I knew she wouldn't put up with McGrath interfering with her support of victims, but on Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 4, she went far beyond my expectations.
Of course, this isn't the end of her war with that idiot, but at least for now, she's got the upper hand.
McGrath is in a tough spot because Benson runs one of the most important and successful units in the NYPD. He can't afford to lose her, but he wants things his way.
It seems that his desire to get rid of Garland went way beyond not wanting a Black man who is willing to speak up against racism in the police department. He wants to turn the NYPD into the servants of the rich and hang less wealthy victims out to dry.
Benson: We are looking at the same guy.
Rollins: So now McGrath is going to take this seriously?
He will go to any lengths to get his way, too. He got rid of Garland, tried to intimidate Benson with endless useless meetings where he demanded she pull back on a case that isn't so easy to prove, and somehow got the case dismissed when she got her way.
I wouldn't be surprised if the NYPD doctor pushing Benson to retire is associated with McGrath, though since McGrath seems to be afraid to lose her, maybe not.
All this talk of retirement and Benson threatening to quit could also be set up so that if and when Mariska Hargitay ever decides to leave SVU, the writers can give her a proper exit from the series.
I doubt that's happening yet -- SVU is locked in for one more year and despite the rumors that are perpetually swirling around, Hargitay has given no indication that she's leaving prematurely.
But if it does happen someday, the writers have already set up the foundation for her character's retirement.
Anyway, for now, she's staying put and continuing to stand up to victims, but it's not going to be easy, especially not with McGrath's spy joining the SVU team.
Fin correctly pegged Velasco as a spy. And even worse, the guy has no understanding of SVU and doesn't seem to have the right temperament for this type of work.
Vilasco: A woman raped in front of her kid.
Rollins: Her three-year-old.
Vilasco: What kind of sicko does that?
Rollins: Welcome to SVU.
He was disgusted by the case and beat up a suspect. And on top of that, he is reporting everything to McGrath and trying to push Benson to follow McGrath's directive to slow her roll.
This makes Kat's departure even more tragic. She quit because she realized she was fighting too much of an uphill battle for a more inclusive police department... and now she's been replaced by a McGrath lackey designed to protect the status quo.
It makes me wish even more that she'd stayed and fought. Benson could use an ally in the fight against McGrath and Kat leaving set the cause back. Of course, Kat had to put herself first, but still.
Also, kudos to Terry Serpico for making McGrath so damn unlikable. It's the mark of a great actor when a character is so believable that he inspires anger every time he's on screen!
McGrath isn't a love-to-hate character, either. He represents the worst of the stereotypical police administrator. He's stubborn, set in his ways, cares only about optics, and resents any attempts to change the status quo.
He's a racist, too, though he'd be the last one to think so.
He's the kind of villain whose motivations are understandable but deplorable. Hopefully, Benson will come out on top, but there are no guarantees with a guy like this.
McGrath: We've seen this before. She doesn't want the ex to know she's sleeping with someone else so she cries rape, tries to get some sympathy.
Benson: I know she did not make this up.
McGrath: Let's hope not. That would be a bad headline for us.
For the second time in as many weeks, McGrath put optics above justice, refusing to allow Benson to pursue Krystal's case because it would look bad if Krystal turned out to be a liar.
But there was also something more insidious at play here.
Krystal was a poor Latina woman with no connections. McGrath preferred to only prosecute Peggy's case -- a well-connected white woman whose father was a cop.
That's the kind of person McGrath thinks the police department should serve, and that's why I'm glad Benson is fighting back as hard as she is.
I wonder how well Benson can keep leading her department, though.
Several of the crew are already questioning her loyalty to Stabler after the snafu during a joint operation on Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 3, and now she's continuing to onboard Velasco even though everyone knows he's McGrath's spy.
Fin: So McGrath put a spy in the squad room?
Benson: Fin. Play nice. I checked around and rumor has it that he's good.
Fin: Rumor is he's the one who started that rumor.
All of that could eat at her team's trust in her, and a leader without trust can't lead no matter how strong she is or how good her intentions are.
And if SVU starts doubting Benson's leadership abilities and the department begins falling apart, that's something McGrath put in motion.
Victims also might not trust SVU after several recent cases, and that's a bigger problem because if victims don't trust the cops, they don't come forward. When they don't come forward, rapists aren't stopped and justice isn't done.
How much of this can Benson do damage control on?
Thanks to McGrath seizing control of the Chief's seat and some of the good guys quitting rather than continuing to fight, there are some seriously wrongheaded forces in power.
Garland said he could do more damage to the McGraths of the world from outside the system than in it, but how, and will he jump into the fray any time soon?
It's unlikely since Demore Barnes is no longer part of the series (something else I am having a hard time getting over!), and anyway this particular fight isn't Garland's fight anymore.
And in any case, victims don't care about the politics that Benson is doing her damnedest to combat. They care about outcomes and right now the outcome is that the NYPD doesn't close rape cases unless you are white and/or wealthy -- a bad place for the department to be in.
Benson will have to work to regain public trust despite her new boss' many missteps. This will likely be the theme of the rest of Law & Order: Season 23, but will she be successful or is it already too late?
Your turn, SVU fanatics!
Hit that big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and share your thoughts about McGrath's shenanigans, Benson's attempts to fight back, and the two cases.
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Law & Order: SVU continues its historic 23rd season on NBC on Thursdays at 9 PM EST/PST.