Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8 Review: Severance

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I'm shocked, you all!

Nolan Price finally lost a case.

Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8 took on the important issue of when mental illness is a valid defense for murder, but first, let's take a minute to absorb Nolan's first loss.

Multiple Dead Ends / Tall  - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

Law & Order has often been the miracle-of-the-week show, so when the jury came back after Baker's outburst, I was fully expecting another one.

But for once, Price's cockiness did NOT pay off. Now he's lost a case he thought he had in the bag, and if he'd made a plea bargain like McCoy wanted him to, he wouldn't have this loss under his belt.

Price: I still think he's lying.
McCoy: My old boss used to say that lawyers who have to be right lose more cases than those that don't.

The sad thing is that Price should have won this one. There was zero scientific evidence that Havana Syndrome causes violent outbursts, and he proved that in each of his cross-examinations.

But Baker was as sympathetic a figure to the jury as Maroun predicted he would be. McCoy was right: Price cared too much about being right and not enough about whether his case was winnable.

Is Price Wrong? - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

McCoy's friend in the CIA wanted the plea deal so that he wouldn't have to testify, while Price didn't want to offer a plea to appease the US government. Yet after all that, the CIA deputy director's testimony was off-screen, if it happened at all.

That seemed like a lot of buildup for nothing. If the CIA guy wasn't even going to testify, why bring him up?

McCoy could have just as easily pressed Price to offer a plea because he was afraid the defendant was too sympathetic. The CIA guy was an unnecessary sideline that went nowhere.

The central question, of course, was whether Havana Syndrome could cause someone to commit murder.

A Risky Choice - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

These types of stories are always risky.

Popular media does too much damage to people with mental health issues as it is, often suggesting that "mentally ill" and "violent criminal" are synonyms when in reality, people who suffer from mental health issues are more likely to become victims of violence than to perpetrate it.

In this case, though, Price turned that trope on its head by suggesting that Baker was using his mental health condition as an excuse when there was no scientific evidence that Havana Syndrome caused anything like what Baker claimed it did.

Baker: I never wanted to hurt her! It wasn't me. It was the symptoms.
Price: The symptoms? The symptoms that no one else who has this syndrome has and that you never sought medical treatment for?

If juries decided cases on a purely rational basis and didn't allow their sympathy for the defendant to influence them, Price might have won.

Connecting Dead Ends - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

Despite Baker's behavior on the stand, Price made the case that there was no evidence for what Baker was claiming.

In addition, Baker started off insisting that he had done nothing wrong and only changed his plea to not guilty by reason of mental defect when his health problems failed to get him released on bail.

Price didn't close on-screen, so we don't know what he said. But he certainly didn't do enough on the stand to overcome Baker's tears over having killed Alexis.

Maybe if he'd hammered home the fact that Baker had changed his story and that his migraines and sudden diagnosis of Havana Syndrome were awfully convenient, it might have helped.

A Frustrating Case - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

I'd also have liked some more pushback from Maroun on this one. She said at the beginning that this was a viable defense and that Baker was going to come across as a sympathetic defendant, but then she disappeared.

She wasn't even at the meeting where McCoy asked Price to take a plea, nor did she have an opinion about it afterward.

That's a shame. She could have added a different perspective to this story, making Price's loss more powerful.

As for the police side of things, this was mostly solid.

Price's Risky Choice - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

As usual, the cops had to chase a bunch of false leads before they got to the truth. I almost wished that Alexis had been killed over becoming a whistleblower.

That might have made for a compelling story, especially if there was a twist, such as the journalist being the one to kill her.

Instead, for the second time in a row, the victim died for some other reason than the controversial activities she was involved in.

A deal falling through is a plausible motive, but still. Using controversies as red herrings gives ammunition to people who think that Law & Order is trying to cram as much political commentary into each episode as possible.

Playing to Win - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

The biggest weakness in the cops' case was how they found the killer.

It was logical that they could get security footage from somewhere to help them out, but this wasn't mentioned as part of their investigation. As a result, it felt like the security camera picking up Gus a few blocks from Alexis' apartment on the night of the murder came out of nowhere.

It was exactly the lead the cops needed, just as they were desperate for a direction to go in. What a coincidence!

Man: So I sent a few angry emails when I was drunk. I would never do that to anyone, especially not a woman.
Cosgrove: Your ex-girlfriend begs to differ.

I'm not a fan of those kinds of solutions to logjams. I'd rather the cops figured it out through police work, and it wouldn't have been that hard to do this time, either.

Butting Heads With McCoy - Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8

All they had to do was have one of the cops say they were going to check nearby security footage in case it turned something up instead of having them stumble upon it by coincidence.

Over to you, Law & Order fanatics! How did Law & Order Season 21 Episode 8 measure up?

Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know. And if you need a refresher, you can always watch Law & Order online right here on TV Fanatic.

Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8 PM EST / PST.

Severance Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 (17 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 Season 21 Episode 8 Quotes

Emails weren't hard to find. She saved them under a folder titled "Threats."


Bernard: Who called the cops?
Cosgrove: A co-worker got nervous when she didn't show up for their 9 AM Zoom. Can't escape the rat race.
Bernard: Until you do.