A new season means a new case for Stabler and the rest of Organized Crime.
Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 2 Episode 1 felt more like another pilot than a continuation of the same series.
The new case is compelling, but jumping into it in the middle was slightly confusing, even if the stakes were clear by the end of the hour.
It wasn't entirely disconnected from Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 1. Wheatley made a brief cameo to inform viewers that he had been cleared of all charges except for Kathy's murder, and later Bell babysat Angela Wheatley for a bit.
Tell Vince I'm making plans. Tell him I plan to do more good than anyone ever thought possible. Tell him I'll be the enemy of every organized criminal out there.Wheatley
That was fine -- Wheatley's case will take time to work through the system and the fact that he got out of the majority of the charges fit nicely with the theme of power vs justice from Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 2.
Those scenes served as a nice endcap to Wheatley's story... for now, anyway.
And it was pretty clear what the mob guys were up to once the proper story began, even if viewers didn't know yet who was who.
Stabler's involvement with the drug operation would have been a surprise if I hadn't known that he was supposed to be infiltrating a new crime family., but I was interested in where this was going to lead.
Still, though, I wasn't a fan of the time jump. Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 1 Episode 8 left viewers with a ton of questions that didn't get answered until later on, and that was jarring.
Plus, there were a ton of new characters, mostly bad guys, to get to know within the space of the hour.
That's one of the difficulties with a series that features multiple-episode arcs rather than self-contained stories.
Every new arc is going to feel like a pilot to a new series because it features characters and situations that we have no familiarity with.
And that's doubly true if Organized Crime insists on jumping into the middle of a story.
That's not to say that the Albanian mob story is any less compelling than Wheatley's story was, though.
The stakes couldn't be higher for Stabler. His main mob contact, Reggie, trusts him completely, but none of the higher-ups do, and if anyone blows his cover the consequences'll be severe.
The Albanians seem to be incredibly paranoid, which isn't unreasonable considering the type of crime they're involved in. The war on drugs is brutal and is more or less a war between drug dealers and law enforcement, and the Albanians are well aware of that.
And throw in the all-too-fragile peace between the Albanian mob and the Mercy Killers and you have a potential recipe for disaster!
Having one of the biggest names the cops want to get also be a respected Congressman was a brilliant move that not only allows Law & Order: Organized Crime to continue exploring the theme of confronting power in the name of justice but also connects several story threads.
Bell's partner trusts the Congressman implicitly and believes he wants to help them with their lawsuit against the NYPD, which is sure to create tension between her and Bell as time goes on.
And "Red Bull's" jail contact is the same one who befriended Richie Wheatley after the Wheatleys were arrested. Now THAT will be interesting!
Richie didn't appear at all and there was no mention of whatever became of him. But it can't be a coincidence that his friend is also heavily involved in this new story.
Undoubtedly, we'll catch up with Richie at some point and find out what kind of shape he's in and what his new friend might be forcing him to do on the inside.
There's also the open question of why the Mercy Killers stole from the Albanians and why Costas agreed to a truce rather than shooting the kids responsible.
Stabler was watching through a window -- could that have something to do with it?
Or is Costas biding his time as part of some more diabolical revenge plan?
It's hard to tell because, again, we don't know enough about the relationship between all of these characters.
Hopefully, over the coming weeks, we'll learn more about who's who and what their plans are!
Meanwhile, one dynamic that's already compelling is the one between Bell and Brewster.
These two don't see eye-to-eye on anything, and Brewster seems to think he's still Bell's commanding officer.
So far, these two are butting heads at every turn, so it's anybody's guess how co-commanding a task force to keep the peace between the rival gangs is going to work out.
Angela Wheatley's cameo appearance was also compelling.
Angela is not in great shape physically after the poisoning and seemed confused about needing to testify against her ex-husband.
Only time will tell if this is an act AND whether she's going to come through for the cops as promised.
But if the case against Wheatley requires her as a star witness, that case could be in serious trouble!
Your turn, Organized Crime fanatics.
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Law & Order: Organized Crime airs on NBC on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.