you think the gay men who were actually victimized got enough air time?

And what do you think is going on with Noah?

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

Law & Order: SVU has aired on NBC for a historic 21 years. It continues to air on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.


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Down Low in Hell's Kitchen Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.6 / 5.0 (9 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 21 Episode 3 Quotes

Ken: I shouldn't even be telling you this much, but these men have wives.
Fin: They're on the down low. That's why he's targeting them. He knows they won't want to talk. Tell them we'll try to keep their case as confidential as possible.
Ken: I'm their advocate, not yours.

Benson [on phone]: Fin. I just heard from Mercy Hospital. Another black male, gay, tased.
Fin: Did he report?
Benson: No.
Fin: What are we supposed to do about it?