Happy New Year, SVU fanatics!
Law & Order: SVU Season 22 Episode 4 addressed everyone's grief and shock over the painful year that just passed and started 2021 with a case that had no easy answers.
As an additional bonus, Barba came back to defend a veteran who shot his daughter's rapist. The only thing better would have been if Barba could stay to be a permanent thorn in Carisi's side.
A lot of great stuff here, but first...
Was I the only one who had no idea Fin was dating Phoebe or who she was?
Fin mentioned that they used to be partners and worked a case together recently, but I found their part of the opening sequence confusing because I had no recollection of this woman's presence in his life.
Congratulations to him on his engagement, I guess, but it would have been nice if this relationship had grown to this point on-screen.
Leaving that aside, I enjoyed the New Years' Eve sequences at the beginning of the hour.
Noah: Are they still going to drop the ball?
Benson: Of course they are.
Noah: If there's going to be nobody here, why are they putting those [barriers] up?
Benson: They're just setting up. Hey Noah, we're gonna watch the ball drop on TV just like any other year.
Noah: No, it's not. I just want this year to be over.
Everyone was doing their best to have a normal New Years' despite the suffering that 2020 heaped upon New York City residents along with the rest of the country.
There was a real sense that the actors spoke from the heart each time they hoped that 2021 would be a marked improvement from 2020. And I was delighted that Noah seemed to enjoy himself despite telling Benson that he just wanted this year to go.
Of course, SVU was so short-staffed that everyone had to drop their New Years' plans literally. I'd liked to have known more about Kat's girlfriend as well as had more of a heads-up about Fin's fiancee, but at least everyone seemed understanding about their partners having to take off.
As for the case itself, who didn't see AJ's murder coming?
Mickey showed up uninvited to the arraignment, told Fin he needed to take a smoke break right outside where AJ was going to be transported, and insisted on staying in the area to "watch the transport."
Come on, Fin, how many years have you been an SVU detective?
It was disappointing, to say the least, that Fin didn't pick up on what was about to happen and made it even more painful to watch because of the woefully inadequate real-life police response to the chaos in DC just a day before this episode aired.
Anyway, I thought more should have been made out of Fin's dropping the ball here.
Barba focused on how neither ACS nor SVU had picked up on the fact that this supposedly saintly foster father had been raping all the girls in his care, but neither he nor Fin's superiors at SVU questioned how Fin let Mickey get away with what he was about to do.
Given Fin's insistence that Mickey shouldn't do a minute of jail time for this, that may be coming in a future episode. I hope so.
Fin is one of my favorite characters, but it's hard to believe that he missed all the signs instead of looking the other way on purpose.
As for Benson, I don't know what she expected to happen when she "hypothetically" explained Mickey's case to Barba and asked if there was any way to defend him.
Barba: Carisi won't have the stomach to take this to trial.
Fin: As long as Mickey doesn't go to jail.
Barba: I feel for him, I really do. But he shot a suspect who was under arrest. The government frowns on that. And it's against the law.
Benson: Barba. That's why we called you.
She told Barba she consulted him because it seemed impossible to keep Mickey out of jail, then got mad at him for taking the case.
That was silly. She knew there was no guarantee Carisi would be open to a deal and that it was unlikely that the DA's office would approve one that didn't involve jail time, wounded vet or not.
After all, she was the one who said to tread lightly with Nidia's disappearance because AJ was a highly respected ACS officer, and it happened near Gracie Mansion.
Barba's options for defenses, in this case, were limited. There was no question that Mickey had shot AJ, so the only thing he could do, besides argue mitigating circumstances, went for an insanity plea.
Jury nullification is not a valid defense. Lawyers aren't supposed to tell the jury to look the other way in the name of justice. But that was more or less what Barba was arguing.
His approach made me uncomfortable for another reason. Garland and Carisi kept pointing out the problems with vigilante justice, but on top of that, Barba's argument rested on the premise that people with PTSD can't help but get violent if triggered.
Is that true sometimes? Probably.
But people with mental illness -- including people with PTSD -- are more often the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators, and tropes about mentally ill people being dangerous to reinforce stigma, make it harder for people who need it to seek help harmful to those who suffer.
I call Days of Our Lives out for this regularly and expect better of SVU.
In any case, Barba had a point about the NYPD not doing its job, but he never addressed the issue of what would have happened if AJ had been innocent.
AJ's guilt made it seem like Mickey was seeking justice, but SVU sometimes gets the wrong man -- and then Mickey might have killed an innocent person.
Either way, this was a tragic story all around, but I'm not sure why Benson thought Barba was defending himself.
As I recall, Barba left SVU after he engaged in an illegal act of euthanasia involving a baby that could not possibly survive. That is a totally different situation than the one he got involved with here.
What did you think, Law & Order: SVU fanatics?
Did you enjoy Barba's return? Did you think his arguments in Mickey's defense had merit? Who did you think did better in his showdown with Carisi?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know what you thought.
Want to see it again first? Just watch Law & Order: SVU online right here on TV Fanatic.
Law & Order: SVU continues its historic 22nd season on NBC on Thursdays at 9 PM EST/PST.